News for employees

MU Extension Insider
November 15, 2011


In the news

Galaxy Conference award winners

Note from Dr. Ouart

Coming and going


MU Extension Insider is published on the first and 15th of the month. Send feedback and comments to Karen Dickey.

In the news

Administrative update

More PowerPoint presentations from Michael Hicks


Communications review underway

A small working group is reviewing our communication programs to help us determine how we can best organize to serve future needs. A first step in this review process began this summer when communications professionals from extension programs in three other states visited Missouri and provided their input on how we currently function. There have also been numerous other groups feeding information and thoughts on these topics to the cabinet, including a marketing task force, a branding and marketing self-directed work team, and various other interested parties.

The working group had an initial meeting on Nov. 14, with hopes of having preliminary recommendations on structure to the cabinet by Dec. 15.

The report from the external reviewers is available at

MU Extension administration is committed to carefully considering how our resources are invested in these difficult budgetary times. If you want to provide input on this topic, please contact any member of the working group. Members include:


Galaxy Conference award winners

Missouri Farm Bureau Federation awards


From left: Diane Olson, Missouri Farm Bureau; Susan Mills-Gray, nutrition/health education specialist and Cass County program director; and Michael Ouart, vice provost for extension.

Outstanding Human Environmental Sciences Award: Susan Mills-Gray, nutrition/health education specialist and Cass County program director.

Susan has served Cass County for 12 years, with prior service in Jackson, Cape Girardeau and Carter counties, for a total of almost 29 years of service with MU Extension. Name any major health project in Cass County and you will find Susan a part of that effort. She manages to conduct high amounts of cutting-edge programming plus manage the local office as CPD.

Susan's Stay Strong Stay Healthy classes are highly popular within Cass County, with several groups that continue to meet under volunteer leadership. In 2010 she reached more than 2,000 persons with chronic disease-prevention programming topics such as diabetes management, and cancer and heart disease prevention. She is a regular on various TV stations serving the Kansas City metro area. She is currently leading a group that is working toward a countywide coalition to leverage grant funding for health care gaps.


From left: Diane Olson, Missouri Farm Bureau; Jim Crawford, natural resource engineering specialist and Atchison County program director; and Michael Ouart, vice provost for extension.

Outstanding Agriculturalist Award: Jim Crawford, natural resource engineering specialist and Atchison County program director.

Jim's program has included both traditional and nontraditional topics: grain drying, fencing and equipment needs for small acreage owners, Certified Crop Adviser (CCA) training, home and farm energy conservation, youth safety days, and wine grape production.

His leadership and research at Graves-Chapple Research Center has helped farmers adopt no-till farming practices. Since 1988, no-till has increased from less than 10 percent of farm ground in Atchison and Holt counties to approximately 80 percent today.  Soil losses are reduced by 93 percent in no-till systems compared to conventional tillage.

Jim serves on the local community emergency management team and has been on the community team associated with the Cooper Nuclear Station across the Missouri River from Rock Port, Mo. During the 2011 flood response, known by the Missouri Air National Guard as Operation Show Me Northern Tide, he networked with elected officials and numerous emergency management agencies and resources, keeping MU Extension at the table along with other regional faculty.

Jim also serves as secretary of the Atchison County Soil and Water Board and has been a mentor for new faculty. As county program director in Atchison County, he and the office team have built an office that is well-funded by the county commission and has been the recipient of several memorials over the years for specific projects.


From left: Diane Olson, Missouri Farm Bureau; Jeremy J. Elliott-Engel, 4-H youth development specialist, SW Region; and Michael Ouart, vice provost for extension.

Outstanding 4-H Youth Development Specialist Award: Jeremy J. Elliott-Engel, 4-H youth development specialist, Newton, Barry and McDonald counties.

Jeremy is constantly striving to improve the extension service in Newton County by asking members and leaders how activities could be made better. He also works hard to see that the programs meet the needs of the people of McDonald, Newton and Barry counties.

Examples of high-quality educational programming include organizing a booth at the Barry County and Newton County fairs to encourage adult agriculture education and agriculture literacy, Newton County Farm Family Celebration, “Making the Best Better” workshops, 4-H camps, conferences in Washington, D.C., and bus trips all over the state of Missouri.

Jeremy has been observed helping youth and parents deal with many upsets, trials, tribulations—and even more wins, advancements and achievements.

Jeremy works diligently to help the youth in the southwest Missouri area excel in their present and future goals.


