News and Notes: December 3, 2020

OUR VISION: Ohioans have the knowledge and resources they need to actively engage in creating conditions in which they thrive.

OUR MISSION: We create opportunities for people to explore how science-based knowledge can improve social, economic and environmental conditions.

  1. Reducing the Spread – Thoughts from the Director

    I hope everyone had an enjoyable Thanksgiving weekend and that you are coming back energized for our annual conference next week. I want to thank you all for doing everything you can up to this point to make informed decisions about how we serve our counties and continue our work while following safety and wellness practices. While 2020 is quickly coming to a close, this year continues to bring daily challenges and critical decisions for keeping our people safe and our communities well-served yet protected as much as possible from the spread of COVID-19.  

    As I am sure you are all well aware, the number of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are all increasing for Ohio and across the nation. We must continue to be vigilant and put the safety of our employees and that of our clientele first. It is the belief of the university, our college, and our organization that if we can help reduce the load by preventing or slowing down the spread of the virus, we should.   

    We must continue to make decisions based on the best science and advice to which we have access at this point and, as always, assure that these decisions are in alignment with our values and principles. We need to be following science and modeling best practices for reducing the spread of this virus.   

  2. Director’s Open Office Hours – Dec. 15 @ 10am

     As I mentioned briefly in Nov. 13 “News and Notes,” I will be offering open office hours (aka “Dialogue with the Director), the third Tuesday of the month, beginning Dec. 15, 2020, from 10am until noon. There will be 15-minute slots that you will sign up for in advance. This time will simply be for me to listen to what is top of mind for you, check-in, say “hello,” or whatever you choose to discuss. We have included the link to the 8 slots being offered for December and look to modify this at the first of the year if it is warranted. Please use this link to sign up! I hope to talk to many of you in the coming months! 

  3. State Update

    As of currently released data (Dec. 3 at 2 pm), we have 8 counties listed as PURPLE, 3 counties approaching PURPLE, and ALL counties identified as high case incidence status.

    PURPLE: Lake, Lorain, Medina, Montgomery, Portage, Richland, Stark, Summit 

    APPROACHING PURPLE: Cuyahoga, Fairfield, Madison 

    RED: 72 counties in RED, compared to only 9 a few months ago 



    There is a current urgent need to make adjustments to keep everyone safe and to help do our part to not contribute to the spread. As such, we will be, once again, reducing our in-person programming footprint, similar (but not exactly) to what was in place in the spring.   

    We are not making decisions in a vacuum; rather, we are paying attention to available data and changing situations (see the Governor’s news release).  

    Rationale and Assumptions: 

    • The number of cases, hospitalizations and death in Ohio are on the rise and are NOT likely to reverse in the next 3-4 weeks 
    • The increased gatherings over Thanksgiving and anticipated gatherings likely to occur between now and the new year will only contribute to this pattern of increase 
    • Experts are indicating that hospital capacity in Ohio is already stressed by new COVID cases and will soon have limited availability for non-COVID patients—this demand does not reflect the anticipated increases from recent Thanksgiving gatherings 
    • We must do our part in helping flatten the curve and help keep hospitals and the health care workforce from being overwhelmed 
    • We, as part of an academic institution, need to follow science and model what the CDC and other health experts stress is important in addressing this virus 
  4. Programming Guidance


    All Counties: We are cutting back on the number of exemptions and will be approving only essential/critical in-person programing such as Serv Safe and other trainings that, if withheld, would affect the person's livelihood or credentialing. Time sensitive and critical research would still be permitted and some court-mandated programs if courts are not willing to delay. The program ADs will be working with the educators to clarify which exemptions are still in place as essential/critical by program area.  

    Purple Counties and Counties Approaching Purple: When a county turns PURPLE or is approaching PURPLE, Extension offices are to be closed and employees will work virtually. Meetings and events need to be canceled, postponed, or held virtually until Jan. 15. 

