Recognizing excellence: Connecting resources for positive community change

How do we achieve excellence? We stop what we are doing, stand back, and assess efforts. At this point we are better able to recognize special accomplishments.

Raymond Schindler

Raymond A. Schindler

The Raymond A. Schindler Excellence in Community Development Extension Award is named in honor of Raymond A. Schindler, one of the first Extension CD professionals in Ohio. Hired in 1962 as an Area Extension Agent, Ray began his career in southern Ohio, based in Highland County. He took a collaborative approach to his work, focusing on tourism development, comprehensive planning, planning commissions, and business retention and expansion programs until his retirement in 1988.

Today, we recognize Extension CD professionals with The Raymond A. Schindler Excellence in Community Development Extension Award. The annual award seeks to recognize:

  • long term strengths in teaching and research
  • a long-standing record of teamwork and collaboration in program planning, implementation and evaluation
  • a successful track record in grant awards, cost recovery, or other external funding
Susan Colbert

Susan Colbert

Just last week (January 24), we recognized Susan Colbert with the Raymond A. Schindler Excellence in Community Development Extension Award for her ability to develop and deliver multidisciplinary, evidence-based programs in collaboration with colleagues, stakeholders, private industry and state and federal funding partners that empower others to affect positive change. Since joining Ohio State University Extension in 1998, she has truly demonstrated a record of excellence in creative and scholarly work, teaching and service to community and profession.

Click here to learn more about Susan and her work.

Greg Davis

Greg Davis, professor and assistant director, OSU Extension CD.

The content of this site is published by the site owner(s) and is not a statement of advice, opinion, or information pertaining to The Ohio State University. Neither text, nor links to other websites, is reviewed or endorsed by The Ohio State University.

If I could do it all over again…

ReflectingThis year marked my eighteenth year with OSU Extension and 28 years overall in public service. It seems like just yesterday that I started my public administration career as a 21-year-old administrative assistant. Now that I am considered one of the ‘more-seasoned’ professionals with the organization, I have had the opportunity to mentor a number of Extension colleagues. Reflecting on what I wish I’d have known when first starting out, for the benefit of our newer hires I have developed and shared a number of items, some of which are listed below.

  1. Don’t overcommit. Our calendars can fill up quickly.  I caution you to be comfortable first with your chosen expertise and the amount of time you have dedicated to it before you decide to take on additional responsibilities.
  2. Find an encouraging mentor. It is important to be able to share your concerns with someone you can trust. A positive mentor can help with your focus and provide a sounding board when you are in need of a listening ear.
  3. Get to know your co-workers. It goes without saying that you can very easily spend more time with your co-workers than your family. It is important to get to know them personally and to be able to share success stories with them.
  4. Celebrate an achievement. It is okay to celebrate after completing a project. In Extension, we often go on to the next project without stopping for a moment to enjoy what we just completed.
  5. Understand your career goal. We all can get caught up in the day-to-day work style and before you know it, a year is almost over. Take time to think about your career goals and create plans to achieve them.
  6. Before moving on to another project or class to teach, take a few minutes every day to reflect on what you are doing and what you want to do going forward. Think about how these tasks and activities advance your career plans.
  7. Have fun, learn to laugh, and improvise when needed. One time I thought I sent my PowerPoint slides to the moderator for a presentation at an international conference but evidently forgot. Instead of panicking in front of 50 people, I took a deep breath and rolled with it. Thinking that the presentation was terrible, many in the audience came up to me after and thanked me for not having a PowerPoint as they were tired of seeing them and welcomed the change.
  8. Step outside your comfort zone. Sometimes we can get too comfortable where we are. If you begin to feel that is happening to you, look for ways to step out beyond your comfort zone. When your work no longer inspires at work, it is time to expand your horizons.
  9. Join a professional organization and become an active member. I learned a long time ago that professional organizations can be a great place to meet fellow professionals and allow you time to learn from others. Attend and present at the conferences. Serve in leadership roles.
  10. Lead the way. In any situation, a leader is very important. If you have ever found yourself in a situation where no one is leading, guess what? It is time for you to step-up. As they say, sometimes the first step is often the hardest.

