2018 JCEP Leadership Conference 1st Timer’s Scholarship Recipient Reflections

Rachel Hubbard, Georgia
The JCEP Leadership Conference was one of the best conferences I have attended. The keynote speaker was phenomenal! He kept each participant engaged every minute. I learned so much about the way I think/my personality and how I can use that to have better interactions at work and at home.  The concurrent sessions covered relevant topics that provided me with tools I am taking back to use in my office. I especially enjoyed the connections made during the association sessions. I truly appreciate the opportunity to network with co-workers across the nation and build relationships that will positively impact my programming and my professional development.

Brittney Seay, Louisiana 
As President-Elect, the Joint Council of Extension Professionals Conference was a great learning and networking experience like none other.  This conference allowed me to understand in great deal about other extension professions and meet with professionals with various backgrounds related to extension.  I thoroughly enjoyed obtaining updated information in regards to NIFA and the information provided via USDA on the new engagement issues report and the task force “dealing with rural America”.  This report is a necessary read and especially for those who obtain funding through NIFA to get an understanding and become knowledgeable of the emerging issues that are taking place.  Also, hearing the NIFA representative state how important it is that we report our programming efforts was a highlight to me.  I am a strong believer of reporting programming efforts and documenting all success stories and testimonials.  It is a reflection of our hard work and our state and federal representatives need that information in order to further enhance our program areas.  The keynote speaker gave an amazing presentation on the power of understanding people.  This presentation was very important for those in leadership roles and even those seeking to be in leadership positions.  The survey that David Mitchell provided is a great tool to be used in any work setting.  It allowed us to determine who we were and how to adjust to other people based on our score of style.  The information provided can help individuals become a better leader when adjustments to different personalities can be made.  Lastly, the NEAFCS meeting was very informative and productive.  Being able to network with other Presidents and President-Elects really gave us all an opportunity to gather ideas and suggestions to help in our different state organizations.  Also being able to outline issues for recruitment and retention allowed us to work together as a team in order to enhance our organization in an even more positive way in order to bring in more participants.  Overall, this was an amazing conference and I am so grateful to be a part of such a great mix of extension professionals who are willing to guide and support one another into becoming effective leaders.

Heidi Tilenius, Alabama 

Thank you for the opportunity of funding to assist with attending the JCEP Leadership Conference in Orlando, FL February 14-15, 2018. I learned many things during this conference. Some of them were personal and (notice the use of AND, rather than BUT!)  will enhance my ability to improve myself and my leadership style at the county level. This will also help me with my upcoming position as president of the AL affiliate of NEAFCS. 

Wednesday session:  From the NIFA update the importance of federal reporting. We all do this, very helpful to understand how it’s used. Also the need to continue to develop a rural economy, workforce and how 4H and programs from the Farm Service Agency dovetail to promote agriculture. From David Mitchell’s “The Power of Understanding People” I am a Specialist, the combination of Expert and Warrior. This makes me a linear thinker who likes details and security along with a lot of knowledge. In my office, I have a lot of folks with Romantic as their preferred way of interacting in the world. So, with that in mind, these thoughts from Mitchell will help me as I communicate:

a.       Listen to understand

b.      Confirm understanding

c.       Validate their perspective AND (not but) here’s my perspective.

d.      Identify common ground on which to build

e.      Broaden your perspective

**validate their perspective and I would like to have mine understood** 


Thursday session:  The breakout session “Leaders Listen” was most helpful. The role play was valuable along with the listening tips. These are communication skills we can all improve upon. The NEAFCS session was very informative as well. It helped to learn some of the national protocols but I really enjoyed meeting members from other states and hearing their best practices. The overarching take away for me, from this session as well as from other conferences I’ve been to in the last couple months, is the aging of the workforce. 60% of members will be eligible to retire within 10 years. I heard recently that by 2025, 70% of the workforce will be made up of millennial. Right now there are 4 generations in the workforce, each bringing different ideas to the table. Millennial in the workforce and also as our clients, pose new opportunities for Extension. This is in retaining workers as well as programs and program delivery for our clients. There is much to consider with this dynamic.