Pat and Tom Buchanan Professional Development Award

kathy macomber

From left, Virgil Woolridge, associate extension professional and business development specialist; Kathy Macomber, business development specialist, Barton County; and Michael Ouart, vice provost for extension.

Pat and Tom Buchanan Professional Development Award: Kathy Macomber, business development specialist in Barton County.

Kathy is recognized throughout MU Extension as someone who gets things done. She is a front-runner in developing programs on using social media and other new technology.

As a business development specialist, Kathy has shown a strong desire to enhance her knowledge through many different kinds of professional development. She takes advantage of innovative opportunities such as eXtension webinars to expand her knowledge and skill base. She is pursuing a doctorate at the University of Missouri while maintaining her full-time faculty position.

Kathy is very active in her community and has demonstrated a great ability to increase awareness about MU Extension and the Missouri Small Business and Technology Development Centers.

Kathy will use this $500 award to obtain QuickBooks ProAdvisor certification. 


Missouri Chamber of Commerce & Industry Award


From left, Max Summers, interim director, MU Extension Business Development Program; Willis Mushrush, business development specialist; and Michael Ouart, vice provost for extension.

Missouri Chamber of Commerce & Industry Award: Willis Mushrush, business development specialist.

Willis is a veteran Business Development Program counselor headquartered in Howell County and serves business clients in the South Central Region.

Through his dual roles as a Missouri Small Business and Technology Development Center counselor and a Missouri Procurement Technical Assistance Center counselor, he has worked to provide confidential guidance and instruction for clients seeking to start or improve their business.

Willis uses several programs to inspire people of all ages to embrace entrepreneurship. His recent work with exCEED garnered Willis and his team the International Community Development Society's Innovative Program Award. He is actively engaged in such programs as Step Up to Leadership, the Women-Owned Small Business Contract program, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Extreme Entrepreneur Program and the Youth Biz Entrepreneurship Project.


Associated Industries of Missouri Extension Industry Award


From left, Max Summers, interim director, MU Extension Business Development Program; Chris Thompson, business development specialist; and Michael Ouart, vice provost for extension.

Associated Industries of Missouri Extension Industry Award: Chris Thompson, business development specialist and Cole County program director.

During Chris’s many years as an MU Extension business counselor, he has been instrumental in developing and delivering innovative programs for MU Extension’s Business Development Program in central Missouri. This includes organizing and presenting business roundtables that bring together small groups of business people to discuss how they approach different aspects of running a business. The business people learn from each other as they answer questions posed to them through Chris’s facilitation.

He also has focused on the “Measure, Manage and Succeed” program, in which he teaches small-business people how to develop a system to measure performance important to their success. Thompson and a colleague presented a workshop at a statewide conference on this topic. He also has been an important team member in developing curriculum to deliver this program online.


Ronald J. Turner Global Education Award


From left, Letitia Johnson, community development specialist; and Ronald J. Turner, emeritus director of MU Extension.

Ronald J. Turner Global Education Award: Letitia “Tish” Johnson, community development specialist.

Tish Johnson, community development specialist in the East Central Region, has worked with a team from MU Extension to further develop a partnership with the University of the Western Cape in South Africa.  Tish will use the award to travel to South Africa early next year as part of a small delegation from MU Extension. The delegation will work with our partners at the University of the Western Cape to build relationships with potential exchange communities, identify obstacles and opportunities, and develop the curriculum and structure for the exchange program.


County Program Director Excellence Award


From left: Cynthia Crawford, family education specialist and CPD of Saline County; and Michael Ouart, vice provost for extension.

County Program Director Excellence Award: Cynthia Crawford, family financial education specialist and Saline County program director.

Cynthia is a can-do faculty member and CPD who turns challenges into opportunities.  When she took on the CPD role again in 2002, she inherited multiple challenges. The county commission and the residents of her county felt disconnected from extension and money issues loomed.  Though she wasn’t responsible for the problems, she faced them head-on with conviction.

For example, before she was CPD, the county had one candidate for each extension council position on the ballot.  After she moved into the CPD position, 26 candidates were vying for seven vacancies on the council.  Under her leadership, the county commission moved the office from a less-than-perfect space to larger, well-maintained, handicapped-accessible space.  The council believes this happened because the CPD and council worked hard to show there was a new way of doing extension business in Saline County. In addition, the county budget has grown from $20,000 to $36,000 and the council receives nearly $20,000 in grants annually.

She excels at marketing extension, finding money for extension and programming for extension. 


