Lifelong Transformers

Vice Provost and Director, Scott Reed
Vice Provost and Director, Scott Reed
click image for larger version

Okay, I admit that I’ve tired of the word “transformation”.  As everyone should know by now, we’ve used it to describe meaningful changes at the university and within the OSU Extension Service. In the near future, we will announce successful placement of regional administrators throughout the state followed soon by county leaders. But is that the end of “transformation”?

I don’t think so. Why? By our nature, Extension workers are transformers. Another common reference to our work is change agent. Of course, we help our learners to change and improve their lives, families, businesses, land and communities. But we also change—and always have. We change because our product –knowledge and its delivery—changes and improves over time. The trick (and challenge) for Extension continues to be maintenance of our historic commitments while growing and diversifying to satisfy emerging needs. And all of this in the face of budget declines.

Early in October, three Statewide Public Services will join the governing board of the Oregon University System. There I will describe how Extension has adapted to the current environment.  Among my points will be that we are:

  • Restructuring OSU Extension to a multi-county, regional administrative model
  • Spreading diminishing staff resources over larger geographies
  • Increasing fees for participation in OSU Extension programs
  • Using enhanced information and communication technology for program delivery
  • Redirecting faculty work activities from state-supported projects to grant-supported projects 

The following is extracted from what will also be provided to the Board:

For the 2011-2013 biennium, the Governor proposed a $20 million reduction from the FY 2009-2011 legislatively adopted budget of $106.6 million. Because of unsurpassed grass roots support of a broad coalition of passionate individuals and groups who rely on the Statewides, the legislature overwhelmingly supported an add back of $12 million to the Statewides’ budget for the biennium, thus, holding the budget reduction for the three entities to only $8 million for FY 2011-2013.

Without the overwhelming support of the Oregon legislature, particularly its leadership, the add back would not have occurred, and would have resulted in a devastating impact on Oregonians served by Statewide programs, requiring the elimination of a significant number of professorial and staff positions with a concomitant loss of critical teaching, research, and Extension programs in the Colleges of Agricultural Sciences, Forestry, Science, Veterinary Medicine, and Public Health and Human Sciences. It would also have resulted in shuttering or closure of half the branch experiment stations, along with elimination of a significant number of Extension programs throughout the state.

Much of the devastating impacts noted above are being mitigated and managed as a result of: the $12 million add back voted in by the Legislature; leveraging and offsetting with competitive grants and contracts, and adding fees for selected services ­­— at the end of June 30, 2011, the Colleges of Agricultural Sciences and Forestry alone garnered $75.5 million for the fiscal year, an increase of almost 10 percent over last year; reduction or elimination of several programs; redirection of some Statewides-supported faculty and staff to other endeavors, including teaching; and restructuring administrative and structural units.   

Continued budget reductions will reduce Oregon’s ability to compete in the global marketplace in food, agriculture, forestry, natural resources, and wood and other renewable materials, just as these markets are recovering. Additionally, further reductions will severely constrict research capacity and Extension-based educational and health services provided to communities across Oregon.

Our stakeholder groups were a significant reason for our success in mitigating the budget cuts. Rather than use these passionate constituent groups only to help reverse budget reductions as we have done in the past, we must now engage them to seek new investments. Indeed, our stakeholders who have been affected by budget cuts have indicated that they are willing to work with us to seek more funding to maintain critical programs and services in all three of the Statewide Public Service Programs.

As transformers, I’m reminded of the child’s toy that changes shape to reflect changing circumstances—but always resembles its original self. As Extension enters its second hundred years in Oregon, I can still see the original organization while it continues to adapt and grow. So-to conclude this newsletter item, I’d value your reflections on our transformation—and I promise to start looking right away for another word.

Scott Reed
Vice Provost and Director