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

September 12, 2023

Engagement and Extension Help Drive K-State Forward

Submitted by Gregg Hadley

Last Friday during the Launching Next-Gen K-State presentation, a lot of ground was covered – including many areas where we, Extension, lead and excel. We heard about community engagement and more research dollars coupling with Extension throughout the state. Dr. Marshall Stewart, the university’s vice president for external affairs, also discussed more strategic initiatives being rolled out over the coming weeks and months.

I have no doubt that Extension will continue to be expected to excel and lead in many of those to-be-announced initiatives. In fact, it was mentioned that it is time to “Rethink and retool the extension network so that they come in with us as partners on campus.”

So, what do I think this means?

What I heard throughout the presentation was affirmation of what Cooperative Extension does as being foundational to what K-State wants to become. Today, we are strong in serving our communities with robust, educational content, whether that’s through horticulture’s K-State Garden Hour on YouTube, or traditional Extension publications.

We enthusiastically host and produce many diverse types of events in person and virtually, whether that’s Extension personnel hosting and leading our many different statewide agriculture field days, or other community or health programs like Dining with Diabetes or a GAPs Food Safety Plan workshop.

Through our facilitation efforts, we will continue to help communities, organizations and farms and ranches as they plan for a better tomorrow. It is expected that we will continue to excel and lead in these areas, as we always have.

But where I see much more impact for Extension from the presentation is in the areas of connections – enhancing and engaging more deeply and profoundly with our stakeholders in Kansas.

So, how will this be different?

I’ll point to examples over the past year that were mentioned on Friday afternoon. The first is the regional community visits, where leaders have seen first-hand the effort and work you’ve done to make a difference and how we, Kansas State University, might better engage with them in the future. These visits are ongoing, and are really listening tours, enabling administrators to learn about the wants and needs across the state, city-by-city, town-by-town.

The second is the K-State 105 Initiative. As you know, we will be leveraging Extension’s and the university’s partnerships and infrastructure across all 105 counties to focus on strengthening communities, economic growth and entrepreneurial advancement. Extension will be key in providing ongoing support and in-market knowledge to help stand up and spur forward local market business and workforce development. This is one of the important parts of this Next-Gen plan, and Extension will be key to its success.

These are just two examples of how we’ll affect the future of K-State and the future of the State of Kansas. But some things won’t change – we’ll still be “making a difference” each day, in each community in Kansas. Leaders will engage and connect with each other across multiple programs and people, as showcased in those two examples above – and in ways yet to be uncovered. I’m enthused about the opportunities that will begin to percolate from these connections.

I’m proud of all that Extension is and honored to lead such a fantastic organization. I’m also excited for the future of what we can become, and where we can take these opportunities – for each of us professionally and personally – and for each of the communities, families, individuals and organizations we support.