    Red Counties: When a county turns Red, Extension offices are to be closed to the public but still staffed according to their Return to Office Plan (can still offer by appointment only). By “appointment only” means the office is staffed but the door to the office is locked. Clientele are required to have a timed appointment to be admitted to the office. You should attempt to have a limited number of employees in the office at any one time. You can work this out locally and make adjustments to your Return to Office plans. As always, if your commissioners or landlords have closed your building, you should revise your Return to Office plans to move to full telework. Meetings and events need to be canceled, postponed, or held virtually until Jan. 15. This includes 4-H club meetings and events and Master Gardner Volunteer meetings and events. 

    We recognize that this is different than even a few weeks ago; however, we are attempting to be in concert with the current and trending data and it is clear that the numbers are trending up quickly and significantly.  

    Orange Counties and Yellow Counties: When a county is Orange or Yellowthe Extension office can remain open to the public according to their Return to Office Plan with existing safety protocols in place. You should still attempt to have a limited number of employees in the office at any one time. You can work this out locally and make adjustments to your Return to Office plans. Meetings and events need to be canceled, postponed, or held virtually until Jan. 15. This includes 4-H club meetings and events and Master Gardner Volunteer meetings and events. 

    Local Health Advisories: In addition to the guidance from the Governor’s Ohio Health Advisory system requirements, various county health departments are releasing local health advisories limiting activities or encouraging additional caution regarding gathering and non-essential activities. If a county has issued a local health advisory, we expect the Extension professionals in that county to follow the most restrictive guidance (OSU or local). We recognize that there is a lot of room for interpretation of these advisories and that some of them appear to provide conflicting messages about gatherings and essential activities. If you are uncertain about what to do, contact your area leader and he or she will work with our Director of Operations (Jeff McCutcheon) to provide additional clarity.  

  5. Staying the Course

    We came together as a team in March and made proactive, solid, and sometimes unpopular decisions to ensure that we did what was necessary. Our number one priority has been and will continue to be the health and safety of our Extension employees, as well as our clientele with whom we have regular contact. Some things are changing daily, and the health advisory system is only updated weekly. We will do our best to keep you informed as to any changes we, or the university, will need to make.   

    I understand the struggle of changing priorities and the strain of uncertainty. This is not an easy time to be in a service-oriented profession, but I know that you are all concerned about the current and future health and well-being of our peers and colleagues, as well as our 4-H and FCS youth, volunteers, farmers, industry partners, businesses, and communities. There is light at the end of this struggle as vaccines  begin to make their way into public health system. Remain strong, reach out for help when you are feeling overwhelmed, and know that we will emerge from this with a renewed understanding of the value of what we do and with some new tools for achieving our mission.  

    Keep the lines of communication open locally and with your supervisors, stakeholders, commissioners, and OSU Extension administration. Remember, the community spread remains fluid and ever-changing. We may need to modify this guidance at any time. Be prepared to accomplish things via telework and have signage and communications prepared if your county is approaching purple or as a proactive planning measure in all counties. Again, I truly appreciate your commitment to our mission and one another’s well-being.  

  6. What is My Why? December Challenge

    "One of 'My Whys?' is keeping my kids, spouse, parents, and my 97-year-old grandmother safe and healthy so we have many more seasons and hugs to share!" —Jackie Wilkins

    I know we all have our own personal “What’s My Why?” that helps us think about why we should socially distance, wear our masks, wash our hands, and follow other safety guidance. I encourage each of you to think about your own why and share it with others. In December, I challenge you to take a photo or shoot a video or challenge others to do so, demonstrating a healthy practice and sharing why it’s important to you. You can even identify local influencers (e.g., 4-H youth or teen leaders, volunteers, commissioners, etc.) to share their why. If you take this challenge, please send a copy to us via Laurie Ward (ward.676) and be sure to use some hashtags (#TogetherAsBuckeyes, #OSUExtension, #OhioState, etc.) if you share on social media.  

  7. Giving Back: Year-End Promo to Encourage Contributions to Extension

    Per the CFAES Advancement team, please consider utilizing the following year-end giving language in your county newsletters, on your social media channels, and any other communications you think will influence your constituents to give.   

