Section 1.1 Organizational Philosophy
The mission of University of Maine Cooperative Extension is to help Maine people improve their lives through an educational process that uses research-based knowledge focused on issues and needs.
University of Maine Cooperative Extension envisions a future in which, as a direct result of its educational programs, the people of Maine — as individuals, as families, as communities, and as a state —
- will direct and adapt to change in order to improve their lives;
- will make decisions about their lives and the resources at their disposal to improve health, economic well-being and satisfaction;
- will know where to find reliable information and how to use it in solving the problems they face, individually and collectively, through voluntary action;
- will see themselves as citizens of a nation and a planet where human culture is evermore related to the protection of natural resources, and will act as stewards to sustain them;
- will recognize their relationship to one another and will act in ways that honor and respect all people;
- will direct public policy through active participation in identifying problems, selecting among alternative solutions and setting priorities, taking action; and
- will understand the interrelationship of issues facing communities and the state, and the effects of their individual actions.
The overarching goal of the University of Maine Cooperative Extension is to help Maine’s people help themselves, through education. More specifically, the organization’s goals are to assist and empower Maine people by
- helping them make informed decisions in the productive and sustainable use of natural resources;
- strengthening families and individuals and enabling them to increase personal well-being;
- improving the long-term vitality of Maine and its citizens;
- strengthening the democratic process by helping people participate in the definition and resolution of public policy issues; and
- helping them develop leadership skills and become engaged volunteers for better communities.
The Extension mission and goal statements incorporate the chief elements of our educational purpose, method and place in the land-grant university. Highlighted below, these elements constitute the guiding principles of Extension education:
- Extension’s ultimate goal is to help people help themselves, through education.
- Extension’s goal is accomplished by helping people acquire and apply new knowledge and skills.
- Extension’s methods are varied and oriented toward education which helps people learn how to solve their problems.
- Extension’s place in the land-grant system provides a base for reliable, credible information.
- Extension provides the people of Maine with important local access to the University of Maine, as well as access to online educational information from anywhere at anytime.
- Extension’s program priorities are determined in partnership with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the land-grant university and the county Extension associations.
Organizational values form the philosophical basis for the work of an organization, its mission and the behaviors through which its mission is accomplished. In striving to accomplish its mission, Cooperative Extension is guided by a vision of what the organization values, how it wants to operate and how staff members can best function.
Extension Values Statement. Extension faculty and programming staff value their role in helping people and communities help themselves, and in addressing the major issues facing Maine people. Other Cooperative Extension employees and volunteers, as educational partners, also value people above all and demonstrate their respect for individuals in relationships among themselves and with the public.
Extension employees believe that people learn best when they are involved in identifying issues and needs, obtaining reliable information, making their own decisions, and solving their own problems. In leading this educational process, staff members rely on research-based knowledge from land-grant universities and other credible sources. Extension believes in lifelong learning and as an organization embraces this principle in all it does.
The programs and staff of Cooperative Extension reflect the diversity of American society. Staff members honor diversity by practicing teamwork as an essential way to broaden individual perspectives and combine resources in addressing issues. Diversity enriches all.
Organizational Behavior. The way in which Extension employees act will determine the degree to which the values stated above are realized. More important than a particular organizational structure, staff attitudes and interactions with one another will create a spirit that either revitalizes or debilitates the organization. To foster a constructive, healthy spirit in Cooperative Extension, we aspire to
- respect individuals as whole persons, not just as positions, titles or specialties;
- trust the ability of people to take responsibility for their own lives and communities, making choices and solving problems on the basis of sound information and open discussion;
- appreciate diversity and its free expression;
- emphasize the value of cooperation and the ability of individuals to contribute freely and creatively to the work of others;
- support the organizational well-being realized in the integrity of staff relationships;
- emphasize creativity and innovation within the context of clear organizational direction;
- practice a participatory management style at all levels;
- respect the dynamics of the Extension partnership for the wisdom inherent in all levels of the organization and for the vital contribution of volunteers to the Extension mission.
Together, the statements of Extension’s mission, societal vision, and organizational goals, principles and values form the foundation for a revitalized institution and a framework for new ways of programming.
–from New Directions for a New Century, A Plan for University of Maine Cooperative Extension, October 2000.
The balance of work and family life is important in Cooperative extension. Supporting staff to do excellent work in an organizational climate that encourages work life balance and personal sustainability is important for employees. For employees, working in a balanced and sustainable way contributes to the health of the organization to better fulfill the mission and better serve the people of Maine. (addition June 2015)
We embrace the following National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Diversity and Inclusion Policy Statement:
In 2010, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture set forth a “new direction” to become a more relevant, dynamic, and flexible Agency, able to meet the shifting needs and priorities of a rapidly expanding diverse population. As we continue to move ahead on that positive path, our mission will be refined and influenced by changes in the economy, the work environment, and demographics. As such, we must place a high priority on recruiting, promoting, retaining, and developing a diverse high-performing workforce that draws from all segments of our populations.
As employees of this Agency, we all have an obligation to each other and to the American public to correct any program or employment practice that is not achieving the objectives of equal opportunity, diversity, and inclusion. Each of us has a personal responsibility to ensure that our commitment to equal opportunity, diversity, and inclusion is thoroughly understood, aggressively followed, and recognized as an integral part of the support we provide for every educational program that is developed and delivered, every research project we support, and in every opportunity for employment.
Senior executives, managers, and supervisors authorized to make employment and program decisions play a critical role in setting and maintaining a positive equal opportunity environment. I expect each of you to ensure our program and personnel practices continue to operate on a merit basis, and create an environment that is welcoming to a diverse population.
If we are to thrive as an Agency, we must cultivate an environment of diversity and inclusion that allows us to have differences of opinions in a climate of openness, mutual respect, and trust. We must operate on the premise that we cannot be effective without being fair and responsive. Let us pledge to enrich a culture that is inclusive and encourages collaboration, flexibility, and fairness to enable employees to participate to their full capability.
The Secretary of Agriculture has maintained that diversity and inclusion are of great importance and must clearly exist in the Department’s workforce and program operations. I am personally committed to ensuring that equal opportunity, diversity, and inclusion are an integral part of this Agency’s employment and program planning activities. I ask the same commitment of you.
Diversity and inclusiveness are essential for our ability to execute our mission and achieve excellence. A climate of equity brings about the best in our workforce and helps employees reach their highest potential. Let us renew and strengthen our efforts to leverage diversity and foster inclusion in all aspects of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s programs and employment decisions.
This is an all-hands effort.
— Sonny Ramaswamy Director September 2, 2014
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE National Institute of Food and Agriculture Office of the Director