By: Mollie Lastovica
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Organizational Development hosted a number of new County Extension Agents on the Texas A&M campus Nov. 13-16 as part of the organization’s commitment to employee development.
Participants in Extension Foundations, the initial training for new County Extension Agents and Specialists, along with those in Program Excellence Academy II, the final component of Extension’s three-part training for new agents, comprised the Nov. training group. Jeff Ripley, Ph.D., Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist coordinated both employee development programs.
“The Program Excellence Academy gest back to the very foundations of what we do in Extension,” Ripley said. “‘Develop and deliver grassroots education programs.’ These early career agents are already experiencing success and assuming leadership roles within the agency.”
Those who participated in Extension Foundations were able to learn about the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension system from the ground up.
“Extension Foundations is an introduction for new agents to Extension in and out of itself within the first six months of their job,” Michelle Payne, Extension Associate, said. “It shows them what Extension is about, introduces them to program development and the accountability system, helps them meet administrators for what is probably the first time and also gives them the opportunity to meet and network with other agents.”
Foundations attendees heard from a plethora of speakers including those housed in the ALEC department including Associate Department Head and Program Leader Scott Cummings, Ph.D., and many other administrators within Texas A&M AgriLife Extension.
“Attending Extension Foundations was very beneficial, as it gave me an insight to all of the resources that are available for me to utilize, whether it be for a livestock project or the food challenge,” Matagorda County Extension Agent Laura Reyna said. “By attending Foundations I learned where to find and ask for these resources as well as more on what my job is as an Extension Agent in regard to marketing and branding Extension.”
The Foundations program is followed by Program Excellence Academy I and II, which come at six months increments within the first year and a half of an agent’s career.
“Agents learn how to work with local people to identify and plan efforts, they learn how to teach effectively, evaluate the results and impacts of programs and report the results to stakeholders,” Ripley said. “It greatly benefits our agency by making agents more confident in their jobs and more effective at programing.”
Participants in Program Excellence Academy II during the Nov. conference had a wide range of workshops and breakout sessions that focused on tweaking the different skills of agents and expanding their resources both in and out of Extension.
Faculty members from the ALEC Department were included as instructors of these sessions, which highlighted many communications and media-based topics. Associate Professor and Associate Department Head for Undergraduate Programs Tracy Rutherford, Ph.D., instructed a workshop entitled, “Educating through Print and Media Sources.” Meanwhile, Senior Lecturer Deborah Dunsford, Ph.D., along with Academic Adviser Tobin Redwine and Assistant Professor Billy McKim, Ph.D., conducted “The Media is Your Friend!” a session highlighting how to properly engage with media outlets.
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension will host another Extension Foundations and Program Excellence Academy I workshop during spring 2013. For more information about Extension’s employee development, click here.