2022 JCEP Public Issues Leadership Development Conference Scholarship Recipient Reflections

Aneta Eichler, Tennessee            
This was my first opportunity to attend PILD.  What an eye- opening experience for me!  As a county agent it is easy to put our extension in a silo of our state.  Although I realized other funding sources such as USDA and NIFA were a part of our extension story, it was so valuable to see “the big picture” with funding, advocacy and resources available to our programs.  I spent last night trying to process all that I had learned and trying to figure out how to convey this information to my TEAFCS affiliates at home.  I have spoken with our Associate Dean of FCS.  We plan to continue a discussion on how to best engage county FCS agents to develop advocacy skills in their community and across the state.  Thank you for providing me with this great opportunity.  I feel that I am going home a much stronger and more informed agent.

Elizabeth Davis, Utah
Having the opportunity to participate in PILD as a first timer was an incredible experience. Meeting Extension professionals from all over and hearing about their work and success was very encouraging. I enjoyed learning more about how the funding works at a federal level and meeting some of the individuals who head those processes. The breakout sessions and networking opportunities were of particular value to me in my position as a county faculty. On a personal note, it was incredible to visit DC and see the monuments and feel aww and inspiration from that experience.  There are a lot of incredible individuals who work with extension and it was a privilege to interact and learn with them.

Abby Weber, Colorado
As a First Timer attendee of the PILD Conference in Arlington, VA, I was greatly impacted by the knowledge I was able to gain about the internal structure of the funding for my programming from the national level all the way down to my community level.  I have a much more informed appreciation of the funding sources that support what it is we do as Extension educators, and the annual process we undergo as associations to grow support for Land Grand University education in our communities across the states.  The knowledge and content contributed from seasoned participants at the PILD Conference was invaluable.  The ability to build a nationwide network of association professionals to drive our work forward is something that I have not gained anywhere else.  This conference was amazing, and I would recommend any member of their association who is given this opportunity to not pass it up!  It is career changing!

Jodi Drake, Kansas
Thank you for the opportunity to attend the 2022 PILD Conference.  This was an outstanding opportunity to learn gain useful skills in advocating for our Extension programming.  It was a much needed boost to our passion and drive for what we are bringing to our communities every day.  And more importantly, I learned how to share that passion with the people who can keep these programs alive and relevant.

Joanne Ureste, Texas    
The PILD Conference held on the week of April 3, 2022 was a well organize conference and the theme reflected perfectly towards our continuous goals in leveraging funding, partnerships, and technology to build advocates and meet the challenges of economic hardship, youth and adults programming, diversity, equity, and inclusion to strengthen and empower local communities and constituents.    Advocacy can play a crucial role in advancing Extension’s mission; therefore, Getting Your Voice Heard in Congress, is an important responsibly to do.  I couldn’t have said it better, when Mark Bayer mention to grab a chair in a meeting, even if it requires to bring a folding chair.   The Structure and Funding of Extension was a great refresher.  I have been an agent for almost 8 years, and I learned the funding of The Smith-Lever Act; it provides federal aid on a matching basis to states and established requirements regarding how the money was to be used. This was very helpful and prepared my Congressional and Agency Visits.  These Congressional visits was a wonderful experience.  As an agent, I can get consume on implementing programs, but providing a good evaluation impact statement to our local, state, and federal leaders is vital.  In addition, it is important to conduct research on your respective representative issues as it can increase funds and testify that Extension is a resourceful partnership.  A session that I gained knowledge in was Return on Investment: Presenting the Monetary Value of Your Program, this is session will help me create better impact statements and evaluations by creating a monetary value to show to my representatives. Once again, thank you for the experience and opportunity to attend the 2022 PILD Conference.

Sydney Knowles, North Carolina
Advocating for Extension and our programs can be a daunting task, especially when covering the entirety of Extension. This conference helped to teach us tools and tricks to focus on condensing our “spiel” while also getting our point across when speaking to policy makers. Using our customers as our sales force, connecting with policy makers, and focusing on stories over data are key points I plan to take home after this conference. I also learned that our funding comes from many different sources, and there are major differences in how state extension agencies are set up across the U.S.

Liz Espie, Texas
I am thankful to NEAFCS for this scholarship to attend Joint Council of Extension Professionals Public Issues Leadership Development Conference. I have attended this conference virtually for the past two years and learned so much about how to engage and interact with my stakeholders and elected officials. Being able to attend in person has allowed me to expand this skillset and put it into practice. Hearing from National Institute of Food and Agriculture was especially interesting. Learning about all the work NIFA does on behalf Extension helped me understand the partnership between our agencies. Meeting fellow Extension Agents/Educators across the country was so valuable, I was able to learn about other state’s programs, how we differ and our similarities.  I was able to meet with the offices of two of my county’s congressmen, Collin Allred and Jake Ellzey. Because of this conference I was able to have issue driven conversations and interpret the work Extension is doing in the county, state, and nationally. I was also comfortable asking for their continued legislative support of Extension. I know that this conference has given me tools that will impact my Extension career and ensure that I advocate for the Extension message.

