A host of University of Minnesota Extension faculty, educators and staff were honored with the 2022 Dean’s Distinguished Awards, along with a Distinguished Friend of Extension. The awards were presented Oct. 4-5 by Extension Dean Bev Durgan.
Honors went to:
Bosteya Jama, Ka Joog
Friend of Extension
Bosteya Jama has partnered with Minnesota 4-H for nearly 10 years in her work with Ka Joog, a nationally recognized Somali youth development organization. As a community leader, she has been instrumental in connecting 4-H programming with the Somali American community. Her partnership with Extension includes establishing 4-H clubs and volunteer networks in the Twin Cities and Moorhead, as well as ensuring that young people and their families from the Somali American community participate in 4-H events and activities, such as youth leadership conferences and training. She also connects colleagues in Extension with activities in the Somali community, and in her role as a family liaison has connected many families in crisis with Extension and other community resources.
Dr. Carol Cardona
Campus-based faculty award
Dr. Carol Cardona is a national leader in Extension programming targeted to both the Minnesota poultry industry and producers. Dr. Cardona has an Extension and research appointment in the College of Veterinary Medicine. She collaborates with Extension faculty and educators in animal science in both her research and Extension programs. She is a member of the Extension poultry team, and participates in the Extension livestock team’s staff development programming. Her expertise and leadership have made Minnesota (and Extension) an exemplary state in addressing, mitigating and future prevention of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI). Dr. Cardona's contributions have helped thousands of poultry producers across Minnesota and the nation raise healthy birds.
Joe Rand’s passion and scholarship build LGBTQ+ competency and lead to changes toward more equitable and inclusive policies and programs for 4-H and Youth Development. Rand has made outstanding contributions that create safe and inclusive youth programs for LGBTQ+ youth, and he has developed research-based training programs for Extension colleagues and other youth development professionals that help them ensure young people’s emotional safety. Because of Rand’s sustained efforts to coach, teach and consult with colleagues and young people, he is recognized across Minnesota and the nation as a champion in LGBTQ+ inclusion. He is generous and effective with his consultation and teaching, and a tireless advocate and educator in creating a more just and inclusive world.
Program staff award
Joleen Dose’s coordination of Leading Sibley Together, a county leadership cohort program, has strengthened the program since she became coordinator in 2019. She coordinates the application and selection process, logistics, and finances for the program as well as marketing to potential new participants and serving as the primary point of contact for participants. She does all this in addition to her other duties as support staff in the Sibley County Extension office. In a time when people tend to be turning away from community life, LST creates a structure for strengthening skills and relationships among existing and potential leaders in the county. As the coordinator at the center of it all, Does has helped to make this happen.
Support staff award
Kayla Huhn is a vital program builder, connector and communicator for Extension in her role as support staff in Meeker County. She seamlessly balances work with 4-H, AFNR and Community Vitality through dedicated, thoughtful planning and adaptability, and she mentors new support staff across her region. Thanks in large part to Huhn’s efforts, her county office now is based in a beautiful new space conveniently located on the county fairgrounds. Huhn is the true definition of a connector and collaborator. She consistently goes above and beyond to be a leader among her peers and promote the mission of Extension.
Brian McNeill’s actions to dream, learn, do and become more provide a strong foundation for his leadership as a regional educator and for the statewide 4-H agronomy and horticulture programs. His vision and collaborative style led to a revitalization of the 4-H agronomy program that has been well supported by a variety of partners. In less than two years, McNeill’s vision for the program was piloted in five counties, expanded to 20 counties and then launched statewide just before the pandemic began. That led to the creation of an online and hybrid version of the program which continues today. He also led the creation of the 4-H Agriculture Ambassadors and is sought out by colleagues for advice. McNeill engages partners, volunteers and colleagues to explore the needs, develop relevant programming and evaluate to improve for the future.
