Extension Roadmap Steering Committee Meeting Notes, December 14, 2021

Present:  H. Carter, A. Smart, J. Bolton, K. Yerxa, L. Wilson, M. Snowden, D. Harrington, L. Phelps, M. Glatter, R. Scott, T. Tilton, T. Jackson, S. Baez, B. Foster, J. Prichard, F. Sulinski

Not Present: M. Bailey, R. Machado

The committee recapped the November meeting for those who were not in attendance.  There was also a discussion about the study on work/life balance that occurred about 5 years ago.  S. Baez shared the Journal of Extension article, Personal Sustainability: Listening to Extension Staff and Observing Organizational Culture, about this research.

There was also a discussion around the marketing report that was done about 10 years ago and also about the possibility of surveying our new employees in regards to their initial impressions about the culture of the organization.

The group then spent time discussing the elements of the culture of an organization:  artifacts, beliefs and values, and underlying assumptions. Ideas shared can be found below.

We then spent some time discussing a statewide needs assessment for Extension.  Several shared about past needs assessments that were conducted 10 and 20 years ago.  With COVID, changes in the state and in the organization, it is time to have outside entity conduct this assessment.  Discussion items included:

  1. Apprehensions around program relevancy – “maybe my program isn’t relevant anymore?”
  2. This would be beneficial for large, external grant applications.
  3. We need to possibly face into gaps, that programs or needs will be identified.  This does not mean we are adding more capacity or stress to faculty and staff.
  4. This would allow us to learn what is being done by other organizations around the state (government, non-profits, etc.)
  5. There will be an internal component.
  6. We could ask about our partners’ views of Extension.

We concluded this meeting by discussing the Lunch and Learn that will occur on Friday, December 19, 2021, which will recap the work of this committee.  We will also invite people to either join this committee or encourage them to provide feedback or input.

Future Meetings:

  • January 11, 2022 from 2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

**Meetings will be scheduled for February, March, and April

Artifacts, Beliefs and Values, and Underlying Assumptions


  • Work nights and weekends (written in job descriptions)
  • Job descriptions – the job description may not change, but the structure of the position or location (county) has changed
  • The structure of Extension – individual counties (potential – regional?)
  • “Hands-on” – we can be “real”, we don’t mind getting dirty/experiential-based, we have been out doing things
  • We all have a different perspective on who we are in relation to the organization (decentralized).
  • We all see the part that we are attached to (in regards to the organization). Less appreciation of the “whole”.  (Proposed – the value of all of Extension to share (elevator speech)
  • Only org touching all aspects of the Maine food system
  • 4-H is the highest quality out of school program in Maine
  • 4-H is the only youth program connected to UMaine
  • “Best Kept Secret”
  • Extension and 4-H brands are very well recognized and trusted across the state
  • Not everyone has the same job/we can’t be equal.  The ability to be flexible, sometimes means we work all the time.  We are very different from an academic department (like on campus).  Inconsistency in supervision?
  • Some positions have built-in deadlines, metrics, components, some do not.  What defines a great job?  Positions are different.

Belief or values:

  • Being helpful (service) and willing to help new/other Extension staff
  • Extension knows everything (belief externally)
  • Proposed – the value of a program should be transparent to the user
  • Informal and accessible to everyone
  • “I have the best co-workers and bosses” – incredible people in the organization (family and professional feel)
  • Extension professional staff tend to stay within the organization (vs. campus)
  • Extension helps make UMaine relevant to communities around the state
  • Being proud of working for Extension
  • Not everyone has the same job/we can’t be equal. The ability to be flexible, sometimes means we work all the time.  We are very different than an academic department (like on campus)

Underlying Assumptions:

  • Hard work/overwork
  • We are always available (internally)
  • Being helpful to a point of detriment (maybe it’s not really what we do, but we will try to help)
  • Taking on tasks we shouldn’t be doing or taking on other responsibilities (from being leaving)
  • Everything has to be done with little money, sometimes the right decision might be to spend more, but we hold back with good ideas because it might cost money.  We don’t come forward with good ideas because they are attached to money
  • Aversion to charging money or generating revenue – if we are charging money its “unethical” or “wrong”
  • Value vs. what Maine could afford – less money in the county or with smaller businesses
  • Are we a community non-profit, an educational institution, or a business?  We go back and forth with different models.  (Recommendation from theme committee – become more of a non-profit business, have to pay bills and generate revenue)
  • UMaine is not supportive of Extension
  • Sometimes “us vs. them” in regards to Extension admin and program areas/counties
  • Not as many “prescribed” aspects of the work – some new employees need to be entrepreneurial
  • Differences in flexibility and control in different groups in Extension (professionals may have more control than they think they do)

  • Aspirational: Everyone is working and doing a great job. (Not by business hours, worrying about what their office mates or peers are thinking, etc.)

  • Aspirational: Being more equitable state-wide