I have others that I could easily share, but I will stop at 10 and wait to hear from you. Take a minute and in the comment section below, add your best advice to the list.

Thanks and Happy Holidays!

David CivittoloDavid Civittolo is an associate professor and field specialist, community economics, OSU Extension CD.

The content of this site is published by the site owner(s) and is not a statement of advice, opinion, or information pertaining to The Ohio State University. Neither text, nor links to other websites, is reviewed or endorsed by The Ohio State University.

Make It a Debate, Not an Argument

Have you ever been paging through an article and stumble across a quote that just stops you in your tracks? Here’s one attributed to Adlai Stevenson that recently caught my eye. Stevenson was talking about political campaigns, but I think the idea can be applied to many situations. He said that the challenge was to not just win, but to win “without proving that you are unworthy of winning.” I think that sentiment speaks to integrity, grace, and fair-mindedness.

Recently some of my colleagues and I were at a retreat, sharing information about helping facilitators manage decision making and conflict in groups. I realized that Stevenson’s sentiment can also be applied to helping groups make decisions.

discussionOne of the trickiest situations for a facilitator can be encountering and effectively handling disagreements among group participants. Making decisions in groups is difficult and often messy, but helping a group make complex decisions is one of the most important tasks of a facilitator. The lively discussion that is part of the group decision making process, however, often involves people who feel passionately about their ideas, and sometimes that passion can escalate to a discourse that is unhelpful at best, and can often be damaging to the group or individuals involved.

The facilitator’s job is to create an environment where sharing a diversity of ideas is viewed as an important part of the process to create stronger, more sustainable solutions. In Facilitation at a Glance, a handy field guide to facilitation, the author, Ingrid Bens, highlights two different kinds of discussions that can occur among group members.

Bens describes productive disagreements as debates. In this type of conversation, individuals are open to the ideas of others – even when they may be different from their own. Everyone strives to understand the views and perspectives of the other group members, and remains objective and focused on the facts.

Arguments, on the other hand, are a type of discussion that is often unproductive, and may damage relationships and group momentum. According to Bens, in an argument, people assume they’re right and are often not really listening to the ideas of others. The discourse often results in personal attacks or blaming.

So how can a facilitator encourage a debate (and discourage an argument)? Bens suggests that a facilitator:

  • remain neutral,
  • restate differences so they can be understood,
  • highlight areas of agreement,
  • encourage folks to focus on the facts (not emotions or assumptions),
  • Teamworkslow down the discussion by encouraging individuals to paraphrase what they are hearing each other say and allowing only one person to speak at a time.

Creating shared agreements can help groups reach the finish line with their integrity and friendships intact. When it comes to group decision making, debates that lead to compromise and collaboration are essential to helping group members be worthy of their win.

The content of this site is published by the site owner(s) and is not a statement of advice, opinion, or information pertaining to The Ohio State University. Neither text, nor links to other websites, is reviewed or endorsed by The Ohio State University.

Becky NesbittBecky Nesbitt is an Assistant Professor and Extension Educator in Community Development with OSU Extension.  For more information about Becky and her educational efforts, visit here.

Community Economics Programs for Ohio (and beyond!)

The economy is humming. You may have heard recently in the news, the U.S. Department of Labor announced the addition of 250,000 new jobs in October, topping the 118,000 jobs created in September. More likely, you have seen the “help wanted” and “now hiring” signs posted in your community and throughout your travels.

Even better, the Labor Department reported that average hourly earnings increased again in October, from 2.8 percent in September and to 3.1 percent on the year. This is the largest quarterly wage gain in ten years.

David Civittolo and Eric Romich discuss the Business Retention & Expansion program as a community economics tool

Serving as a model for the world, the U.S. economic system was the subject of study during a recent three-week, multi-state visit coordinated by the U.S. Department of Commerce International Trade Administration’s Special American Business Internship Training (SABIT) program. The SABIT program builds partnerships and provides technical assistance through training Eurasian business leaders in U.S. business practices.