Judi Cissell O'Bryan, Kentucky
JCEP was a great time to focus on me as an Extension professional and as a person.  As our jobs get busier and more demanding it’s very easy to forget to take care of yourself so you can do your job.  JCEP was an opportunity for me to regroup.  It was a chance to study myself as an Extension professional to see what changes I needed to make to help me get better results and a chance to come back refreshed and ready to be more present in the moment.

Michelle Brill, New Jersey

Thank you for the scholarship to attend the JCEP Leadership Conference this year. I truly enjoyed and felt part of the experience. David Mitchell, Keynote Speaker, left a lasting impression with his exploration of civil dialogue. The full-day format was very effective for learning. JCEP also gave my 4-H colleague, Jeannette Rea Keywood and I, the opportunity to share our professional development training series on Programming for Clientele with Developmental Disabilities. There is much interest in this training in order for Extension personnel to feel both competent and confident in meeting the needs of this population. Both NEAFCS association meetings addressed important issues confronting our affiliates now and in the future. It is evident that our affiliate leaders are innovative, dedicated FCS professionals representing the needs of their constituents and their educators. I felt that we were really heard by our national and regional leadership and that there is true transparency in the association. Looking forward to seeing everyone in San Antonio!

Natasha Parks, Florida
The Joint Council of Extension Professional (JCEP) conference was eye opening. In my role as an Extension Agent it is easy to forget that Extension is represented across the nation.  To network with my colleagues across the country who share their stories of successful programming as well as challenges and barriers is refreshing to know I am not alone.  We all have the same passion and goals to change the behaviors of citizens in our communities. I have always heard about JCEP, but this was my first chance to attend as a leader within my professional association.  There are so many people involved in ensuring the success of Extension, which motivates me to do more.  

Felice Acker, Texas
The JCEP Leadership Conference 2018 taught me more about myself and others actions through a powerful guest speaker, Dave Mitchell.   It offered in-depth sessions from extension personnel from around the country, that were insightful, and engaging.  I was able to learn about civil dialogue and how to take that back home.  The discussion on innovation in extension and how we can be proactive and reaching more and different audiences challenged my thinking on what innovation means.  Innovating doesn’t just mean technology, it is  thinking and predicting how we can assist our audiences before they know they need us.  The conference was one of the best overall leadership development training's I have attended.  

Cindy Thompson, Iowa
Hundreds of miles of rural two lane roads, one “urban” area, early childhood, parenting, aging. For the most part, this is my Extension world. Too often, I forget my Extension world is much bigger, much broader, and much more impactful than my work in northeast Iowa. JCEP was an ever-welcome reminder of that reality. I sat next to Extension agents serving (what in Iowa is considered “exotic”) places like the Florida Keys and military bases in Hawaii. I heard collective concern for topics barely on my radar, like climate change. I problem solved and brainstormed with professionals in 4H and resource management. I enhanced communication and self-care skills related to the leadership roles I have assumed. In addition to these opportunities, I had a chance to participate in focused discussions related to my passions… children and families… as part of my association meeting time with NEAFCS. In northeast Iowa, we have a natural resource/tourism project called Silos and Smokestacks. Silos and Smokestacks is a treasured element of the geographic area I serve, but opportunities to break down silos in my Extension role is critical to the impact I can make. JCEP provided an opportunity to break down a few of those silos.

Haley Napier, North Carolina
What a great conference!!! This year (2018), was my first experience at the Joint Council of Extension Professionals (JCEP) Conference. I was very pleasantly surprised and I am now hopeful to have the opportunity to attend again in the near future. This was not only a wonderful time of meeting extension professionals across the nation, but also a chance to learn new things in order to be an even more successful leader in my state and association. 

