Number CLV The Newsletter of Epsilon Sigma Phi March 2021

 Returning to Normal?
Peggy Compton, National ESP President

One year ago this week, I was headed to the Philippines – excited to be participating in the 1st International Extension Professional Development Program sponsored in part by our National Global Relations Committee. But I was also feeling anxious about the many unknowns around the pandemic that was just beginning to make headlines and had not yet made SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 household terms. Although overshadowed by the early days of the pandemic, the trip was still a wonderful experience. In many ways those two weeks on the other side of the world prepared me for what was to come after returning home since we had already experienced mask-wearing, temperature checks, hand sanitizing and new COVID air travel protocols. While returning to the U.S. March 14-15, we were trying to keep informed of the rapidly changing conditions as best we could. For me, this included learning though e-mail that Wisconsin Extension faculty and staff should begin working from home starting Monday, March 17, 2020. I literally stopped at my office on the way home from the airport and picked up a “few things” so that I’d be prepared to work from home the following day.

I think we were all wondering, “When will we return to normal? A few weeks? A few months?” It seemed like we would just be taking a short pause in our routine. And now, after a year has passed and I’m still working from home, I’m asking, not “when” we will return to normal, but “what” that normal will look like? In our Extension programming we are teaching and supporting our clients – youth, adults, businesses, communities, organizations – in ways that would not have been “normal” 12 months ago. And our Extension Professional Associations are serving our members in new ways and through new means than we would have just a year ago. In October, our all-virtual National ESP Conference had record high participation as did the JCEP Extension Leadership Conference last month.

With so many successes, failures, and innovations of the pandemic now behind us, will our Extension programs and Associations like ESP return to normal in 2021?  Perhaps our challenge now is to NOT return to normal, but rather to use every bit of what we have experienced in 2020 to shape the future of Extension and our Professional Associations.


Upcoming Events and Deadlines

Presentation Proposals for 2021 National Conference Due - 3/8/2021

National Board Applications - 4/1/2021

Public Issues Leadership Development Conference (PILD) - 04/12/2021 • Arlington, VA

Nominations for National Committees - 5/1/2021

Scholarships Deadline - 5/1/2021

  • Richard R. Angus Professional Development Scholarship (a second round for applications is announced due to available funding)
  • Justin Morrill Scholarship 
  • Redinger Administrator/Leader Scholarship

Grants Deadline - 5/1/2021 (a second round for applications is announced due to available funding)

  • Professional Development Programming Grant 
  • Rita T. Wood Grant 

2021 ESP National Conference - October 25 thru 28, 2020 * Savannah, Georgia

For additional events and deadlines, visit the ESP Home page


ESP Website Release
by Greg Price, National ESP Executive Director

An updated version of the ESP website was released in February.  The URL will remain the same We encourage you to explore the new site.  In addition to the look of the new site, there are many structural changes. Here are a few.

Almost all of the website now requires you to log in with your ESP email and password.  This change provides for a better user experience because we can customize different views.  Secondly it provides a higher level of security to member information.

The menu structure has changed.  Breadcrumbs (location display) have been added to most pages to help you know where you are and to provide for easy navigation back to previous pages.  A new footer menu containing popular pages is now present on the bottom of most pages. A new Chapter Officers Toolbox was added as a resource to help chapter officers quickly locate information needed to support the local chapter.

A new discussion page includes discussion news and discussion forums to encourage member participation.  One forum is dedicated to national ESP topics.  A second forum is dedicated to chapter news. In the chapter news forum, any chapter officer may post. Any member may comment. Posts to the Chapter News forum will also show up on the ESP homepage.

While most of the website is now restricted to members, a new “public” site was added.  This includes the ESP homepage and an individual public page for every chapter.  The public chapter sites are intended to direct new members or others seeking information to the correct individuals. Check out your chapter page.

The biggest change is the opportunity for chapters to house their own chapter member pages on the national site.  Chapters wanting to do this will have full access to and control of their pages.  Information on chapter member sites will go to chapter officers very soon.

