The beginning of this year has brought with it so many incredible gifts and I can’t believe how quickly January has flown by. I have thoroughly enjoyed my beginning annual visits with each department chair, visiting supporters of Extension (TSC in Navarre); participating in the Ohio State Academic Leadership Forum to discuss faculty eminence and learner success; and engaging on lean-in tours with Auglaize, Morrow, and Knox counties. You’ve never enjoyed fruit so much as when you’ve watched Tanner Cooper-Risser get those preschoolers to school us on the benefits of bananas; and watching Liz Ufferman and Barb Hildebrand in Morrow County light up about their 32 years of working side-by-side to engage the public and galvanize the office was electric. This week, I will be flying into Minneapolis to join my North Central Region Extension director colleagues to focus on Extension’s role in improving health and well-being; contributing to a university visit from Philanthropy Ohio (philanthropyohio.org); and then visiting Mercer and Allen counties. These things bring me joy!
But, as we enter into 2023, I am also continually saddened and incensed by the ongoing violence that is occurring so often in our society. Just in recent days, we’ve witnessed senseless and horrific acts of violence committed upon others. Whether this violence occurs as a result of domestic disputes, mental health issues, misuse of power, or discrimination against specific populations, cultures, or races, there is no excuse for this behavior or lack of concern for the well-being of others.
In Extension, our mission is to ensure that, “Ohioans have the knowledge and resources they need to actively engage in creating conditions in which they THRIVE.” We have purposely identified our Extension KEYS to consciously engage in lived behaviors that reflect our organizational values. Two of these keys seem particularly relevant in this moment – CARING and INCLUSION.
I hope that, individually and at the community level, we will be particularly intentional about demonstrating caring and inclusion in all aspects of our work lives. It shows up in the little things like how we treat one another in our offices, how we model handling conflict and differences of opinion, and how we encourage one another to have important conversations and seek understanding even when we don’t always agree with another person’s perspective. We have opportunities each and every day to model caring and inclusion with one another and with those whom we serve.
As Dean Kress mentioned in her message to the college last Friday: “Part of our University Shared Values is a commitment to care and compassion, and we will continue to support one another as Buckeyes. We also affirm our conviction that racism and inequality have no place in CFAES, and our CFAES Principles of Community serve as a base for managing these actions.”
I want to be clear – racism and inequality have no place in Extension. If you or anyone you know is experiencing violence, discrimination or racism, please be encouraged to report it and to remember that we, as Ohio State employees, have access to a variety of resources, including the Employee Assistance Program and the Wexner Medical Center’s Stress, Trauma and Resilience (STAR) program.
Additionally, the Divided Community Project at the Moritz College of Law has planned a virtual Zoom “office hour” on Wed., Feb. 1 (1-2 p.m.). You can listen to discussions or ask for a separate consultation in a breakout room with the Divided Community leadership and staff, their Bridge Initiative mediators, and invited law enforcement and community conciliators from around the country.
Let’s all do what we can, separately and together, to create the world where everyone is safe, respected, and has a sense of belonging.
Thank you, Jackie