Milena Nunez Garcia
Nutrition educator award
Milena Nunez Garcia serves the Latino communities in Olmsted and Dodge counties as a SNAP-Ed* educator, as well as collaborating with colleagues across the state and from other areas of Extension. Through her work, she ensures that all Minnesotans have access to information about cooking, nutrition, gardening and access to healthy foods. She creates and publishes videos and other resources in Spanish and shares them widely both in person and online. She has built solid relationships and collaborates with many community partners to make these resources available to an even wider audience. She is well known as a trusted resource in southeast Minnesota and statewide, and as a colleague who truly makes an impact in her community.
*Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education
For the past 25 years, Parents Forever has helped divorcing parents in Minnesota resolve their custody and visitation conflicts through educational programming offered both in person and online. The innovative and effective program has responded to changing needs and technologies, and has been adapted for use in other states including North Dakota, Wisconsin, Arkansas and Indiana. The Parents Forever curriculum has been adapted to meet other parenting needs, such as those of incarcerated fathers, and has been nationally recognized through numerous scholarly publications.
Team members are:
Ellie McCann, Sharon Powell, Emily Becher, Kate Welshons, Jenifer McGuire
Extension Learning Technologies
Outstanding leadership award
The Extension Learning Technologies team works across all centers and programs in every corner of Minnesota to provide creative and effective technology assistance. The team works together to find and test new technologies and to introduce them to Extension colleagues with comprehensive and easy-to-learn training. The team is customer-focused, using data to help guide its decision-making and consistently using feedback from colleagues to ensure Extension technology is used effectively and efficiently.
Team members are:
Amy Baker, Alison Holland, Patrice Johnson, Jesse Liu, Karen Matthes, Stephanie O'Donnell, Caleb Twiggs, Billie Wilson
I Can Prevent Diabetes (ICPD)
This team’s ingenuity, creativity and empathy in reaching the most vulnerable community members in their classes throughout the COVID-19 pandemic is an outstanding example of a culturally and linguistically appropriate approach to programming. Nobles County was hit hard by the pandemic as major employers were shut down, which led to a social and economic crisis for many local SNAP-Ed participants. The team reached out to participants to provide online education not just in nutrition, but to help provide up-to-date disease prevention information, all in Spanish and accessible to entire families who were quarantining at home. The team demonstrated flexibility, cultural agility, and nutrition expertise and reflects Extension’s commitment to diversity.
Team members are:
Leticia Rodriguez, Maria Conchita Paez-Sievert, Angelica Peña, Broderick Wright, Luisa Trapero, Rosie Gonzalez
Gardening from the Ground Up
The Gardening from the Ground Up team exemplifies the best of University of Minnesota Extension. In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, they recognized a clear need, quickly responded with quality content, reached a wider audience than ever before and became a model for online programming. As a team, they worked together more closely than ever, even as everything was accomplished remotely. They were willing to experiment and adapt to the new environment brought about by the pandemic. Rather than wait for things to “go back to normal,” they imagined ways to meet the current moment. The Gardening from the Ground Up team made University resources practical and useful for Minnesotans, as well as many others across the country who participated in this program. The program is now in its third year and has continued to evolve and grow to meet changing needs.
Team members are:
Adam Austing, Shane Bugeja, Katie Drewitz, Karen Johnson, Claire LaCanne, Troy Salzer, Robin Trott, Tarah Young.
The Welcoming and Inclusive Communities project
This team of Extension educators and community partners is creating rural communities where immigrants and people of color are welcomed as workers, neighbors and community partners. The program began as an effort to attract more workers to rural communities in southern Minnesota but has evolved and expanded and now collaborates with communities across the state. The team’s work is driven by and responsive to community concerns; adaptable; scholarly; and making an impact. As awareness has grown, new colleagues have joined the team and the effort has attracted national attention and new community partners.
Team members are:
Jennifer Aranda, John Bennett, Scott Chazdon, Jocelyn Hernandez-Swanson, Neil Linscheid, Tobias Spanier, Ellen Wolter, and community partners Mohamed Alsadig (Greater Mankato Diversity Council), Julie Hawker (Region 9 Development Commission), Lourdes Menjívar (COPAL), Tami Skinner (St. Peter Community Education)