Extension Leadership Team Meeting Minutes July 29, 2020

Extension Leadership Team Meeting Minutes
July 29, 2020
Virtual Meeting (9 AM – 12:30 PM)

Facilitator: Dennis Harrington
Note taker: Dick Brzozowski
Guests: Guest(s): Dana Rickman, Cindy Eves-Thomas, and Lynne Holland at 9:30 AM

Please note: Due to the confidentiality and sensitivity of some agenda items, these ELT minutes do not represent the full content of each meeting.

Extension’s Restart

The ELT discussed next steps in Extension’s restart, including developing guidelines for communicating submission of approvals for re-opening and restarting programs.  We also discussed details of the internal website.

COVID Testing of personnel/staff? If an Extension staff member suspects they have COVID, test positive to COVID, they should connect with their Program Administrator (PA) immediately.  We are waiting on UMS for the protocol for this. Once a PA is notified, then it goes to the new UMaine committee (not yet named) with Dean Hannah Carter is copied on all relevant communication. Contact tracing will be conducted through online forms – However, we are still waiting on this approval.  Program registration information for specific Extension programs will be used for contact tracing if we hear there was a positive test of a staff member or attendee involved.

As would be expected, many of our staff are experiencing added stress due to COVID. Fran Sulinksi recommends that staff utilize the University’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) services https://www.maine.edu/human-resources/benefits/employee-assistance-program/. A number of staff have reported they were quite satisfied with the support that EAP provided.

Remote Work Post Covid

The ELT discussed remote work as we transition back to our offices and into the post COVID future. It is reasonable to expect that when COVID is behind us, that UMaine will revert back to requiring staff to establish a formal work from home agreement. https://www.maine.edu/human-resources/wp-content/uploads/sites/7/2020/03/Final-Telecommuting-Guidelines-COVID19-3.27.2020-Accessible.pdf

However, since mandatory remote work began in March, this policy has not been enforced in order to respond to COVID. While we are still facing COVID, staff who are not able to return to their office should first interact with their immediate supervisor and get their approval for their work plan (for working remotely).  An email response with this information should suffice as documentation for the arrangement.

Again, while we are still facing COVID, we need to be fair and flexible with every staff member while fulfilling our obligations to the University and the public.  We also need to consider Extension’s availability to the public and interaction with the public in making these decisions.

Social Media Management

In just a few short years, UMaine Extension’s social media efforts have gone from a nice “extra” way to communicate with a small number of clients to a powerful communications channel with 56 county- and program-based accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube) and 37,000+ followers. Facebook referrals to our website have gone up 203% in the past 6 months over the same period last year (10,000 vs 31,000). Client engagement on social media is now 4 to 5 times greater than 3 years ago. Clients expect immediate responses and Facebook’s metrics are set to penalize pages that don’t respond within 8-24 hours, which means social media has become a 7-day-a-week responsibility. Our current social media process could be best described as “organized chaos,” which grew organically over time minimal planning.

There would be a tangible value in training more staff members in social media. Currently we lack that capacity. Training is not a “one and done”. Much follow up is required. There is a need for guidance for social media goals and evaluation of what staff are doing. An old and unmanaged FB page is worse than having no FB page at all. Analytics is another area staff could benefit from knowing more about.

Currently, Lynne Holland supports social media part of the time. The ELT decided to increase the hours Lynne’s works in support of our social media presence. She does a great job and we thank her for it! We are hopeful to be able to further expand our support for social media in the future as well.

Extension’s Logo Policy Reviewed

The ELT reviewed and validated Extension’s logo policy. No additional logos (except the 4-H clover and Extension Homemaker) can be added to the Extension logo. It is important for Extension to project ourselves consistently and to be recognized as one organization despite the many different programs we deliver. Using one logo helps us to achieve that. Those who want to identify their program can use graphic elements in their materials but not replace or add those elements to the Extension logo. Dana Rickman can assist staff with questions and will continue to review all graphic and advertising efforts..

Welcoming our new Provost John Volin

We discussed some ways that Extension might welcome Dr. John Volin as our new Provost. He is scheduled to come on board in mid-August.  Some ideas about how we might welcome him:

  • Gift basket (Maine and/or Extension theme) – Hannah to coordinate.
  • Extension 1-2 page reference document “quick facts about Extension” – Hannah to coordinate.
  • Invite him to a couple of our virtual programs.

Dr. Volin will take part in the Monday, August 3 “Extension Connection”.  He is scheduled for 10 minutes with time for questions. Once Dr. Volin starts as Provost, Hannah will connect with him to determine what he’d like to do, who he’d like to meet, and what he’d like to see or learn about related to UMaine Extension

$500 opportunity for on-line programming

Hannah provided an update on how many have indicated they are interested in this opportunity.  The ELT discussed criteria and identified a small group to review submissions.

Announcements & Congratulations

Congratulations to PI Alicyn Smart for the award of $2,482.50 for the project “Contribution of PVY inoculum into potato production system by volunteer potatoes.”

Congratulations to PI Kristy Ouellette, and Co-PIs Mitch Mason, and Vanessa Klein for their $640,000 award for the next cycle of CYFAR funding of their project “Maine 4-H Community Central: Engaging Teens in Workforce Development Yr 2.”

Congratulations to PI Alicyn Smart for the award of $50,000 from West Virginia University for the project “Optimization of Preventative Biorational Strawberry Root and Fruit Disease Management Techniques for the Northeast: Linking University Research and Extension to Growers Education.”

Congratulations to PI Lily Calderwood and Co-PI Beth Calder for their award of $292,716 from the US Dept of Agriculture for the project “Improving Northeast Blueberry Quality for Alternative Markets.”

Congratulations to PI Ryan LeShane and Co-PI Tara Pocock for the award of $115,920 from the National 4-H Council for the project “4-H National Mentoring Program (4-H NMP 10).”

Congratulations to PI Glen Koehler for the award of $11,391 from the USDA-APHIS-CAPS for the project “PPA Goal 1 – Tree Fruit Survey.”

Search Updates

Assistant Financial and Operations Manager – Paused
4-H Youth Development Professional (Community Central) – Dana Dotson hired
Crops Entomology Educator – Paused
Extension Crops Specialist – Offer made and accepted
Sustainable Agriculture Professional – Aroostook County – Paused
Sustainable Agriculture Professional – Somerset County – Advertising
4-H Science Professional (PT) – Advertising
Research Associate – Highmoor Farm – Advertising

2020 ELT Meeting Dates

Meetings are from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm, unless otherwise noted

Dates Facilitator Notes Location
August 19 Brzozowski Sulinski Virtual
September 2 Sulinski Phelps Virtual