The SABIT visit involved a 19-member delegation from many of the former Soviet bloc countries such as: Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Russia. The individuals represented academic institutions, regional/state/local governments, and national business associations (e.g. ‘chambers of commerce’).

As part of the SABIT program, Ohio State University Extension CD professionals were invited to share more about the ways Extension partners with communities, agencies, and organizations in pursuit of local and regional strategies for economic development. The delegates were particularly interested in learning more about our role in:

  • Cultivating and facilitating regional collaboration and partnership frameworks (e.g. advisory/planning committee approach)
  • Identifying and supporting industry clusters
  • Community and organizational strategic planning
  • Workforce development
  • Business incubators, and
  • Building capacity of elected officials

    Myra Wilson and Eric Romich discuss Extension’s involvement in workforce development

Working through interpreters, we discussed the land-grant system, Extension, and shared recent examples of how we engage others through the application of a wide variety of community economics programs and tools. After spending a couple of hours together, they were particularly interested in learning more about how they could strengthen their partnerships with academic institutions to inform research, teaching, and engagement efforts.

Despite the language barrier, there were many questions and the discussion was lively. Some of the delegates even inquired about returning to the U.S. to study and learn more. Others were eager to extend invitations to visit them in their home countries. Collaboration truly knows no boundaries!

In short, no matter where you are, we serve to partner with you and your community to share, learn, and identify ways to strengthen the local and regional economy.

You can learn the numerous ways we might work with you throughout these blog pages. To better understand the range of what is possible, take a look at the ‘Tags’ which highlight the content found here and feel free to contact the post’s author for more info. Or contact me directly at or 614-292-5942.

Greg DavisGreg Davis is a Professor and Assistant Director, OSU Extension – Community Development.

Mixing Agriculture in with Community and Youth

Ohio State University Extension is made up of several different disciplines, but they can all be intertwined into one program if we put our heads together. One example of this is a program which was developed in Adams, Brown, and Highland Counties a few years ago, called Ag Reality. Becky Cropper and Nikki Eyre were the 4-H educators, and David Dugan and John Grimes were the Agriculture and Natural Resources educators at that time in the respective counties. Becky Cropper was also the CD educator in Brown.

Young farmerThis group of educators worked with the Farm Service Agency and local high school agriculture teachers to develop a spinoff of the 4-H program Reality Check, now known as Real Money Real World. The program began with three high school agriculture programs, utilizing the juniors in the program. Each school had between 10 and 20 students that were our first students in the program.

Frankie Stith Scott and Rita Polley work with youth and adults for agricultural loans through the USDA Farm Service Agency. Frankie and Rita worked with the schools and set up a two-day training for the students. The students were trained on using budgets, farm account records, and other basics for record keeping on a farm. This training was conducted within a week prior to the full program.

Ohio farmThe full program was conducted at a central location in which students from all three schools attended. The full program simulation was basically farming for a day. The students were presented with a family situation, like married with no children or married with two children, and a family living expense was attached. They were also given a budget based on their grade point average to go along with the 300 acre farm on which to conduct business. There were seven different farms to operate given out randomly. Some were all tillable; some were partially tillable and partially wood lots. Some farms had one house, some had two, and one farm had no house. Once they had all of this to ponder, we turned them loose to farm and live.

This is where the community came in. Several business people including: insurance for crop and property, bankers, grain buyers, farm stores, cattle buyers, fertilizer and seed sales, and more. The students conducted business with these community businesses throughout the day.

The learning and strategy was amazing. The students did a great job of interacting with the businesses. The business people were impressed with the drive to excel that they saw from some students. Some later commented that they actually did business with some of the students in the weeks following the program. The students worked together in some instances, renting houses out to those that did not own a home. They bought equipment together in some cases.