The Extension Teamwork Award


From left, Linda Rellergert, Molly Vetter-Smith, Susan Mills-Gray, Vera Massey, Lynda Johnson and Michael Ouart.

The Extension Teamwork Award: The Taking Care of You Team:

“Taking Care of You: Body-Mind-Spirit” is an MU Extension pilot program with the goals of reducing perceived stress and improving lifestyle behaviors.  The program included one-hour sessions for eight weeks.  Program content was developed using research-based concepts and strategies from the field of positive psychology with a strong focus on mindfulness and general wellness concepts.

This cross-category program has made an impact.  One 27-year-old participant writes:

I wanted to take a moment and send you a note to let you know how much the stress reduction classes I took with you have changed my life.  When I first attended, I was struggling with extremely high blood pressure and I was searching for anything that would help me.  I certainly found it in your classes.  I made some major changes in my life.  First, I left my highly stressful job and found another job that allows me to go home at night feeling like I made a difference.  And, secondly, I have time to do some hobbies and things from my “joy list.”  And, finally, I am using the deep breathing techniques.

My blood pressure is now in the normal range, without meds!  I have a job I truly enjoy and most of all, I’m learning to be more content with the “everydayness” of life.

I bet you wonder if what you do ever really makes a difference…heck yeah!

It’s always good to hear positive comments and impact statements from participants.


The Vice Provost's Award for Outstanding Achievement


Renette Wardlow, human development specialist in Christian County, and Michael Ouart, vice provost for extension.

The Vice Provost’s Award for Outstanding Achievement: Renette Wardlow, human development specialist in Christian County.

Renette has worked tirelessly for domestic violence victims in her county.  She began her involvement nearly 15 years ago with a public issues forum on domestic violence to determine the seriousness of the issue in her county.

Christian County is growing rapidly, and with that growth come problems. Multiple needs assessments in the county discovered domestic violence to be a high-priority public issue. From these assessments arose the Christian County Family Crisis Task Force, made up of more than 100 partners, inside and outside the county. One outcome is a comprehensive domestic violence program that includes a hotline, support groups, advocacy, counseling, fundraising, public awareness, education, a thrift store and a shelter called Freedom’s Rest.

Freedom's Rest has evolved into a fully functioning domestic violence shelter. In the last five years of operation it has helped more than 600 women and children in the county. Clients have gained legal aid, skill development, and education on a wide range of topics. She has trained more than 100 volunteers, assisted in the leadership development of many new community leaders, and aided in fundraising to support the shelter and task force.


UMEA Awards



Rookie of the Year Award: Chrystal Irons, business development specialist.

Chrystal is recognized as a valued business educator in her eight-county territory.  She has created partnerships and viable working relationships with chambers of commerce in Hollister, Forsythe and Branson, and with economic developers and entrepreneurs.  This involvement has allowed her to meet and work with key business leaders and stakeholders from several communities providing resources to the organizations.

Chrystal has also displayed effective teamwork in both MU Extension and the Missouri Small Business and Technology Development Centers network.  She has helped create a valuable relationship with her regional colleagues at the Missouri State University SBTDC.  She has offered programming via ITV to multiple counties, has team-taught three business programs and has assisted with business recovery work following the Joplin tornado.



Susan Mills-Gray, Ted Probert and Michael Ouart

Meritorious Award: Ted Probert, dairy specialist and Wright County program director

One of Ted’s major program efforts over the past decade has been pasture-based dairying.  The program uses a local producer discussion group that meets regularly to disseminate new information and see the application of best management practices on group members’ farms.  As a member of the Missouri pasture-based dairy team, Ted has contributed to the development of Missouri Dairy Grazing Conferences and teaching of AS 4001: Pasture-Based Dairy Production, an online, for-credit course offered through the University of Missouri.

Agricultural youth programs are an important part of Ted’s work.  Major youth involvement includes Missouri 4-H Dairy Camp and working with 4-H and FFA dairy judging programs.  A highlight of youth involvement is the opportunity it offers to travel to judging events with the state 4-H dairy judging team.

Ted is currently secretary of Wright County Farm Bureau and treasurer of the Wright County Junior Fair Board.  He is an active member of the Missouri Holstein Association and has recently served as assistant superintendent of the Missouri State Fair youth dairy shows.