    Suggested text: Planning your year-end giving? Don’t forget to include OSU Extension in ____ (insert county name) County! Your gift makes lifelong learning opportunities, community engagement, and the development of future Ohio leaders possible.  

    You can give online, by mail, or by phone. Please consider giving to the following funds, which have a direct impact on our county Extension programming:  

    • (insert county name and fund number)  
    • Ohio State University Extension Work in Ohio (fund number: 306726)  
    • The Ohio State Fund for the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (fund number: 303008)   


    • Give Online: Click here to support OSU Extension. Then, select the fund you’d like to support, enter the amount, and make your payment online.   
    • Give by Mail: You can also give by mail. Please mail a completed giving form and check with the fund number written on it to: 
      • The Ohio State University Foundation 

    PO Box 710811 

    Columbus, OH 43271-0811  

    • Give by Phone: Please call us at 614-292-2141 and have your credit card, debit, or electronic funds transfer information ready.  


    Thank you for supporting OSU Extension! 

  8. Central State University Extension Update

    Several Central State University Extension program staff members have recently connected with our FCS and our ANR professionals for introductions; and we are planning that their 4-H professionals will join the Dec. 18 Koffee with Kirk. As our program leaders have shared during these meetings, we would be excited to coordinate efforts with our Central State colleagues, so you may be hearing from some members of their team in the future. We have also confirmed with Central State that we are willing to share curriculum with their team members if they are interested, following any typical required training (if necessary) and maintaining OSU Extension copyrighted branding and acknowledgement of authorship. There are still process questions to work out, and that will occur as we move forward on various projects.

  9. Important Workday Dates and Deadlines

    With the launch of Workday rapidly approaching, please be aware of the following important dates and deadlines:  

    • Dec. 6: Last day to submit job applications.   
    • Dec. 7: Last day to submit eTravel.   
    • Dec. 11: Last day to access Employee Self Service to view pay, update personal information and more.  
    • Dec. 14: Last day to submit eRequests, including eStores and eMaterials.   

    A full list of important dates is posted on the Workday calendar. Read more.  

  10. Multiple Revised HR Policies to go into Effect in December and January

    Multiple Human Resources policies have been revised and will go into effect late December 2020 and early January 2021. The policies have been revised to improve employee experience, better align business practices and support Enterprise Project activities. The following policies have been revised and approved: Scheduling Work and Overtime, Holidays, Reduction in Force Classified Staff, Reduction in Force Unclassified Staff, Staff Severance, Staff Employment, Student Employment, Background Check, Military Leave/Reemployment Rights, Paid Time Off, Staff Recruitment and Selection, and Unpaid Leave. A full list of revised policies related to the Enterprise Project and their changes is available on the Office of University Compliance and Integrity’s University Policies website.  

  11. PHA Deadline Changed to Dec. 14

    To reduce your cost for health care and receive the full premium credit for 2021, complete a Personal Health and Well-Being Assessment (PHA) by Dec.14 at 11:59pm. The PHA will not be available for completion starting Dec.15 to prepare for the transition from PeopleSoft to Workday. The PHA should be available again in early January. Premium credit for 2021 is $25/month for enrolled faculty and staff or $40/month for enrolled spouses. Complete the PHA in the Your Plan for Health Virgin Pulse portal or mobile app. Read more

  12. Promotion and Tenure

    Congratulations to the following individuals for the recognition of their work through promotion and tenure. Please see the chart below, and when you get an opportunity, offer them your congratulations!!!