We also had an auction of farm equipment. The list of items to be sold were given to the students prior to the program. A PowerPoint presentation rolled through the list of items to be auctioned during the morning. An auctioneer came in just before lunch, and we conducted an auction of the items on the list. The auctioneer explained how an auction works, and we discussed each item once it sold.

Of course a real Reality would not seem real if there were not taxes to be paid. The county Auditor was present to collect taxes during the day. We also had a logger there trying to buy all of the timber as cheap as possible.

At the end of the day we pulled a year from our history. We used the data from the National Ag Statistics Service to calculate yields and prices on crops. We then explained crop insurance, contracting grain, the value of getting bids on your timber, and much more.

This program started nearly 15 years ago. We now do a separate program in each of the three counties, and each high school in the three counties participates. Many of the same business people continue to assist with the program. We typically do the programs between November and March. If you would like to know more about the program, contact David Dugan at  or call 937-544-2339.

Dave DuganDavid Dugan, educator, ANR/CD, OSU Extension-Adams County.

Life Advice Still Resonates from Covey

I’ve been reflecting back to 2001, a time when I felt like I had a fairly good handle on life. I was college-educated, had a successful career, and a marriage partner who enjoyed volunteering in our church work, and helping me remodel our 90-year old farm house. (I also had a 1968 MGB-GT and a 1970 P-1800 Volvo in the barn!) Life was good.

Then, our first daughter was born. On that very day (while still in the hospital), I clearly remember coming to the realization that I knew absolutely nothing. I was frightened beyond belief. How could I possibly raise a child? What was I supposed to do when she cried?

That humbling moment drove me to learn all I could about parenting. Though several books helped, I soon discovered that other parents had great experiential knowledge and advice. And though the challenges change, whether in parenting or life in general, we can benefit by going back to the basics and listening to proven wisdom.

prioritiesI caught this article on the Forbes website a while back. It presented pertinent reminders for both work and home life. These are seven quotes from Stephen Covey that “have the power to completely change the direction of one’s life.” These are some of the basics that can help us through anything. I hope they will be helpful to you.


Covey’s Advice:

  1. The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.
  2. The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.
  3. Live out of your imagination, not your history.
  4. Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.
  5. Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.
  6. I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.
  7. You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage—pleasantly, smilingly, non-apologetically, to say “no” to other things. And the way you do that is by having a bigger “yes” burning inside. The enemy of the “best” is often the “good.”

References: Advice from Covey — Source:

Brian Raison

Brian Raison is an Associate Professor and Extension Field Specialist, Community and Organizational Leadership.

You Want What/When?!

time managementOh no, there’s that email again reminding me that my blog is due! When will I find the time to write about what I do? Yes, I hear all of the many organized people out there thinking, “Here is a great candidate for Time Management training.” Been there-done that and actually did pick up some good pointers to help keep the many demands of life activities well organized. A few of these timely time saving tips follow:

Prioritize:  Each Friday afternoon, I review my workload (or at least the items I remembered to write down) and prioritize for the upcoming week. Then along comes Monday, and by noon that workload list has been completely disrupted by other more pressing emergencies. When trying to define activities as “important and urgent” as Stephen Covey recommends in his book First Things First, I find everything screams they are both urgent and important.

Assign a time for email: This is a great tip except for extremely optimistic people like me who believe we are just an email away from the one that will eliminate a task from our workload. What if I failed to open an email as soon as I got it and it was one of my colleagues asking if they could have the opportunity to write this week’s blog for me?!

Delegate: I’m a pro at this technique. The only problem is that the only person to delegate work to is myself. Let’s face it, delegating to someone who admittedly does not manage time efficiently is an inefficient strategy.

Multitasking doesn’t work: Certainly this must be a myth! If I do more than one thing at once, doesn’t that mean I’ll get more done? Susan Weinschenk, PhD, in an article in Psychology Today entitled “The True Cost Of Multi-Tasking,” reported that you can lose up to 40% productivity by multitasking. She advised that instead of multitasking, we are really task switching. Well, that explains why I never seem to make progress on my to-do list, and why it seems my mind is a constant stream of tumultuous thoughts.