Susan Mills-Gray, Cynthia Zluticky and Michael Ouart

Meritorious Award: Cynthia Zluticky, Jackson County program director

Cindy has provided strong leadership to both the Extension Council and the staff through a great many challenges during her nine year tenure. Thanks to Cindy, the Jackson County Extension Council is an empowered, high-functioning council.  Cindy has worked with the regional specialists developing a searchable database of the extension programs.

Cindy has led the extension council and staff in Jackson County in taking pride in their facilities and upgrading the office environments at both the Kansas City and Blue Springs offices. Last year, she worked with the council to secure a $10,000 increase to the county appropriation in a very tough budget year.  Cindy works with the 4-H faculty in securing the Local Investment Commission contract, which has provided more than $2.6 million funding since 2003 to support after-school 4-H programs. She has worked with local faculty on proposals to the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City and has obtained funding totaling more $500,750 for two proposals for the Eating from the Garden program.


Susan Mills-Gray, Lynda Johnson and Michael Ouart

Outstanding Program Award, First Place: Lynda Johnson, nutrition and health education specialist and Lafayette County program director.

Lynda provided training and consultations to implement the evidence-based Active & Healthy School Program (AHSP) at Leslie Bell Elementary School during 2009-2011.  Activity “zones” were incorporated on the playground so all students are moving throughout recess. (On traditional school playgrounds, less than 30 percent of students are actively engaged.) Teachers were trained to lead classroom “activity breaks” to help students focus on classroom learning and be more energized. Multifaceted nutrition activities were coordinated with Oppa School Food Management, such as serving more locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables at lunch, food tastings and a "Farmers Market Comes to School" event.

Funding to expand the AHSP into three more schools in 2011-12 has been awarded by the Missouri Foundation for Health.  As a result, 1,667 additional children in grades K-5 will be increasing their physical activity and making healthier nutrition choices.    

Outstanding Program Award, Second Place: Christian County Family Crisis Task Force. (For more information, see item above on The Vice Provost's Award for Outstanding Achievement.


Susan Mills-Gray, Kathy Bondy, Patty Fisher and Michael Ouart

Outstanding Program Award, Third Place:  Kathy Bondy and Patty Fisher, 4-H youth development specialists.

The State 4-H Public Speaking Academy is a two-day workshop initiated by Kathy and Patty. The academy provided young people, age 11-13, the opportunity to develop speaking skills, learn the fundamentals of speechwriting and gain confidence in personal presentation. 

Sixteen youth representing 12 counties attended.  Regional and state MU Extension faculty, along with university professors and staff, guided youth through the basics and finer points of writing and delivering a speech.  Personal presentation skills were enhanced through hands-on experiences, group initiatives and individual demonstrations.



Missouri Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences award winners:



Missouri Association of Community and Economic Development Extension Professionals award winners:


2011 MAE4-HYW State Awards

Missouri Association of Extension 4-H Youth Workers awards:


MAEP Awards

Missouri Agricultural Extension Professionals award winners:


ESP Awards

Epsilon Sigma Phi, Missouri Alpha Tau Chapter award winners:



Note from Dr. Ouart

Extension Colleagues:

Much good work goes on in MU Extension that deserves to be recognized.  Individuals doing the work should be honored, and when MU Extension faculty are recognized, Extension’s reputation as a high-quality educational entity increases as well.

Several opportunities exist for you to bring attention to the work of a worthy colleague or to submit your own credentials for recognition.  These awards also provide another avenue for those who have prepared dossiers for the Non-tenure Track Promotion System to gain recognition for superior scholarship.

Please review the criteria for the following campus awards, and take the time to submit applications by the March 2 deadline.  Past winners are listed at the websites.

Michael D. Ouart

Vice Provost and Director


Coming and going

Please welcome

Sara Marie Towry, 4-H youth development program assistant, SW Region.



Our sympathy goes to:

The family of Leanne Spengler, human development specialist, Pike County. There will be a memorial service for Leanne Spengler on Thursday, Nov. 17, 5-6 p.m., at the Pike County third-floor courtroom. Cards may be sent to Mike Spengler, PO Box 43, Bowling Green, MO 63334.  Memorials can be made in Leanne’s name to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Donna Aufdenberg, SE Region horticulture specialist, whose father, Donald Ledbetter passed away on Oct. 25. Cards and expressions of sympathy can be sent to Donna and her family at 5793 County Road 324, Jackson, MO  63755.

Don Day, whose mother passed away on Nov. 5.


If you have items to include in future issues, please send them to Karen Dickey or Curt Wohleber in the Cooperative Media Group. If you have questions, contact Mark Stillwell, CMG interim director.