I enjoyed meeting with NEAFCS to discuss how we can plan for the future and stay ahead of the game in extension. In addition, many of my educational sessions I attended focused on the importance of mindfulness as a leader in extension. As we take on more roles and wear several hats, we cannot forget to take care of ourselves and use our time wisely. Last but not least, I can’t write this without mentioning how wonderful our keynote speaker, Dave Mitchell, was. He kept us laughing and engaged, while also teaching us the importance of connecting with differing personalities. This is something so hard, yet important to keep in mind both professionally and personally.

I am very thankful that I had the opportunity to be a part of the 2018 JCEP Conference. It was so beneficial and necessary for me as both an Extension professional and leader. I encourage others to attend if they ever get the opportunity.

Lisa Poppe, Nebraska
The JCEP Leadership conference is a great event to gain a higher knowledge level of the organization by spending time with colleagues from other states and hear from representatives from ECOP and NIFA. We heard from NIFA that reporting is IMPORTANT! They use this information for politicians and they want the public value of how people’s lives are changing.  I enjoyed the keynote speaker, David Mitchell, for uplifting me to think about the identity and appreciate diverse styles of people. It is important to adjust our relationships and communication approach according to a person’s schemes, experiences and values.

It was great to hear from our NEAFCS leadership and then brainstorm in groups to talk about recruitment, retention and advocacy. These are the most important issues facing my state association as well and I felt some good ideas came out of it that I will be able to implement in my state. 

Jennifer Cannon, Indiana
My experience at JCEP was remarkable. While at the conference I had the opportunity to meet colleagues from other states, learn programming ideas, and share marketing tools. Our keynote speaker spoke on leadership skills and character development. While attending his session, I learned about my leadership skills, and ways to interact with those different from me.  He taught us to communicate effectively, in which I believe is important to us as extension educators. For the information learned at conference will surely be implement in my programming and extension career. I highly recommend individuals attend this conference and get involved with their national association. 

Callie Johnson, North Dakota 
After attending JCEP, I am more confident and ready to take on the role as president of my home state association, NDEAFCS. It was a great experience that has given me more tools to better serve my county and state in my role as a Family & Community Wellness Agent.  I hope to be more innovative in the programs I provide to meet the needs and reach more people. JCEP was a great experience and I would recommend it to anyone who ever has the opportunity to attend. 

Karla Belzer, Illinois
Attending my first JCEP conference was a very rewarding and educational experience.  First and foremost, attending the conference gave me a broader understanding of the Extension system as a whole as well as exposure to various Extension organizations.  As fairly new to the Extension field, I found this exposure to be invaluable as now I have a better understanding of the different working parts of the Extension system.  Listening to speakers from various Extension organizations and backgrounds really expanded my understanding of what Extension does on a larger level.  I found the keynote speaker to not only be engaging but also very informative.  Information that I learned in his session will undoubtedly be helpful to me in my daily practice of Extension work – both with the clients I serve and Extension professionals I work with.  Attending the concurrent sessions was interesting as I learned what Extension trends and issues are in other states and was able to apply what I was learning to my own Extension work.

While attending sessions and learning from other Extension Educators throughout the country was no doubt helpful, the most rewarding experience of the conference for me was to attend the NEAFCS meetings.  Connecting with my fellow FCS Educators throughout the country was priceless.  I found it extremely helpful to make connections with and learn from other Extension agents and have undoubtedly made colleagues, and friends, for years to come.

A very sincere thank you for allowing me this opportunity.

Amy Vance, Missouri
As I was trying to prepare for JCEP I asked my colleagues about their experiences at previous conferences. They told me I would learn a lot but no one explained what I would learn there. Well after having experienced JCEP I can tell you the experience was worth it. As with any National conference it is exciting to hear what everyone is doing and where Extension is heading as a whole. I networked with fellow Extension professionals to hear how they overcome issues and innovative ways to educate more efficiently. I was really excited to sit through a pilot program that my community is starting and gain a resource to bounce ideas off. To finish each day we meet as an association where we brainstormed the future. Overall the experiences was a positive use of my time and I hope to attend in the future.

