Number CXLIX The Newsletter of Epsilon Sigma Phi May 2019

President's Update
Mark Blevins, National ESP President

Spring has sprung and opportunities abound. The grass is already green in coastal Carolina and it's time to make hay while the sun shines. You can do that too, metaphorically in your chapter as you encourage the professionalism of your peers and colleagues. The Board is developing a vision for the organization and we need your input. Please invest a few minutes of your valuable time to make a difference in Epsilon Sigma Phi for years to come. You can take the survey here:

You've already submitted your applications for scholarships, grants, and chapter recognition which were due May 1, but you can access our recent webinars anytime at while the chapter votes for regional/national awards and board elections close mid May.

The Colorado Zeta Chapter is working hard to put together an incredible experience at our national meeting this fall. This will be a wonderful adventure in Colorado Springs this October with challenging speakers, engaging sessions, and a gorgeous setting. The schedule, registration, and loads of other information are easy to access at so click on over and plan to join the best of Extension this fall.

Please reach out to me personally or anyone on the board with questions, concerns, and great ideas that can help ESP better serve Extension professionals.

Professional Development Opportunities

ESP Webinar - Thursday, May 30, 2019 at 12:00 pm Eastern / 9:00 am Pacific

Augmented Reality, 360Images and Virtual Reality, 3D printing & crowdsourcing in Extension

2019 Conference - Registration opens June 1, 2019

Check out our Conference speakers, Opening Event and other exciting opportunities!

PILD: A Time to Increase our Toolbox for Emerging Issues Education
Travis West, National Public Issues Committee Chair & North Central Region Vice-President

The Public Issues Leadership Development (PILD) Conference was held in Arlington, VA from April 14-17, 2019 and brought together over 200 Extension professionals from across the country. Paul Hill started off the conference with some challenges for thinking differently about Extension programming, including the unfortunate event that included not having electric for part of Day 1. He along with a few other speakers and moderators made the best of the situation (as we do in Extension many times) and continued to provide a stellar program to kick off PILD 2019.

Breakout sessions took a deeper dive into how we can engage and educate around emerging issues. Presenters provided practical “takeaways” for professionals to take back home and implement new practices and processes. The chance to interact and learn from National Program Leaders from NIFA are always popular sessions, and this year was no different with overflowing rooms of eager learners. An interactive skit demonstrating “Communicating on the Hill” scenarios provided a boost of energy for attendees on Tuesday as they prepared for their day on the Hill advocating and educating legislators and staffers. Tuesday concluded with an inspirational address from Doug Steele, APLU VP for Food Agriculture and Natural Resources. He closed out the conference and sent professionals to the hill ready to excel as Extension professionals and continue that enthusiasm as they returned to their extension programming efforts within their states.

PILD presentations from this year can be obtained from the JCEP websiteMake sure PILD is in your professional development plans for 2020. A great opportunity to increase the skills and “tools” we can provide to those that are most important, our clientele.

PILD Scholarship Recipient - Jennifer Wilson, Alpha Rho Chapter/Kansas

The PILD Conference was a great opportunity to connect with leaders from across the country and learn about how to advocate for the important work we do. It is always great to have conversations with Extension professionals from other states, and I think ESP for giving opportunities to connect across disciplines. Innovation has been a buzzword in our Kansas system recently so I appreciated learning from Paul Hill and others who are advocates for taking risks to advance our work. Our Kansas delegation had a great visit to Capitol Hill where we had positive discussions with legislative staffers. Thanks for the opportunity and the scholarship!


Giving the Gift that Keeps on Giving: David and Debbie Ross, Tau Chapter/Maryland
by Resource, Development and Management Committee

ESP thanks David and Debbie Ross of Tau Chapter - Maryland for their large donation during the 2018 Development Fund Campaign. David and Debbie are active in ESP National and locally in Tau Chapter. Debbie served as Tau Chapter President for several years, continues as membership chair and maintains the Tau database and website. Because of her, Maryland was one of the pilot chapters for the recent change to the national membership dues system, Wild Apricot. She has served as a voting delegate multiple times at National Council meetings and organized or assisted with several national fundraising auctions. As an IT staff person, she has found many ways to learn from and to contribute to ESP. Debbie hopes that ESP will continue efforts to reach Extension Professionals from Faculty to Staff.

