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K-State Research and Extension
123 Umberger Hall
Manhattan, KS 66506-3401

September 26, 2017

Remember Our Story

Submitted by Gregg Hadley

Last week, Dr. Scott Peters of Cornell University delivered a presentation to our system. The title of his seminar, “Reimagining Extension: Launching K-State Research and Extension in a Positive Direction” was meant to be provocative. Those of us familiar with Dr. Peters’ work knew he was both a champion for and a critic of Extension.

The title drew some concern. “Will this be a sign of a structural change?” “Who is this person to tell us what to do?” Despite the concern, I hope all watched the seminar. My summary of his seminar boils down to this; remember and use our story. The term “our” includes our personal story, our clients’ and learners’ stories, and Extension’s story. The story referred to is about addressing challenges, learning in order to overcome the challenges, and overcoming said challenges. The story is about what we in Extension do to help people improve their lives, livelihoods, and communities, and about how we position our organization to best accomplish that mission.

What has the “story” Dr. Peters refers to got to do with change? Everything. I believe Dr. Peters was pointing out that Extension systems that do not remember their story fail. It doesn’t matter if they resist change or embrace change. They will still fail. To succeed, whether in a static environment or a changing environment, they need to remember their story. To succeed, they need to remember their underlying purpose.

Will K-State Research and Extension change? One only has to look back at history to show that K-State Research and Extension has undergone thousands of changes in its history. For example, we do not do livestock workshops on the backs of rail cars at train depots anymore. We adopted the concept of Program Focus Teams. We employ new resources and strategies to work with our Program Development Committees. We engage in districting. We utilize new technologies to deliver curriculum. These are just a few examples of change. These weren’t change for change sake. They were developed and implemented with our story, our purpose, and our ability to deliver on that purpose in mind.

Will K-State Research and Extension change in the future? Yes, but they will not be changes for the sake of change. We will continue to evolve purposefully, and we will do so by always remembering our story.