2024 JCEP Extension Leadership Conference Scholarship Recipient Reflections

Courtney Aldrich, Michigan
The JCEP Educational Leadership Conference (ELC) offered professional growth through networking, education, and inspiration!  Every session and every meal provided opportunities to meet people from other states and from other associations.  I often found myself comparing notes with a colleague I had just met on how Extension works in their state, on projects they are working on, curricula they are using, or challenges we are all facing.  The meeting time with NEAFCS offered more opportunities to think about how we can connect and share resources and felt a little bit like "coming home" to something familiar.  The breakout sessions provided myriad topics to choose from:  evaluation, impact, diversity, interpersonal interactions, and more.  I learned about new processes, new ideas, and ways to reflect on my role.  I am already thinking about how to use some of these tools with my teams.  For example, I can envision using what I learned about the languages of appreciation and the enneagram to strengthen our work team.  These tools can be the beginning of conversations that promote greater understanding and motivation among team members.  Finally - the inspiration.  There is something that happens when I am in a large room of people who all do similar work to mine.  It reinforces my sense of purpose, and it affirms the importance of my work.  I come back to my role with renewed energy.  Thank you NEAFCS, for helping provide this opportunity to attend JCEP ELC!

Tristin Bolton, Arkansas
The JCEP ELC 2024 Conference: Year-Round Leadership, honestly was the best conference I have attended. It was a wonderful networking opportunity to meet with people from all over, and all disciplines. There was a wide variety of sessions presented. I found it hard to determine which session to choose. The ones that I attended were wonderful. I feel like I took something applicable from each presentation that will positively impact my work and relationships.  Karl Bradley, from The Extension Foundation, did a great job of encouraging each of us to decide what qualities of a leader we wanted to exemplify. The sessions reinforced those concepts for me, and he wrapped it up nicely with "The Power of UBUNTU", which translates into "I am only, because you are." I am ready to embrace leadership and the challenges that may come with it, because of this conference.  Thank you NEAFCS for continuing to develop me as a leader through this experience.

Sherry Daniels, Wisconsin
I attended many great sessions at the JCEP Leadership Conference in Tampa, FL. Reflecting on the conference I am reminded that leadership comes in many different forms in various situations. Extension work offers many opportunities to demonstrate leadership and to empower others to take on leadership roles in a vast variety of situations. I believe that is part of why our work is so important and fulfilling.

Danielle Day, Iowa
The Extension Leadership Conference on February 14-15, 2024 in Tampa, FL was a wonderful opportunity to network with other extension professionals in leadership roles across the nation, while honing leadership skills together. During this time, I was able to build connections with professionals from several other states while we discussed successful leadership. Our keynote, Karl Bradley, shared the important skills of "following out front" while practicing humility, courage and selfless service and encouraged us to dive into who we want to be as leaders and identifying our individual top three leadership behaviors we want to step into more. During the excellent slate of concurrent sessions, I was able to hone skills around behavior theory, the stages of change and motivational interviewing; utilizing a "both/and" approach to working with groups experiencing conflict; engaging local governments in extension work; ways to strengthen the development of program evaluations; and identifying the uniqueness of the ways individuals view the world, behave, and respond to others. During the affiliate meeting it was wonderful to learn more about the upcoming year and strategic planning, as well as connect with other extension educators about the different programs and focuses in each state. Rounding out the conference was another presentation from Karl Bradley that encouraged us to remember to remember that leadership takes intensity and consistency. We should be continually growing our leadership skills and the Extension Leadership Conference was a great way to grow those skills in the president-elect role for NEAFCS, and as an extension educator.

Carrie Elsen, Missouri
I thoroughly enjoyed attending the ELC conference, and I was delighted to obtain a scholarship award to attend. Thank you. As I reflect on my attendance of the ELC conference, leadership methods were my top priority to attend. Key points I took away from the conference included, but not limited to, mindfulness can improve overall health, types of diversity, and phycological safety. I will not take this back to my communities, regional specialists, and state MEAFCS organization. I enjoyed the interaction and networking opportunities with other extension professionals nationally in extension.

Laura Graves, Texas
This was absolutely one of the best professional development and networking opportunities I have got to experience in my decade-plus years with Extension. The session variety and the leadership development was unlike anything I have been a part of. And to be able to do it with colleagues from around the country took it to a new level. Thoroughly enjoyed the Keynote, Karl Bradley! Took advantage of the poster session time to connect and visit with other agents. The amount of sessions really allowed you to focus on your needs, whether with programming or leadership development within your career! 5 out of 5 stars!!!

