A New Era
That is both the legacy and the future of Penn State Extension. Information is power and changes lives. Putting innovation and science-based solutions to work in businesses and communities across Pennsylvania is why we do what we do. To ensure that legacy continues, Penn State Extension is continuing to evolve in a digital era and capitalize on the innovation and technologies that allow us to get science-based information and education to more Pennsylvanians — lots more!
In 2010, we changed our structure to create teams of extension educators, leveraging all the expertise in the College of Agricultural Sciences to focus on the needs of our customers and stakeholders. Although these teams work at the state level to create priorities, programs, and products, they live and work in counties across the state where they apply this knowledge. As we transitioned to team-based programming, we also consolidated our operational functions from the county level to multi-county districts to increase efficiency and reduce costs.
During the next year, you will notice additional changes in our organization as we take the next step. This phase is keenly focused in two core areas: our products and services, and our customers and stakeholders.
We are taking significant steps to dramatically improve the relevancy, usability, and reach of our programs and services. We are also dedicating professionals to focus solely on our customers and stakeholders at the local level. The goals: to listen and learn, to match customer needs and priorities with a robust portfolio of science-based information and education, and ultimately to help keep businesses competitive and growing and families and communities thriving.
Online, digital education will dramatically expand the reach and distribution of our products, making them available when, how, and where our customers want them. It will complement our current faceto- face programming and allow educators to more strategically utilize their in-the-field time by allowing them to put routine educational products online.
To ensure we remain good stewards of our resources, we continue to implement business best practices and consolidate and standardize operational processes, with an eye toward improving efficiency and effectiveness.
Educational Products and Services
All extension educators, no matter where they are located, are part of an administrative extension unit, organized by areas of expertise similar to the academic units within the College of Agricultural Sciences. Each of these extension units are overseen by an assistant director of programs and aligned with the college’s areas of excellence and research strengths. The seven extension units are:
- 4-H Youth Development
- Agronomy and Natural Resources
- Animal Systems
- Energy, Entrepreneurship, and Community Development
- Food Safety and Quality
- Food, Families, and Health
Educators in these units will organize around state program teams that will draw expertise from across the college’s nine academic units and from the seven newly designated extension units. These teams will focus on areas such as dairy, poultry, and crops, or on priority issues such as the Food Safety Modernization Act and agricultural water quality.
All program teams will participate in a strategic program development process that will result in a diverse and robust portfolio of products and services to address Pennsylvania priorities. As part of this process, teams will gather customer and stakeholder input to ensure relevancy. The products and services will be focused on improving customer access and usability, will be marketed to customers based on their self-selected interest areas, and will include blended online and face-to-face delivery methods.
Customers and Stakeholders
As a trusted source of information and noncredit education, Penn State Extension enjoys unique relationships with our customers and stakeholders.
With extension educators living and working in communities across the Commonwealth—and through our partnerships with county and state governments and the agricultural industry in Pennsylvania—we are able to keep our finger on the pulse of the needs of our customers and communities. These partnerships, combined with our advancements in program development and delivery and our network that reaches into every county in Pennsylvania, uniquely position us to deliver timely and relevant information and services, as well as to serve as emergency responders when needed.
Local relationships have always been a core, foundational value of Penn State Extension, and now we are taking the next step by formally building client relations into top-level administration. We are adding an associate director of client relations position that will work closely with the associate director of programs and the associate director of operations. Together with the director of extension, these four positions comprise the executive leadership team.
Client relations managers located across the Commonwealth are tasked with working with county stakeholders, raising awareness of the breadth of extension products and services available to them, defining local issues and needs, and working with program teams to bring the full resources of extension to bear on these issues.
Business operations managers, also located in each region, will manage the operation of county extension offices, providing a network for program delivery. They will work to standardize systems and procedures across the organization, including financial and risk management, human resources, program registration, and information technology. Standardizing systems, processes, and training across the regions will dramatically increase efficiency and effectiveness of our operations.
Map of Pennsylvania Regions
The End Result
These programmatic and operational changes are designed to strengthen extension programs and build a more agile organization that is responsive to stakeholder and societal needs. With improved reach, relevancy, and delivery of extension programs and services—and enhanced operational efficiency and effectiveness across the organization—Penn State Extension and the College of Agricultural Sciences will be well positioned to fulfill our land-grant mission in support of a vibrant food and fiber system, a clean environment, and a healthy population for Pennsylvania. For more information go to extension.psu.edu/extension-operations-model.
Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences research, extension, and resident education programs are funded in part by Pennsylvania counties, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Visit Penn State Extension on the web: http://extension.psu.edu
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© The Pennsylvania State University 2017
TitleA New Era
This publication is available in alternative media on request.