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KSRE Tuesday Letter

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

January 17, 2023

Why the Partnership is Important

Submitted by Carla Nemecek

Teamwork and a solid working relationship are a great start to any endeavor, and K-State Research and Extension is no different.

With open communication, goal-sharing, and cooperation between local unit board members, extension agents and administration, we have a unique opportunity to not only get 2023 off to the right start – but to build a sustainable and lasting program. We will do this by enhancing the quarterly partnership meetings and accomplishing the goal of having every local unit represented at each event.

When we met with local unit board members at the in-person, November 2022 Partnership Meeting, we were reminded of how invested Kansans are in K-State Research and Extension with excellent attendance and robust interest in the conversations. Recruitment and retention continue to be areas of interest for KS JCEP and KSRE administration, so the agenda was developed for the purpose of creating dialogue with your board members around this issue.

After administrative updates were shared with board members via zoom, conversation ensued about why extension agents leave K-State Research and Extension. A summary of responses from agent exit surveys was shared with board members. The exit survey data indicates concerns about:

• Work/life balance
• Co-governance between local units and K-State.
• Poor working relationships with colleagues and/or board members.
• Management of the 4-H program.

Board members were then asked what boards could do to improve retention, and then what can KSRE do to improve retention. A summary of those comments is shared below:

Ideas for how board members can contribute to retention:

• Better prepare themselves for the demands of serving on a board by more actively participating in board leadership opportunities.
• Attend meetings regularly.
• Work with County Commissioners to advance salaries.
• Be more strategic about planning board leadership succession. Each board chair should mentor the vice-chair in anticipation of changing leadership the following year.
• Attend agent programs and learn more about their educational efforts and see them in action to be better prepared for evaluation in the fall.
• Avoid micro-management of agents/directors.

Ideas for how K-State Research and Extension can contribute to retention:

• Develop incentives that are based on longevity and performance/merit.
• Develop a career ladder for agents and explain career path expectations with local boards.
• Better support and guide board members when challenging issues arise.
• Consistent, strong training program for agents and directors with follow through.
• In addition to the coaching team, support local mentoring opportunities.
• Help board members understand the importance of agents applying for state and national awards/recognition to encourage merit-based incentives.

Thank you for encouraging your board members to participate in the Partnership Meetings in 2023. I look forward to our next meeting, which will be by zoom on January 26, at 7 p.m.