David is active at the national level since first serving as Regional Vice President and Chair of the National Resource Development and Management (RDM) Committee in 2002-2004. He is a founding member of the current Development Fund and has worked tirelessly in assisting National ESP with annual fundraising campaigns at the National Conference as well as during the year. David is a retired Extension Agricultural Engineer and Professor Emeritus  at the University of Maryland since 2010. He continues to serve as a life member participating on the RDM Committee and providing leadership for annual fundraising for the Development Fund.

David and Debbie, together continue to be involved in ESP and wish to lead by example in getting the Development Fund to reach its initial goal of $500,000 in member donations. The fund provides over $31,000 in scholarships and grants to members from its annual earnings.  Consider applying for professional development funding from ESP.  Consider donating!


The ESP Silent Auction Goes 21st Century; Now Everyone Can Contribute Even If You Don't Come to Colorado Springs (Although We Hope You Do!)
Christy Fitzpatrick, Member - Planning Committee for the 2019 ESP National Conference

The Planning Committee for the 2019 ESP National Conference in Colorado Springs is excited to announce that the annual fundraiser Silent Auction will be online using www.32Auctions.comWe know that this sounds a little scary, but we feel that the advantage will be that people from all across our organization can be part of the auction whether they come to Colorado Springs or not.  Contributing to the auction is just a matter of filling in a form and posting a photo into a Google Doc.  Once everything is posted, we will open the bidding which is also very simple.  We’ll send out detailed instructions and the dates to remember over the summer.  Once the auction is open and you start bidding, our auction site will notify you if you are outbid by someone else.  You will never have to wonder if you still have a winning bid on your favorite items.

And how do you get your item to the winning bidder?  The easiest way will be to bring your item to the National Conference and if the winning bidder is there, just pass it off.  If the winner is not present, we will ask you to pack up your item and mail it to the winner.  This, of course, argues for choosing items that are pretty small and light.

But what about those wonderful big baskets we all know and love? We will still have a live auction for larger and unique items.  So if you or your state or committee usually put together something really eye-catching, you can still do that and we will have it in the live auction.

Aren’t we worried that people won’t participate? Last fall at our Annual Extension Forum, Colorado Zeta Chapter piloted this online auction concept.  We found that people did participate in the online auction and that we raised more than our traditional silent auction the year before.  The big advantage is that everyone who wants to be part of fundraising for ESP is able to contribute even if they don’t get to the national meeting.

Still not sure? Stay tuned for more information that will come out in the summer newsletters and throughout the early fall.  We will make sure you know exactly what to do, and when, and we think you will enjoy the fun of online bidding to support ESP!


Professional Development Committee Report
Mark Platten, National Professional Development Committee Chair & West Region Vice-President

The professional development committee has had a busy and productive two months as we
showcased the first of two webinars with over 150 people pre-registering! It was a great webinar
and is on the front of our website if you didn’t get a chance to see it live.

We have our second webinar on May 30 starting at noon eastern time. The title of this presentation is, “New technologies
in outreach: AR, 360 images and VR, 3D printing & crowdsourcing.” These are all new technologies Extension is using to enhance programs and reach new audiences. Be on the lookout for the webinar RSVP in the next few days.

We also received almost 100 submissions for concurrent sessions, posters, research and lightning sessions. This was almost double what we had for the 2018 conference! So, although it was a lot of work for my committee to review all the submissions, we believe we have an outstanding conference planned for you and hope you can attend.

Along those lines, our Zeta Chapter is busy putting together the final pre-conference and life member tours along with a couple of Colorado “tokens” to help you through the week. If you have a couple of extra days of vacation, we suggest coming in early and/or leaving late. The conference hotel is extending its $139 price to the pre and post conference stays. As a little incentive to stay a little longer, I’ve included a photo of the Garden of the Gods, which was ranked the #1 city park in the United States and #2 Worldwide!