Time flies when you are having fun:  Even though this may not be an actual time management skill, it helps keep in perspective your accomplishments versus your ability to manage both the internal and external daily chaos. Time spent pursuing a goal keeps us motivated and our minds occupied creating the sensation that time is passing quickly.

The time was allotted and the blog completed in a lighthearted manner. When you read it, I hope you enjoy what I have written and smile as you relate it to your life of pressures and deadlines.  While managing one’s time is important for productivity, of equal importance is the ability to enjoy life. I am blessed to have a rewarding job that allows my work to positively impact many lives. I hope you are as fortunate.

Darlene LukshinDarlene Lukshin is a Program Specialist for OSU Extension in Washington County.

Elder Care: It Takes a Village

Senior care

Seniors rely on their caregivers, often building lasting relationships.

If you have an aging loved one — grandparent, parent, aunt, uncle, or family friend – living in a senior nursing community or being cared for at home by a home health organization, the people performing the most menial-sounding jobs may be the most important people in their lives. They are the van driver who takes them for a day out to the mall or to the clinic for dialysis; the laundry worker who picks up their dirty clothes every morning and brings them back clean and carefully hung or folded; the activities director who brings music, art and crafts to engage their minds, bodies and hearts; the housekeeper who cleans the floor no matter what mess s/he encounters. They also are the groundskeeper who mows the lawn and manicures the flower beds; the custodian who hangs a new memento on the wall; the hairdresser who keeps them neatly groomed.

My mother spent the final eight years of her life in a nursing facility. That became her permanent home, and almost everyone treated her as if she owned the place. She knew most of the staff by name and would share with me her interactions with them. It became clear after a few months that she only spoke in detail about the employees that I mentioned in the first paragraph. The nurses and aides, of course, were giving her the physical caring she needed to stay healthy, yet the non-clinical staff were the people she told me about. She knew about their marital status and family life, what they did on their non-working time, and their favorite hobbies. Mom didn’t get to know the clinical staff on the same personal level; they had many residents who demanded their expertise, and her interactions with clinical staff were focused on medical needs.

The next time you visit your aging loved one living in a senior community, pay attention to the staff:  not only those who are giving the meds or changing bedpans, but also those working behind the scenes to make life more comfortable for the residents.

Elder Care Certificate

Alber Enterprise Center has created a new training program for those on the front lines who would like some help understanding the challenges of the elders in their care. The Elder Care Certificate program, designed for anyone who cares for or interacts with older adults, is a wealth of information about issues facing our aging population. This program will transform the way participants work with elders and enhance their status as caring individuals. Participants will gain expertise in dealing with the aging population, will have a better understanding of the challenges seniors face, and will be better equipped with the interpersonal tools to function as contributing members of a caring team. The modules include topics in gerontology, personal effectiveness, communication, problem-solving, and leadership/customer service skills.

The 16-hour pilot program was delivered in 2017, and the 14 participants who were randomly selected to experience the program offered high praise for their experience. One stated, “The thing that touched and inspired us the most is that it changed our attitudes and the way we look at our residents.”  Another commented: “What is the #1 thing that I will use in the future? Listening:  Making each resident or coworker feel that they are very important and have my undivided attention.”

Alber Enterprise Center is in the process of licensing the curriculum through the university’s Technology Commercialization Office. To assure that the training is delivered to as many workers as possible throughout Ohio, the Center is seeking Extension educators who would like to become certified trainers for this program and offer it in their counties. For more information, contact Anne or Myra

Myra WilsonMyra Wilson is the Program Director for the Alber Enterprise Center.

Doing and dreaming: A good plan makes a space for both

“Tones sound, and roar and storm about me until I have set them down in notes.” You might be wondering what this quote from Ludwig van Beethoven has to do with community development.  What I hear in the musical master’s words is the process of creating order from chaos; he is crafting incredible harmony from a storm of strong, independent, unconnected notes. To me, that’s an analogy for good planning – strategic planning.