Sondra Ganus Thorne, Tennessee

As a first time participant at the JCEP conference, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was hoping it would not be long days of mundane meetings or boring speakers. My worries quickly vanished as I felt the energy in the room. The two days were filled with great breakout sessions and one of the best keynote speakers I have had the opportunity to hear. David  Mitchell offered a wonderful two-part session on personality styles and how we all can effectively work together in leadership roles despite our differences. I discovered I am Sondra, the Romantic, and was surprised to find I scored the strongest of that personality trait among the entire delegation. No wonder I want the world to be full of love and harmony! In addition to breakout sessions, the Virtual Town Hall Meeting shed much light on the issues Extension is facing all across America. Networking with colleagues and informative poster sessions rounded off a great conference. I look forward to attending again in the future. 

Radonna Sawatzky, Oklahoma 
The Joint Council of Extension Professionals Conference in Orlando, Florida was like a shot in the arm of energy.  I have been in Extension work for 29 years, but needed this conference to rejuvenate me and the passion that I have for working with people. 

The speaker, Mr. Dave Mitchell, was an outstanding choice.  I think all of us need to be reminded of personal traits and how we relate to others.  When you work with people, it is important to understand how they react to certain situations and how they see things.  You have to have a good team and be able to work with each other, and work through differences.   Mr. Mitchell was very good at explaining the power of understanding people and how and why they react the way they do.  I was very impressed that he was willing to share his materials with us too.  I know he has worked with all types and he explained each type very well and how they react to situations.  It made me want to come back and have my staff fill out the survey. I also bought his book and I look forward to reading it and sharing it with others.

While at JCEP, I attended some really good workshops.  They dealt with social media and how we can use it to our benefit.  I have used it some, but I enjoyed hearing how others were using it and how they have concerns too.  The most important part of our job is the personal touch, and I don’t want social media to take that away.  But I think we can use it to draw people to our services and sites and help us meet needs.  Social media is a tool that we have to learn to use, or we are going to be left behind.  We have to be ready to tackle the new and accept change as it comes.  Innovation is a big part of that and we have to always be looking for ways to make us innovative and relevant. 

The Town Hall meeting was a great time to hear different ideas of how to deal with emerging issues.  Sometimes, we don’t have the expertise and we need to realize that and work where we are needed and capable.  I also think sometimes we are too late in getting our information out there or getting involved.  It was nice to hear that other states have some of the same issues and how we all need to be more aware of what we can do and what we can’t do. 

Two of my favorite things at JCEP were the NEAFCS association meetings.  Sharing our story from our state and hearing others was very beneficially to me.  I heard some of the problems and some of the same successes.  But what I mostly heard, was a group of educators that love their job and the impact they make.  Although some people don’t know who we are and we don’t make great pay, there wasn’t a person in there that didn’t love what they do.  I absolutely loved having time to share and visit about our career and issues.  We all know the importance of our jobs and are concerned about future.  It was great to hear what other states are doing for their members and how to encourage others to join. 

Like I said earlier, “Attending JCEP was like getting a shot of energy and purpose back in my body.  It made me proud to be an Extension Professional and to get back to helping people. After all, I did learn that I am a Romantic!

Kelly Kunkel, Minnesota 
Thank you for the opportunity to attend the Joint Council of Extension Professionals (JCEP) Leadership Conference on February 14-15, 2018 in Orlando, Florida. The theme for the event was, “Balancing Tradition with Innovation”.  I would like to highlight key learning and takeaways from speakers presenting at the conference.

University of Florida Extension Director Nick Place asked the question, what are the vexing issues right now? He talked about Florida’s concern around water, a growing population, and one new pest or plant disease discovered each month. He challenged us to create the biggest impacts with our programming.