Seeking an International Extension Opportunity?
Nancy Kadwill, Member - Global Relations Committee

For many extension educators, a global assignment is exciting, wonderful and a career highlight. The satisfaction of teaching, sharing ideas to help people, learning new cultural ideas, eating new foods, and getting to know another corner of the world are just some of the many benefits. The old adage, “You Learn More Than You Teach” is so true. But sometimes it’s just not possible or available. Perhaps your director/spouse is not supportive, or a myriad of other “life happens” situations get in the way of leaving for any extended period of time.

Consider a one or two-week study tour as a viable option (seriously, take vacation time if you can’t get official approval). Get immersed in local extension planning, see cultural highlights, and learn how global teachings can apply at home. I was fortunate to have traveled with the Michigan State ESP chapter to South Africa, Ireland and Peru- priceless memories!

I am pleased to share that our national Global Relations Committee is pursuing a study trip to the Philippines. We have support of the ESP Board and Utah State University and are hoping all the pieces fit together in the near future. We will keep you posted.

In the meantime, check with your university’s International Department, check out non-Extension opportunities to serve, consider volunteer vacations abroad, perhaps chaperone students, try Farmer-To-Farmer groups, mission trips, IFYE programs, etc. I recently traveled to Guatemala for a week (through Casas por Christo) and helped build a house (for a family in need) in three days!!! What an awesome experience.

“Travel is the Only Thing You Buy That Makes You Richer” is a lovely sign that sits on my kitchen window sill. Smile, enrich your life, serve and travel.


ESP Creates Positive State Partnerships
Natasha Lucas, Alpha Kappa Chapter, Member National Membership, Recruitment & Retention Committee

One of the goals of the ESP National Membership, Recruitment & Retention Committee is to examine and increase diversity of our ESP Membership.  Our desired action is to reach out to chapter presidents and membership chairs to encourage membership from 1890’s and 1994 institutions.  These partnerships between land grant universities in each state are vital to the overall growth of the Cooperative Extension Service and to your local ESP Chapter.

In my local chapter, the Alpha Kappa Chapter of Kentucky, we try to do just that.  Both the University of Kentucky and Kentucky State University make up the Kentucky Cooperative Extension System and our state ESP Chapter is no exception.  We work together on the various committees, and   have members that serve as area contacts in our chapter.  We celebrate each other’s successful award entries, work together on all ESP projects, and accomplish our chapter goals as a cohesive unit.   

In addition to our ESP Chapter, both land grants work together on many other projects, workshops and trainings on a daily basis.  Marketing the KY Cooperative Extension System through signage, sharing of resources and other strategies is also commonplace. 

Does your state have an 1890’s or 1994 institution? It would be beneficial for your state chapter to reach out to those institutions to increase membership, resources, partnerships and diversity.  To view a map on the location of all land grant universities (1862’s, 1890’s and 1994 land grant universities), please click on this link .

The National ESP MRR Committee looks forward to learning more about your efforts to include all land grant universities in your state ESP chapter.  For additional information, please contact Natasha Lucas at


Tax Break for Charitable Contributions Still Available for Seniors Even if They Can't Itemize
Doug Beech, Resource Development and Management Committee Member, Life Member, Alpha Rho Chapter/Kansas

The 2019 tax season has just wrapped up, and, for many of you, this was the first time you really came to understand the personal impact of the major new tax law (Tax Cuts and Jobs Act) passed in late 2017. Quite a few donors to charities were surprised and disappointed to discover that they would not be able to receive the tax benefit of itemizing their charitable contributions, as a result of the approximate doubling of the standard deduction under the new tax law.

