September 6, 2016
Blast from the Past: Program Focus Teams
A blast from the past… it was 10 years ago when we began putting together program focus teams. Here is a message I wrote from September 5, 2006.
In the past two weeks, meetings have been held in each of the four Extension Areas across the state to discuss a plan for greater emphasis on professional development for Extension professionals. The plan calls for commitment from both Extension agents and faculty with Extension responsibility to work together through identified program focus teams to outline future in-service education needs within an identified subject matter discipline, and to develop plans for creating those educational opportunities.
The purpose for declaring areas of program focus is to work towards improving the professional development opportunities of Extension agents in such a way so as to increase subject matter competency and subsequently increase personal capacity to proactively deliver educational programs in those areas of program focus. To be successful, teamwork among Extension agents and Extension specialists is critical.
At the end of last week, the State Extension Advisory Council (SEAC) was in Manhattan. The merits of focused programming (developing an area of expertise, creating one's strong suit, or whatever one might call it) created a great deal of discussion and debate. The SEAC was unanimous in its support towards focusing on personal professional growth of Extension agents. As Penny Donaldson, Doniphan County, put it, "I have a degree in library science with an emphasis on children's literature. I direct an academic library and my area of expertise is in kiddy lit." She went on to say that she has made a personal commitment to stay up on children's literature. That is her passion, and she continues to teach classes in that area. Her job is to direct the library.
As Penny described her analogy, I thought it fit perfectly with our initiative. She has a broad responsibility in directing the academic library. That could be all she would do. But, she sees the importance of her PERSONAL commitment to growth in her area of expertise. Again, a perfect analogy to our interests in creating the environment for a strong PERSONAL commitment from each and every one of us to professional growth and excellence in an area of program focus.
The intended outcome is to strengthen the delivery of high quality, relevant, and comprehensive Extension educational programs. Our best means of accomplishing that outcome is through personal commitment to developing an area of expertise to be high quality and relevant, and through a commitment to greater cooperation and teamwork to provide comprehensive program availability to all potential audiences (this includes developing volunteers to assist in the delivery, as well as working across traditional boundaries).
I hope you will make that personal commitment to help in designing a better professional development system and to then take advantage of that system for your own personal growth. As one other SEAC member put it, "Every Extension agent needs an area of focus to be successful for the future."
The progress we have made is tremendous. Thanks to each of you for making a personal commitment to professional growth and a commitment to be the best you can be in an area of specialized, focused educational programming! I truly believe the people of Kansas are being better served through this commitment to professional growth and focused programming.