Tasha Howard, Utah      
As I listened to the panels and presenters at PILD, I kept thinking through the need of Extension to help prevent and mitigate some very large world issues. It is often hard to think through how you, as an individual, can make such a difference in the world, but as I listened and visited, it hit me that we do make a difference. Regardless of political beliefs, system issues, and other complaints about working in Extension, our jobs make a difference. Talking through the role we play helped me realize that it is our responsibility to showcase how we are making a difference so that we can continue to thrive and grow as an entire Extension system.

Suzanne DeVos-Cole, New Mexico
I found the PILD Conference to be informative and rewarding.  I have a greater understanding of how Extension is funded nationally and how impactful it is collectively.  I was able to take that information back to my affiliate and share the financial information and supporting structure system with them.  I am impressed with the number and quality of people who are working on extension’s behalf to continue supporting and promoting all our programming.  I was able to connect with fellow educators to talk about shared programming between states and lessons learned during COVID.   We were not able to visit with our congressional representatives but am glad to know there is a system in place that allows educators and scientists to share their stories.  It is easy to forget how much good we do when we are in the thick of things, so I am glad for a reminder of how we make a difference daily in people’s lives.  I am also grateful for organizations such as ECOP that have the future and role of extension in mind at all times.  Below is part of the takeaway I shared with my fellow NEAFCS members: I was given a set of the impact statements that were created by NEAFCS to show US representatives and their staff what FCS in Extension does for their communities.  NM was well represented.  All of the impacts you sent in were used!  Congratulations and GOOD JOB!

Evelynn James, Oklahoma
Attending the recent PILD Conference provided me with much to reflect on.  From the keynote presentation by Mark Bayers, I loved the quote "you campaign in Poetry; you govern in prose" as it spoke to me about my role as an extension educator that what I do and how I do it does matter.  Also, he shared "Connect before you communicate" and I believe we all need to make those connections and then our voice will be heard.  I find this to be such a true statement of how we need to do our work in Extension.  When we make the connections, then our voice will be what they will want to hear.   I was encouraged to become more powerful in my representation of Extension everywhere I go.  I appreciated learning more about how Extension fits into the USDA portfolio from the Federal perspective.  While I have known the connection, it was good to hear from the various panel speakers.  Funding for our services continues to be a challenge on all levels and having the information makes it easier to advocate for the needed funding.  As a land grant university connected state, tribal, and local educator whose role is to deliver vital, timely, practical information to those in my community to assist them in building a successful quality of life, it was of interest to me that to learn what the ECOP priorities will be in the future.  I am very interested in the Collective for Health Equity and Well-Bing initiative and look forward to hearing more about the current work being done and how I can become involved.  I am especially interested in the Youth advocacy for health and the youth summit on healthy living.   I appreciate the unified request being made for NIFA Funding for FY 2023 and was honored to share information during my visits on Capitol Hill with legislators as I was able to start at the point, rather than trying to get to the point.   Thank you for the opportunity to attend and participate at the 2022 PILD Conference as I represented my association affiliate.  I will be sharing the information I gained from my attendance with those in my state in the very near future.

Ann Duncan, Colorado  
When I registered for PILD, I was not entirely sure what to expect. As the meetings progressed, I found myself very intrigued and filled with many questions. I thought I had a good understanding of NEAFCS and the Extension system as whole prior to attending, but quickly realized that there was a lot more to these organizations than I had originally thought. Not only did I learn about the structure of the organizations and how they interact, I also learned about valuable resources for programming and collaborations. I met numerous individuals from across the country, got to understand what programming looked like in their area and discussed potential collaborations. It was eye opening to see many professionals working on the same issues across the country, where I perceived them as more of local or state wide issues. With this new found information, it highlighted the importance of sharing our work and impacts with both our colleagues and government officials.  Another impactful part of PILD as understanding how USDA, NIFA and NEAFCS could assist me more in the work that I do. I have gained a greater understanding of the resources available and how I can reach out for further assistance. It was informative to see how these organizations interacted with each other.   Overall, this was a great conference to go to and I would encourage anyone in Extension to both attend and to speak to your representatives. I look forward to attending PILD again in the future.

Robin Ridgley, Illinois     
Thank you NEAFCS for the opportunity to attend PILD in person!  I learned so much about our Extension leadership and how we are represented in DC.  It was empowering to hear the NIFA panel answer questions about how all the letters of the alphabet soup fit together (NIFA, USDA, ECOP, and many more)!  The advice offered throughout the conference on how to have a successful visit with our Representatives and Senators, especially Mark Bayer’s advice, was greatly appreciated and made my visits a wonderful experience.  The conference also empowered me to be myself and have fun while presenting my stories to those who were there to listen.

