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Essay: Congratulations! Cooperative Extension at 100

As you know, this year marks the 100-year anniversary of the Smith-Lever Act, which established the Cooperative Extension Service, a state-by-state national network of educators who extend university-based knowledge to the people. For a century Cooperative Extension has stimulated innovative research and vital educational programs.

As I think about the impact of this seminal legislation, I can’t help but feel its influence on my own life and career. I grew up on a fruit and dairy farm in western Michigan. Cooperative Extension and 4-H were an important part the life of our family. We counted on their expertise and knowledge. And as president of APLU and previously Michigan State University, I have seen and felt the impact Cooperative Extension has on the lives of people in the United States and beyond.

Our land-grant universities have a vital three-part mission of learning, discovery, and engagement. Cooperative Extension is of course an integral part to all of this. It informs our teaching and research and is the key outlet for engaging our communities.

Cooperative Extension continues to change—from the addition of non-traditional agricultural outreach on issues like finance, health and nutrition, disaster preparedness, and energy to greater use of the Internet and social media tools. This centennial anniversary provides us the opportunity to envision what Cooperative Extension will be in the decadesto come.

Next week, on May 7-8, Cooperative Extension will be holding a Convocation in Washington, D.C., to discuss this future, while celebrating its storied past.

The future of Cooperative Extension is integral to the future success of our public and land-grant universities. Right now the system is working to define how it will continue to address the economic and social problems facing our nation. It is debating how it will increase its capacity and become more agile in identifying and serving diverse populations. Among Cooperative Extension’s main goals in the coming decades will be to define how to sustain profitable plant and animal production systems; prepare individuals for success in the global workforce and all aspects of life; create pathways to energy independence; ensure an abundant and safe food supply for all; assist in effective decision-making regarding environmental stewardship; assist communities in becoming sustainable and resilient to the uncertainties of economics, weather, health, and security; and help families, youth, and individuals to become physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy.

As it has for the past century, the system’s success will undoubtedly play a pivotal role in our nation’s success.

For those of you unable to attend the Convocation, I hope you watch the Webcast online. I also hope you take time to reflect on Cooperative Extension’s impact with celebrations on your own campuses and in your own states.

:: For more on Cooperative Extension’s 100 year celebration, visit: www.extension100years.net.

:: For more informaiton on the Convocation, click here.

:: To view the Webcast of the convocation, visit:http://www.windrosemedia.com/windstream/ext100years/

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