Chuck Hibberd, Dean and Director of Extension at University of Nebraska-Lincoln, provided an Extension Committee on Organization and Policy (ECOP) report. His message on advocacy centered around five key messages: Science is action (better to state science than research); National reach with meaningful local impact; Proactive responsiveness (disasters, threats, etc.); Expand core programs such as 4-H; and Provide value for federal partners as the outreach engagement arm of the federal government.

Bill Hoffman from NIFA shared that we should report on how our programming influences lives, and share the public value of our programming with others.

Much of our first day at the conference was dedicated to our keynote speaker, David Michell, found of the Leadership difference. He implemented a personality profile tool called, the Power of Understanding People. People fell into the personality preference of expert, romantic, mastermind or warrior. He was entertaining and thought provoking, providing a new way to understand and communicate with people based on our preferences.

The first day also included a panel discussion and virtual town hall meeting on emerging issues. Interesting to note that some of the issues discussed, such as climate change, water, diabetes, or opioid addiction, are not immerging. Rather, they are a present and real concern. We should be looking ahead to what is immerging in the future, and get in front of this issue instead of being reactive. When we look to innovation, how are we measuring success in our work? What are our metrics? If we evaluate Extension work using old tools, we have little time or energy to be innovative. We need to remember to consider the process as a product, focus on systemic change (which takes time) and explore new methods of engagement.

On the second day of the conference, I attended four of the concurrent sessions. The sessions were on fostering community unity and civil dialogue, utilizing mindfulness, time management and assessing community needs.

I am serving as Minnesota’s president-elect for NEAFCS. It was beneficial to me to have association meetings on both days of the conference. We discussed member benefits, voting delegates and using social media. Interesting to note that 60% of our membership will be eligible to retire in 10 years. How will that change our association? We took time to share thought about membership.

Thank you for your scholarship to attend this conference. The time to learn about immerging issues in Extension, network and meet Extension professionals from across the nation, and think deeper about innovation made this conference meaningful. 

Deborah Curley, Arizona
This was my first trip to JCEP and I have a number of thoughts. First of all, the keynote speaker was amazing. I definitely think – through a lot of humor – he helped explain some really important differences in the way people work. We do encounter a wide variety of people and perspectives in Extension and collaborations make our work stronger and more sustainable. So, the better we can connect with people, the more effective we can be.

I also think the topic of innovation is critical for the future growth of Extension and NEAFCS. Agencies with a long history such as Extension have an even greater challenge to ‘think outside the box’ than others. But, even though we have deep tradition, Extension is also known for its ability to adapt to community needs. We all have access to cutting-edge research and technology to stay at the top of our game. I look forward to continuing to celebrate the dynamic innovations of my colleagues throughout the Country and to more opportunities to build nationwide programming that competes on the scale of other large nationwide organizations.

Donna Krug, Kansas
From the engaging keynote speaker to the thoughtful town hall meeting, I was impressed with the issues addressed at the recent JCEP Leadership Conference. As my Extension appointment moves me more toward administration in my local unit, I chose break-out sessions focusing on leadership skills and I was not disappointed. An added bonus of participating in JCEP was the networking and the chance to receive updates from our NEAFCS colleagues. While each of us shared challenges facing our state affiliates, the positives outweighed these challenges. I returned home energized and with new ideas to incorporate in our Extension district and thankful for my Extension career. 

Kathy Green, Ohio
Thank you for the opportunity to attend the 2018 JCEP Leadership Conference. By taking part in the conference, I gained a great deal of information about my role as Affiliate President. In addition, I made connections throughout the state, and for the first time, really felt like I was invested in our National Association.  The association meetings gave me insight into the issues facing NEAFCS as well as the great accomplishments being achieved by my peers. I also really appreciated the opportunity to discuss current concerns. In addition to the association meetings, I felt that the keynote speaker's information was valuable and informative. The concurrent sessions also expanded my knowledge in areas of technology, building relationships and sharing our stories.