Beverly Jackey, Maryland            
I was excited to attend my first (and not last) PILD conference this year. What a unique experience for meeting Extension colleagues from other states and other programs. Many of us are faced with the same issues in our communities; however, networking with other educators provided me with the opportunity to learn how they address these issues and plan to share their successes with policy makers in their state. As I reflect on this conference, I realize my awareness of the important role Extension Educators can have as advocates expanded with each conference session I attended. The opening session with Mark Bayer, Breaking through is Hard to Do-Effective Advocacy was energizing and highlighted how to connect with lawmakers and Congress. The Extension Committee on Organization and Policy (ECOP) Priority Action Team’s session was very informative. My work in nutrition and chronic disease management and prevention has inspired me to get involved in the Collective for Health Equity and Well-Being in the near future. Lastly, the FCS Stand UP and Stand OUT Exercise activity lead by our president Susan Routh during the NEAFCS meeting was so motivating, I bought a new jacket and shirt with the FCS logo to proudly wear at my programs and other Extension events to market Family and Consumers Sciences! Due to budget constraints our state contingency was small this year (2) and we were not able to meet with our lawmakers; however, I am looking forward to climbing the steps of the “Hill” next year.

Georgina Perry, Michigan            
Had the opportunity to attend PILD conference this year in person and it was one of the most informative and engaging conference I have attended. Learned a lot about the USDA and NIFA and the role/connection with Extension. Since I do not work in Agriculture, I appreciate being able to learn and understand the depth of the work being done. It was great meeting people from other States and associations and getting to know some of my colleagues that work in other areas of Extension. Enjoyed going to Capitol Hill and sharing some of the work being done, telling “our story” and how Extension is positively impacting the community. The conference was well organized and it was nice that we had time to tour the DC area, spend time with association members and my Extension colleagues.

Ann Davis, Mississippi
I was honored to be selected by the Mississippi Affiliate of NEAFCS to participate in the Leadership Development Conference in Arlington, VA.  As a first-time participant, I was able to not only participate in educational sessions that enhanced my knowledge but allowed me to gain a deeper and more thorough understanding of the roles that USDA and NIFA play in Extension funding.  I participated in a breakout session on Broadband and the issues preventing full access to broadband throughout the country.  The session “Return on Investment: Presenting the Monetary Value of Your Program” is something every Extension person should be exposed to.  Assigning a monetary value to program outcomes allows agents to measure the monetary value of the program, as well as the cost of implementing the program.  This gives more significance to standardized evaluations that generally only measure knowledge gained.  Having a monetary value of return on investment allows agents to better advocate for funding and shifts focus to seeing funding as an investment rather than a cost.  Panel discussions throughout the conference, not only prepared attendees for presenting the face of Extension to local, state, and national officials, but prepared us for educating our Senators, Representatives, and their staff about Extension, our mission, and goals.  The Mississippi PILD participants were able to meet with all five of our state officials or their staff which was a great experience.  The conference exceeded my expectations in opportunities to network with other agents, build relationships, and form lasting friendships.

Olivia Patchel, North Carolina     
My favorite part of the PILD Conference was the Keynote speaker. Last year I was able to attend PILD virtually and again there was a very inspirational keynote speaker. This year's speaker Mark Byer really help me understand how I should talk to my representatives. I have been able to use the tips I gathered from his presentation to talk with my local representatives. Making a connection with local stakeholders to help them understand the impact of our programming has helped to ensure they see the value in counting to fund my programs locally.   In our association meeting, I enjoyed the FCS Stand Up and Stand Out exercise. I think we will use that at our state meeting in August to help new agents and remind tenured agents of ways they could share their impacts with local stakeholders. I also enjoyed reviewing the impact statements that the public affairs committee developed. I was very inspired by the meeting to get more involved nationally. So when I returned home I applied to two committees, Professional Development: Program Development Committee and the Public Affairs: Marketing and Communications Committee.   My presidency (for the North Carolina Affiliate) will come to an end soon but I hope my involvement nationally will continue to grow. I have truly enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Programs all over the country and making connections with colleagues from other states.

Emily Marrison, Ohio     
I am grateful for the funds from NEAFCS to attend the Public Issues Leadership Development Conference this year. I am confident that this experience will help me to support my affiliate in Ohio better, as well as my county. I left the conference with a much deeper understanding and appreciation for the complexities of Extension funding and diversity of organizational structures throughout the country.  A highlight for me was the night tour the first evening. I got to know an administrator from Nebraska and capture lessons learned and wisdom from his many years in Extension. I am constantly amazed at the talent and commitment of Extension professionals across the US. Attending the NEAFCS meeting to learn more about the Impact development process was very helpful. Our current affiliate president has already made this a priority for Ohio for next year. She has called meetings with our officers and committee chairs to develop a better was for collecting impact data. I appreciated hearing about the complexities at the national level to develop these very helpful impact statement sheets. My favorite memories of the conference were getting to know other NEAFCS members. A small group of us enjoyed dinner together on two different evenings. It was so nice to hear about the same struggles at other universities. I am not alone, and that gives me hope. It was equally nice to hear about the successes- especially of lifetimes of service and creative solutions to challenges in communities across the country.