Hannah Guenther, Nebraska
This was not only my first time attending JCEP, but my first time attending a national Extension conference. I have always been drawn to personal leadership development and was excited about the opportunity that focused primarily on leadership in Extension. I am currently the president elect of my NEAFCS chapter. To be completely honest when elected, I shared my concerns about stepping into this role with our organization but also stated that I was going to view this as an opportunity to push myself and develop as a leader. Some key takeaways from JCEP was that possibility to lead while still being true to myself. I attended the Workplace Appreciation session as well as the Laughter session. Both of these were great examples of infusing leadership with positivity that I will most definitely bring back to my home state. Reflecting on my time at JCEP, the most meaningful and powerful take away was being in a room full of Extension personnel. It was fascinating to learn about nuances across the country and glean pearls of wisdom from peers. I am looking forward to participating in future extension conferences and plan on developing relationships with my colleagues across the country.

Misty Harmon, Ohio
I attended the Extension Leadership Conference as the 2023 Ohio Affiliate president. I heard good things from past presidents, so I was excited about my first time attending. I had a presentation, which was a bonus, and the conference did not disappoint! Attending and participating in the conference sessions, provided me opportunities to learn and grow my leadership toolbox. Hearing from folks from different program areas and from across the country about the work they do was inspiring. Learning how others work and lead in their respective counties and states and in their different roles was valuable. My favorite times were during meals because we were able to talk and network with others. It was interesting to hear how Extension is structured and funded in other states, especially as my institution is looking to possibly restructure soon. Hearing challenges from others reminded me how fortunate I am to work with great people in a state where Extension is well-supported and well-funded overall. It also reinforced that no matter where you work, how you are funded, or how your organization is structured the ones we serve are who matter most. We all work in Extension because we love helping people! Since our association dinner didn't happen and we weren't able to gather after hours, I didn't get to network with as many NEAFCS members as I had hoped. I enjoyed strengthening some existing relationships with a few members and I look forward to seeing many of you in Tucson!

LaDonna Hines, Oklahoma
The Extension Leadership Conference was amazing.  Karl Bradley the keynote speaker was very inspirational and motivating.  He gave us ideas on how to think about what a leader should do, such as helping others succeed, recognize the value of others and to listen.  I am currently the President of the Oklahoma Affiliate and the OSU Extension Oklahoma County Director where I lead a team of 20 employees.  The information I gained from attending this conference is valuable and I know it will help me be a better leader.  I need to remember every day to "Follow Out Front".

April Litchford, Utah
The JCEP conference was a great conference for elevating leadership skills and participating in networking.  It was enjoyable to get to know many extension professionals from around the nation and to listen to their challenges and how they tackle those challenges to create successful programing.  I enjoyed the keynote speaker; his energy and love of leadership were contagious.  I especially liked this statement from his talk, "Leadership is not about you, leadership is all about you." The yin and the yang of how personal confidence and skills translated into leadership strength was a good concept to think about.  I also appreciated the time to connect with my association, NEAFCS, and get updates on upcoming events and annual conference.  Lastly, I enjoyed the breakout sessions and found new skills to empower me as I continue to lead in my state.

Margie Mansure, North Carolina
The Joint Council of Extension Professional Leadership Development Conference was the first conference I have ever attended focusing on leadership. I had time to think about the various leaders that I have interacted with and their different approaches. The qualities of a leader come from that person's life experiences, and includes their values and personality. A leader may learn from others, but will always have an individual approach to personal leadership. After attending a number of excellent sessions at this conference, I feel more confident in my own leadership style.

Nicole McGeehan, Pennsylvania
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to attend the 2024 JCEP Extension Leadership Conference in Tampa, FL, as the past president of our PA affiliate. It was my first time attending this conference, so I was unsure what to expect. Some of the top things that I learned from the breakout sessions were: how to use the stages of change while incorporating motivational interviewing to be a better leader; that stress affects the perception of situations, and that if we are mindful of that, we can become better leaders; to be aware of how different people can interpret the same message in different ways; that cultural differences can lead to miscommunication so we should go into conversations looking to learn something new; and that laughter can create bonds and lead to more effective leadership. Karl Bradley, the keynote and capstone presenter, gave me a lot of ideas to apply in a leadership role to be more effective. My favorite thing about this conference was the networking opportunities. It was nice to network with others from NEAFCS on a much smaller scale than at our national conference. It was also great to network with the other associations. I created close bonds with people from my state that I did not even know were coming to this conference, because I do not work with them daily. Thank you again for the scholarship to attend this conference, I hope to be able to attend another one in the future.