But for donors age 70 ½  and older who own IRA accounts, the Charitable IRA Rollover provision of federal tax law is now an especially valuable and good friend! Indeed, for most charitably inclined seniors, Charitable IRA Rollovers (technically referred to as “qualified charitable distributions”, or QCDs) should now be considered the method of first choice or consideration for making charitable contributions. This is because IRA withdrawals made directly to charity that meet all the requirements are excluded from the taxpayer’s adjusted gross income. Their tax benefit doesn’t depend at all on whether the donor is itemizing charitable deductions or not. In effect, the taxpayer is getting a tax deduction for charitable giving without itemizing deductions.

Another valuable benefit: People reaching 70 ½ must begin taking “required minimum distributions” (RMDs) from their IRAs. Charitable IRA Rollovers count toward satisfying the IRA owner’s RMD for the year!

Now more than ever, Charitable IRA Rollovers should have a prominent place in senior’s charitable giving and tax plans. You truly owe it to yourself to visit with your tax adviser and IRA provider soon to discuss incorporating QCDs into your annual charitable gift planning. Since qualifying rollovers must go directly from your IRA provider to charity, earlier, rather than later planning in a given calendar year is encouraged in order to maximize coordination of your RMDs and rollovers for that particular calendar year.

Needless to say, National ESP would be exceedingly grateful and honored to be one of the charities you choose to receive a QCD.  In order to be of assistance, we have added information to our Development page that lists the specific rules associated with Charitable IRA Rollovers and that provides two forms that donors can utilize when making an IRA Rollover gift to National ESP. You might also want to review a prior article on Charitable IRA Rollovers that is included in the August/September 2018 edition of the ESP Connection newsletter, archived on the National ESP website.

Doug Beech can be reached by e-mail at


Extension's Involvement in Disaster
Beverly Maltsberger and Lynette Black, ESP Public Issues Committee Members

Every community in every state is susceptible to a natural disaster. Whether you live in areas that experience forest fires, tornadoes, landslides, earthquakes, hurricanes, or floods, people and property can experience disaster. Extension is uniquely positioned to assist in disaster preparedness, mitigation and recovery due to their presence in every county of every state. Extension faculty are community-based, they know the local population and have important connections and networks within those communities. Roles may differ, based upon the commitment of each state's Extension program; but, faculty can all be involved in helping people prepare for and recover from local disasters.

So, where do we start? The most critical local connection Extension faculty must make is with the city and/or county Emergency Management (EM) personnel including the director or manager. The EM director or manager needs to know what Extension can bring to the table. A working relationship with the EM director or manager is imperative. It is vital that Extension professionals are provided, in advance, with direction and training as to the specific role they will play in local disasters. Once a disaster happens, we must be ready and able to respond appropriately. In some states that role is one of preparedness. Helping people and communities prepare for a disaster is critical. Both communities and individual families need to have a disaster preparedness and response plan. Extension can help identify the important aspects of a disaster plan, identify local resources, and work with local people to develop and test their plans.

It is important to have a dependable network of individuals and organizations that can work together. Keep in mind the saying, “Passing out business cards after the disaster strikes, is too little too late.” It is of little assistance if an individual and their agency are unknown. It is important to build a working relationship with contacts from other local agencies and organizations BEFORE a disaster strikes. This provides the opportunity to build networks and learn what others have to offer during 'blue sky' times.

One way Extension can help build this kind of network is through development of Community Organizations Assisting in Disasters (COAD) groups. With the support of the local EM director of manager, COAD are formed to connect agencies and organizations with the needs of disaster survivors. They learn the function each agency/organization performs during a disaster, develop a structure that can support case management for disaster survivors and receive charitable donations used to assist families in need. COADs are set up as not-for-profit organizations. Extension has the ability to assist in the development of COADs by providing organizational development and training of board members and can facilitate training opportunities for disaster case management. 

Extension is still there after other disaster response agencies go home. That is when the critical job of recovery takes over. Research-based information is critical in assisting survivors. Extension is an important and trusted partner in this process. 


This newsletter is a publication of Epsilon Sigma Phi, Inc. - The Extension Professionals' Organization

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