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

July 20, 2021

From Resilience to Brilliance: Annual Conference 2021

Submitted by Brian McCornack

I am quite sure each of you has a word or two to describe the pandemic these past 18 months: challenging, disruptive, isolating, or even anxious. When we step back and reflect on what we have overcome as individuals and an institution, another word comes to mind—resilient. The KSRE Annual Conference Committee and I have been meeting to plan our event this fall, and the theme of “resilience” keeps invading our conversations. Your stories of innovation are truly inspiring, especially when you all faced uncertainty and tremendous adversity during this pandemic. Our multi-state conference last year was completely virtual, which was out of necessity and safety. However, meeting in a virtual world has forced us to think about the reasons why we come together. Could it be said in an email? Great, then send one! Could it be recorded and watched later? Awesome, then it can be watched when it fits into the million other tasks that need to be completed. Then why meet face-to-face? We sent out a survey back in June asking you about your preferences for the annual meeting. The results were quite clear. “Let us network, let us reconnect, and let us come together to celebrate our achievements this past year!” As a committee, we could not agree more.

The 2021 K-State Research and Extension Annual Conference will be in person October 19-21 with pre-conference offerings starting on Monday, October 18. All general sessions will have a virtual option, but the primary goal of this annual conference is to give you time to connect and reconnect with others across the organization. The theme this year focuses on our successes as individuals and as an organization, “From Resilience to Brilliance!” We learned a lot during this pandemic, and it is time to pause, reflect, but then take action. Where is KSRE headed? What will Extension look like in the next 5-10 years? This conference is not only about coming back together, but it also is a time to be strategic about our next steps. Here is what we have planned so far:

Tuesday will be a day of reconnecting and celebrating. Association meetings are scheduled for the afternoon, and we are excited about the “tailgate” social that is being planned for Tuesday evening, which will include a few awards, yard games, and some food trucks!

Wednesday morning will be a time to reflect on our direction as an organization. In 2019 we discussed our future in roundtables during the “World Café” session, and then the pandemic happened. We are working to identify a keynote who will inspire us to rethink and redesign what KSRE looks like, as we “refresh” our ideas of “what’s next” for KSRE. These conversations will set the stage for the afternoon workshop that focuses on putting these ideas into action—aka “strategic doing.” We are excited about this session, as it will give Program Focus Teams (PFTs) and others across the organization a framework to identity guideposts and accountability for team success.

You will not want to miss the “Innovation Expo” to conclude the conference on Thursday morning. Learn! Share! And make new connections! The Innovation Expo will be packed with people from across our organization and campuses who are excited to share their innovations, technologies, and creativity with you. Come learn about new technologies you can incorporate to further your engagement with stakeholders. Discover ways you can invigorate your approaches to diverse learners through innovative teaching techniques and resources. Network with others who have solved complex problems using simple and cross-cutting concepts.

Whether you are a new hire or an established veteran of the system and want to expand your professional skills and network, this is a must-attend event! PFTs will also have time Thursday to meet and plan for the upcoming year.

This conference is a time to reconnect and develop guideposts to take us to our next moments of greatness—our brilliance! You don’t want to miss out—stay tuned to the Annual Conference website for more details as they unfold.