Patty Swearingen, Mississippi
This was my second time to attend JCEP.  The best thing about the conference is getting to see old friends from other states and to meet new ones.  It is always interesting to share the condition of each state and some new programs that are working for them and those that are successful in my state.

The keynote speaker, David Mitchell, was interesting to listen to plus gave some new perspectives on some old points.  Of course, I was a romantic because I never want to make anyone mad or upset and I try to keep peace all that I can whether at work or at home.

The break-out sessions were very useful.  I attended the Extension Innovation We Don’t Have Time for Innovation, With an End in Mind and Sustainability Outreach in Extension.  Each one of them were well presented and gave me some ideas in which I might implement with my own programs.

I attended the association meeting on Wednesday afternoon but I had to leave at 3:00 pm on Thursday afternoon to head back home.  My mother is 96 and lives with me.  I had a caregiver with her who carried her to the hospital and thought I needed to head on home. My husband was with me and so we drove straight home. She was admitted to hospital for a fast heart beat but was put on medicine to keep it regulated.  So far she is doing fine.

I am very appreciative for having this opportunity to attend this conference a second time.  I will definitely encourage other members to attend in the future.

Rachel Chaney, Arkansas
I was honored to represent the Arkansas NEAFCS association at the JCEP Leadership Conference in Orlando, FL. The two-day conference was packed with numerous learning opportunities on balancing tradition with innovation. On the first day, I gained new information on “The Power of Understanding People” from the keynote speaker, David Mitchell. He introduced me to a new personality assessment and related the results to Hollywood characters. Apparently, I am a romantic/mastermind similar to “the love interest” in a movie like a Meg Ryan or a Hugh Grant character. I attended the virtual town hall meeting where esteemed panelists provided guidance on “Emerging Issues: Balancing Tradition and Innovation.”  On the second day, I saw innovative approaches from Extension Professionals across the US.  The concurrent sessions were informative and provided me with new ideas. My favorite session was “Programming Clientele for Developmental Disabilities” by Jeannette Rea Keywood, Rutgers University. The presenters went over the different developmental disabilities and learning styles as well as how to provide inclusion in Extension programming. The poster session was very enlightening, especially since at the time I was working on my first poster.  The highlight of the conference was the networking opportunities with Extension Professionals from across the US. I enjoyed the opportunity to engage with them and I hope to see them at future conferences. Overall, my first JCEP conference was a rewarding and educational experience.

Sarah Sleziak Johnson, Michigan 
I have been looking for opportunities to provide leadership.  I agreed to run for President-Elect of the Michigan MEAFCS Affiliate in 2017.  At our Fall Membership Meeting I was elected to the position of President-Elect after serving as Secretary for two years.  The JCEP Leadership Conference in February was my first JCEP experience.  In addition to being a part of MEAFCS leadership, I am a Supervising Educator supervising 10 Nutrition and Physical Activity program staff in six counties.  The JCEP Leadership Conference provided me with a perspective of extension as a whole, bigger than just my state or region.  I like that I am a part of something bigger.  This is a perspective that I want to share with Michigan MEAFCS membership and the staff that I supervise.  I enjoyed the main speaker of the conference as well.  It helped me to better understand myself as a person, my leadership style, and how this relates to how I work with others.

I was able to connect with members of NEAFCS who have positions similar to mine which helps to paint the picture of national Extension.  I appreciate the opportunity to get to know other Extension staff and making memories while enjoying the company of others while learning.  Extension is special and unique.  I love that I am a part of that.  As I got in the elevator at the hotel, two ladies stepped on while chatting.  After the gentleman who was also in the elevator got off on his floor.  I shared that when they got on the elevator that I thought to myself, “They have to be Extension.”  There’s a vibe of positive energy that comes from Extension staff when they are energized in learning.

Thank you for the scholarship to support my learning and my attendance at the JCEP Leadership Conference.