Perspectives Online

Extension Conference 2007 emphasizes communication

UNC system President Erskine Bowles called extension 'North Carolina's greatest asset.'
Photo by Mark Dearmon

A knowledge-based global economy requires a college-educated workforce, UNC system President Erskine Bowles told a crowd of about 700 extension and engagement professionals in March. Yet in North Carolina, fewer than 20 percent of rural residents have a college education, and only 18 of 100 eighth graders today will complete a four-year college education.

"That's why I support what you do," Bowles said. "You are the university of North Carolina. You are what is making the state work today."

The three-day conference included more than 60 conference workshops (top and middle). CALS’ Dr. Lisa Guion announces plans to assess needs and set program objectives in all Extension districts. (bottom)
Photos by Mark Dearmon and James Parker
Bowles was the closing luncheon speaker at the 2007 State Extension Conference, held at N.C. State University's McKimmon Center March 12-14. Participants from seven outreach organizations at N.C. State and N.C. A&T State universities, including North Carolina Cooperative Extension, attended the conference. Other closing luncheon speakers included N.C. State Chancellor James L. Oblinger and N.C. A&T Chancellor Vic Hackley.

Shortly after taking the helm of the state's 16-campus university system last year, Bowles visited sites in eastern and western North Carolina, where Cooperative Extension and N.C. State's Industrial Extension Service are helping rural businesses achieve economic success. "I brag about extension everywhere I go," he said. "You are North Carolina's greatest asset."

The three-day conference opened with keynote speaker Dr. Vincent Covello, director of the Center for Risk Communication. Covello stressed the importance of keeping messages simple in high-stress situations and showing compassion, conviction and optimism.

Cooperative Extension employees heard updates from Dean Johnny Wynne of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cooperative Extension Service director Dr. Jon Ort and Cooperative Extension Program director Dr. M. Ray McKinnie. In addition, three individuals new to Cooperative Extension told the group about new resources that would be coming their way.

Dr. Jay Jayaratne, assistant professor and Extension evaluation state leader in Agricultural and Extension Education, described user-friendly evaluation tools he would provide to help employees improve their programs. Dr. Lisa Guion, associate professor of Agricultural and Extension Education, plans to hold institutes in all Extension districts to help employees learn to conduct county needs' assessments and set measurable program objectives.

Chrystal Bartlett, Extension marketing director who came on board in February, described plans to look at marketing from the consumer's perspective - how does what Extension offers meet customer needs?

Dr. Mitch Owen, new leader of Extension's Personal and Organizational Development group, recognized individuals who have contributed to the personal and organizational development of their colleagues over the past year. He also spoke about the need for inclusion, keeping focus and expanding the trainers involved in Personal and Organizational Development.

- Natalie Hampton