In fact, developing and implementing a good strategic plan can help an organization take control of the chaos and set itself on a path of identifying and achieving its goals. In addition to goals, most successful plans have a few common elements, including a vision and a mission.

Why does an organization need both a mission and a vision? Aren’t they really the same thing? Well, no, they’re not – and they’re both an important part of successful planning and work.

North Star

All the stars of the northern sky appear to rotate around the North Star.

A mission is a concise statement that explains why the organization exists, answering some basic questions: What do we do? Who do we serve? How does that improve things? Tapping into the passion of the employees, volunteers, and partners, a mission statement reflects why this organization and its work is important. Much like the North Star, a mission statement is always visible, allowing the people of the organization to continually realign themselves to remain on the right path. A mission statement expresses the work that the organization is doing today.

A vision is less about doing and more about dreaming. Vision statements outline the desired future, as expressed by the organization. Possibilities, hopes, innovations – these are the lifeblood of vision statements. A vision should be aspirational and reflect a world that is possible (by the good and successful work of the organization) in the future.

Here’s another way to consider mission and vision statements. Think of a missionary. The work of a missionary is immediate, on the ground, working directly with people and communities to improve their situations. The missionary knows his/her purpose and is directing energy into achieving that objective. Conversely, a visionary is someone who focuses on the future –envisioning what could be. While a visionary is aware of the current situation, he/she is contemplating the best-case possibilities that may exist in the future.

Does your organization have some chaos it would like to tame? OSU Extension has skilled facilitators to help your team create a strategic plan that has its feet firmly in the present and its eyes focused on a hopeful future. For more information, visit

Becky Nesbitt is an Assistant Professor and Extension Educator in Community Development with OSU Extension.

Considering Perspective

My brother Bill’s birthday is approaching. He’s three years younger than I am, but probably 10 years wiser. He’s my best friend… and often keeps me balanced when things get crazy. (Think: overscheduling, kids driving, etc.) In addition, he is really good at bringing perspective.

three dimensional drawing

A three dimensional drawing suggests depth or distance.

Perspective is defined as “a particular way of regarding something.” In drawing or painting, it’s a way of portraying three dimensions on a two-dimensional surface by suggesting depth or distance.

In our often complex Extension work, perspective is a tool that can yield valuable, tangible results if we employ it correctly. For example, let’s say we’re helping a small business, non-profit, or local government agency do some strategic planning. Our very presence brings an outside perspective—an “etic” as defined in the social science research literature (see Pike, 1967). This perspective contrasts with the “emic” (or internal view) that people, groups, and organizations inherently hold. Morris, et al (1999) described the emic/etic perspectives in terms of cultural phenomena. But the construct holds in strategic planning which is, of course, set within an organization’s culture.

In practice, some consultants will (falsely) jump to the conclusion that the emic perspective is clouded by insiders being too involved to clearly see and articulate a solution (e.g., not being able to see the forest because of the trees in the way). But be cautious of this thinking. It can land short. The consultant might advise the organization to abandon “process X” in favor of “process Z”… wreaking havoc at multiple levels.

Instead, I suggest a combined approach. Use your outside etic perspective to gather data, observe systemic processes, and look for solutions to suggest. But first, ask your client for their internal emic view. Then, you can overlay your perspective and co-construct a better overall solution together.


Morris, et al (1999), Views from Inside and Outside: Integrating Emic and Etic Insights About Culture and Justice Judgment. Academy of Management Review. 1999, Vol. 24. No. 4, 781-796.

Pike, Kenneth Lee (ed.) (1967), Language in Relation to a Unified Theory of Structure of Human Behavior (2nd ed.), The Hague, Netherlands: Mouton.

Perspective figure source: Creative Commons

Brian Raison is an Assistant Professor & Extension Field Specialist in Community and Organizational Leadership. Brian Raison