Dorothy Nuckols, Maryland
The 2024 Extension Leadership Conference offered many wonderful take-a-ways.  Karl Bradley's plenary session, "Follow Out Front" offered opportunities for introspection on leadership style as well as opportunities to gain insight from those sitting around us at our tables.   I presented during the first concurrent session and was thrilled at the packed room, but also learned that it is important to have a plan in place for altering activities when there are more attendees than expected.  Contingency planning is an important aspect of leadership!  Next, I attended Georgia Peterson's "Both/And session on managing conflict. As I financial educator, I found that the ideas and activities presented during the workshop could be used as an exercise in financial conflict resolution. As a personal finance educator, I not only teach money management, but also financial behaviors.  How wonderful to be exposed to a technique on managing money related conflict, especially in relationships. Dr. Peterson kindly shared her slides so I can incorporate her lessons into my work.  Other highlights included the poster session which highlighted a broad approach to leadership within Extension areas, and a concurrent session on evaluating participants' perceived quality of program experiences, rather than just standard outcomes.  Of course, I can't leave out the two personal take-a-ways:  Florida sunshine in February, and a side trip to watch the sun set over the western beach where we were also treated to some playful dolphins! The NEAFCS scholarship made travel to ELC 2024 possible, and the scholarship is greatly appreciated.

April Payne, Virginia
Wow! What a wonderful conference! It was an inspiring experience with the keynote speech from Karl Bradley asking us to reflect on what makes a good leader, sharing stories of what qualities are common in successful leaders, and Ubuntu - "I am only because you are," the fact that we're all connected.  The opportunities to network were endless. I think I walked away with two new close friends from Louisiana and a connection with a possible relative with the same last name. There were so many fantastic sessions, it was extremely hard to pick just one. I attended "How do you show Appreciation to create a winning team?" where I learned about the powerful use of the 5 languages of appreciation and how to apply that knowledge. I attended "Leadership, Effective Behavior Change communication and Supportive AI Tools" to learn more about the behavior theory, how ChatGPT can help motivational interviewing skills, and better listening skills. I went to a fascinating session about the Greek Enneagram, how that correlates with behavior and ways to respond to improve communication and manage conflict. It was great to gain a better understanding of how to develop stronger, more impactful evaluations through a session that covered evaluation design strategies. Many of the sessions provided great handouts. I truly hope to attend in the future! It was just fantastic! Thank you for the opportunity!

Jessica Randazzo, Louisiana
JCEP 2024 Reflection   As president of LEAFCS, I attended the Joint Council for Extension Professionals (JECP) conference February 13-15, 2024 in Tampa, FL. The theme for the conference, year-round leadership, was reinforced in the sessions I attended as well as what the keynote speaker, Karl Bradly, shared.  While I am a leader in the professional association LEAFCS, coalition facilitator, mentor to new agents and also supervising agent, I do not always feel equipped for those leadership roles.  The part of the keynote speaker's sessions that stuck with me most were his reflection questions on the qualities of a successful leader.  He said that "every employee wants to be seen, heard and valued".  I think those are values I want to take with me as a supervisor as well as a public servant.  "Seeing" implies that you are able to see beyond your own personal perspective and taking the time to understand that person.  Being "heard" to me means more than just listening but also relating and understanding their perspective.  Being "valued" is acknowledging the advantage of having that person on the team. As the leader of a healthy communities coalition, I want to take those principles and also apply them to the way we approach the communities we work with.

Jamie Rathbun, Kansas
I took a lot of things to heart from Karl Bradley's "Follow Out Front" introductory message. In my professional and personal life I will strive to remember that much of what we do in Extension is about relationships. And that in order to help others be successful, I need to ask myself what am I doing for others? How am I giving them opportunities to be seen, to be heard, and to be valued? I also want to explore and attend the train the trainer program from University of Maryland on Habit Shift Mindset. Ideally, I would like to bring this to my state as a training for all FCS agents as I think this program could be valuable as we all work with others to develop positive health habits. On additional session that was important was the NEAFCS breakout. I was able to gain some insight about our national organization that I shared with others at our recent state level association meeting.

Rosie Stewart, Arizona
I want to express my genuine gratitude to NEAFCS for making it possible for me to attend the 2024 JCEP ELC, my first time participating in this event. It was a robust conference offering many professional development opportunities. Reflecting on the experience, I appreciate the valuable insights gained. The breakout sessions, with their educational content and interactive approach, equipped me with practical activities for my team and local programming. Karl Bradley, the keynote and capstone speaker, shared insights on cultivating a "Success Partner Mindset" and introduced the impactful concept of "The Power of UBUNTU (Ooo-BOON-too)," leaving a lasting impression. JCEP ELC provided a unique opportunity to understand the broader Extension landscape and foster connections with members across various Extension associations. My submitted breakout session proposal was accepted, allowing me to co-present with my affiliate's President. Our session resonated well with an engaged and receptive audience, even prompting a colleague from a neighboring state to invite us to present in their county to their colleagues unable to attend JCEP ELC. In my role as one of the 2024 NEAFCS Annual Session host liaisons, providing an update during the NEAFCS Association Meeting allowed me to showcase all the wonderful events the Arizona Affiliate is hard at work planning. JCEP ELC has become a standout conference, and I wholeheartedly recommend it to those looking to refine their leadership skills. Anticipating the opportunity to reconnect with acquaintances from this year and establish new connections, I eagerly look forward to attending next year.