To the future

On Jan. 21, we capped a festive, year-long celebration of Extension’s centennial anniversary with a special ceremony in the auditorium of the Wes Watkins Center. As part of this event, we collected letters and other items to include in two time capsules. One will be be opened in 25 years and the other will be opened in 100 years.

I thought it’d be fun to share what I wrote to the individual who will have the good fortune of serving as DASNR’s vice president, dean and director of Extension in 2114. Here it is. Enjoy!

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January 21, 2015

Dear Dean and Director, Oklahoma Cooperative Extension, 2114

I have had the good fortune of studying and working at four different land grant universities. I trust you find it to be as valuable for your career as it has been for me and my career. Some of the most meaningful work I’ve been able to carry out has been as Director of Cooperative Extension, first at Michigan State University and now at Oklahoma State University.

Having reflected on the development and accomplishments of Cooperative Extension over its first 100 years, it is tempting to anticipate how relevant and important Cooperative Extension may be over the next 100 years. The industries, communities, families and individuals we serve have changed dramatically over the past 100 years and I’m sure that will be true for the next 100 years as well. However, across that period of change, several core values have kept Cooperative Extension relevant and valuable during its existence in Oklahoma and across the United States. I project that these same values will serve to keep Cooperative Extension relevant and important over the next 100 years.

The first of these core values is that we are here to serve the people of Oklahoma. Regardless of background or means, we are called to serve all. Our programs have sometimes fallen short of that goal, but it remains a guiding force to help ensure that we are relevant to all.

The second of these core values is that the information we share and the skills and tools we develop in others are to be based on the most current and rigorous scientific findings available. Scientific findings and evidence of documented impact are essential for our programs to be reliable and relevant. That means at times we are behind others who guess or trust intuition for recommending practices. But through 100 years, it is clear that basing our educational programs on scientific findings is of critical importance to our success.

The third of these core values is that we must never be satisfied that we have done enough. The people we serve are always striving to better their circumstances, their productivity, their family dynamics, and their community’s success. We must mirror that drive for improvement in all that we do.

The final core value is that we must be prepared for change. The world changes around us, and that means the needs we are charged with addressing will change. Technology changes as well, and we must be prepared to test and adopt new technologies, new practices, new ways of thinking, and new audiences for our work.

I hope you find this work as fulfilling as I have and wish you well with the land grant mission.

Sincerely,

Thomas G. Coon

Vice President, Dean and Director

New year, new learning opportunity

It’s once again that time of year when we all shift from reflecting on what we have – or have not – accomplished over the course of the past 12 months, and begin looking forward to what we can and want to achieve in the 12 months ahead.

For some of us, it means trying to get healthier. For others, the focus might be on reaching certain financial goals.

And it’s impossible to escape learning something new on an annual basis given our connection to OSU, a top-notch academic institution with a strong land-grant tradition of not only teaching, but also research and Extension.

One reason I’m especially excited about 2015 is that it marks OSU’s first foray into a new educational front that harnesses the latest teaching methods to encourage learning. And OSU is offering Oklahomans of all ages a chance to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity.

We’re proud to say DASNR has the honor of hosting the university’s first MOOC or Massive Open Online Course. The 16-week course, “Farm to Fork: A Panoramic View of Agriculture,” will offer an in-depth view of agriculture and will be taught by Bailey Norwood, an associate professor of agricultural economics.

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Dr. Norwood has a great reputation as an innovative, creative and unconventional educator. You can learn more about his approach by reading a short profile about him on page 18 of the 2014 edition of The Division Triangle.

Conducted entirely online, the course will include multiple modules on topics such as livestock-care techniques and the impact of local food on the local economy. Student participation will involve uploading photos related to assignments and engaging in forum discussions.

A MOOC is an excellent and effective way of engaging people with a broad range of interests who live across the state, nation and world. It’s a terrific chance to learn not only through the curriculum but also from others.

Farm to Fork is open to the public. You can take it for free or earn OSU credit for a reasonable online tuition cost. Either way, this is too good an opportunity to miss.

The enrollment deadline is Jan. 20. For additional information or to register, visit www.casnr.okstate.edu/farmtofork.