    Program area/county  

    Promoted to  

    James Jasinski

    Ag and Natural Resources  


    Eric Barrett  

    Area Leader/Ag and Natural Resources   

    Associate Professor with Tenure  

    Kathy Bruynis   

    4-H Youth Development  

    Educator 4  

    Kara Colvin  

    4-H Youth Development  

    Educator 4  

    Marie Economos  

    Family and Consumer Sciences  

    Educator 4  

    Mike Gastier  

    Ag and Natural Resources  

    Educator 4  

    Misty Harmon  

    Family and Consumer Sciences  

    Educator 4  

    Tammy Jones  

    Family and Consumer Sciences  

    Educator 4  

    Heather Reister  

    Family and Consumer Sciences  

    Educator 4  

    Robin Stone  

    4-H Youth Development  

    Educator 4  

    Amy Stone  

    Ag and Natural Resources  

    Educator 4  

    Kelly Coble  

    4-H Youth Development  

    Educator 3  

    Kiersten Heckel  

    4-H Youth Development  

    Educator 3  

    Dean Kreager  

    Ag and Natural Resources  

    Educator 3  

    Jenny Lobb  

    Family and Consumer Sciences  

    Educator 3  

    Margo Long  

    4-H Youth Development  

    Educator 3  

    Michael Schweinsberg  

    4-H Youth Development  

    Educator 3  

    Beth Stefura  

    Family and Consumer Sciences  

    Educator 3  

    Meghan Thoreau  

    Community Development  

    Educator 3  


  13. Work with Diverse Audiences

    Whitney Gherman, FCS educator based in Marion County, has recently been recognized for her work with and on behalf of diverse audiences. She just received an award from Guardians for Good, a HelpLine community that brings about change through the power of community giving (knowledge and financial resources), as part of her work with the Delaware African American Heritage Council. Whitney has also been nominated (by several community colleagues) for an Ohio Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Commission Award in health equity and awareness. Awards are presented to individuals or organizations whose deeds and actions are consistent with Dr. King’s teachings of nonviolent social and economic change.

  14. New Chair of CFAES Staff Advisory Council

    I am excited to announce that Misty Harmon will be the new Chair of the CFAES Staff Advisory Council beginning Dec. 10, 2020. Congratulations Misty!  

  15. Mentor. Impact. Network. Excel. Program – Mentor Training in May 2021

    As announced in an all-Extension email last week, thanks to everyone who provided feedback for the MINE Program survey last fall. All OSU Extension faculty and staff are invited to participate – including, but not limited to, all support staff, program staff, educators, and community nutrition staff. While the goal is to provide support to all positions, please note that processes may be unique based on position duties, requirements, or funding restrictions.  

    Mentor training will take place in May 2021. Anyone who indicated interest previously will receive an individual invitation from Jared Morrison to register for mentor training. If you have not received an invitation yet, please contact Jared ( Completion of the training is required to be considered a mentor and have new mentees formally assigned.   

  16. Connecting at Annual Conference

    I am excited to see everyone at the Extension Annual Conference next week! We were nearing 600 attendees as registration closed late yesterday. I look forward to our conversations, our keynote with Chad Littlefield, our capnote with Tanya Menon, and our learning and networking during the virtual breakout sessions. Chad sent us a short video link you can watch for a little bit of “connection before content” (watch video). The breakout sessions will be recorded so you don’t have to miss a thing.  

    Although the conference looks different this year, there is a huge amount of excitement and energy as we look forward to starting the conference on Monday morning. And our intent is the same as always – connect, collaborate, celebrate – and this year, we will Embrace Change Together!  

    Be sure to look in your email for an invitation to access the Crowd Compass app, which will house all of the session Zoom connection information, social sharing, networking, and more! You will be able to use the app on your desktop as well as your mobile devices. And don’t forget that the CES silent auction bidding is already open. You can place your bids 24/7 now through Dec. 9 via Excel Online at  

    Thanks again to the conference planning committee for their hard work; and to ShaLise Simmons and Jared Morrison for leading the efforts. The JCEP scholarship and awards committee also deserves many kudos for their efforts to rework the awards presentations into a virtual celebration that recognizes the many achievements of our colleagues.  

  17. Campus Wellness Resources

    Part three of the Stay Calm and Well webinar series hosted by the Office of the Chief Wellness Officer has kicked off this week. Several of our family and consumer sciences educators are teaching sessions about how to be well and beat the winter blues this year. More information is available at