Work will continue to improve the site based on your feedback. One major section still under construction is the History/Archives area where we still have lots of content to add. Please let us know what you think at  

We would like to thank Amy Cole, Karen Sergent, Mary Ann Kizer, Gwynn Stewart, Peggy Compton, Daphne Richards, and Chad Proudfoot who played various roles in advising and supporting this project along the way.  Thanks to the 23 members currently serving on the review committee who have been providing feedback along the way and are still engaged in reviewing the site for improvements.

Membership Directory Improvements

As part of the new website design, the ESP membership directory has been greatly expanded.  You can now enter your bio and area of expertise.  Other fields such as state regions/districts, county office/campus location, initial starting dates, Extension working title, and University are just some of the new fields added at the request of chapters.  You can update your profile today by clicking on your name within the ESP website.   Don’t forget to add your picture also.


Rita T. Wood Grant Recipient
by Jennifer Bridge, Kentucky Alpha Kappa Chapter Member

As the first recipient of the Rita T. Wood award, the Alpha Kappa Chapter used the funds to support the ESP-Alpha Kappa Chapter Leads program. The program's focus on leadership development allows members to prepare for future roles in associations and promotion within the extension system. The first cohort of Leads began meeting in the Fall of 2019, with program graduation set for March of 2021. Participants were to attend a variety of in-person sessions focusing on essential leadership skills and learning opportunities. Each participant also had to implement and evaluate a program on the local level and present findings at the 2021 Annual meeting. Covid-19 halted in-person meetings. Sessions were moved to a virtual format but learning about facilitation, working with boards, and using parliamentary procedure online was not as effective as in person. Also, individual projects had to be adapted to meet realistic approaches and expectations.

Using evaluation information from the virtual pieces of training and input from participants concerning individual projects, the steering committee made the difficult decision to extend the program. Using funds from the Rita T. Wood Grant, participants received a book to use in a group discussion. The focus book Dare to Lead by Brene Brown, was selected based on its applicability and online support with a dedicated hub for individual leadership assessment, book discussion support, and online workbook.

Participants are currently participating in an online book club led by one of the participants. In the upcoming months, participants will meet on line as individuals report on their projects. Current plans are to formally recognize and award those who complete Cohort 1 at the state extension meeting later this year.

Alpha Kappa Chapter is appreciative of the funds provided through the Rita T. Wood grant. The extra support greatly enhanced the ESP Leads program.


Elevate Extension Speech Contest
by Sheriden Hansen, Utah Iota Chapter; National Public Issues Committee

Congratulations to the winners of the Elevate Extension Speech Contest. Contestants submitted a 60-second video on the topic “How has Extension Responded During the Pandemic? – Share Your Success”. Winners were selected by the ESP Public Issues Committee in two categories: Multi-program area and single program area. First place winners received $75, second place winners received $50, and third place winners received $25. Thank you to everyone who submitted an entry and took time to showcase how Extension programming has made a difference in the communities we serve. The top three videos for each category can be found on the ESP website and the ESP YouTube Channel. 

View 2020 Winning Videos Here!


1st Place – Janet Turley, University of Kentucky, “Extension on the Go”

2nd Place – Apriell Burgess, Alabama Cooperative Extension Service, “4-H Power Pack”

3rd Place – Amanda Raines, Ohio State University, “Virtual 4-H Teen Club – Your Thoughts Matter”


1st Place – Lori Korthals, Iowa State University, “Science of Parenting”

2nd Place – Timothy McDermott, Ohio State University, “Grow Your Own Food”

3rd Place – Kristen Johnson, University of Tennessee, “FCS Nutrition Food Safety Efforts”

Portfolio Update and Review
by Joanne Cavis and Doug Beech, National Resource Development and Management Committee 

One of the major responsibilities of the National ESP Resource Development and Management Committee is to monitor our organization’s investments and review investment reports from our Investment Advisor, Patten & Patten Inc.  Patten & Patten delivers written quarterly reports to the ESP Executive Director and makes oral presentations to the Board and RDM Committee twice a year.

Their most recent portfolio update and review was given on February 16, 2021 via Zoom.  The National ESP Development Fund had a total market value of $961,178 as of February 11, 2021, and the National ESP Organizational Fund was worth $292,762 on the same date.  Thus, the combined value of the two portfolios was greater than $1 Million!  ($1,253,940).

For the year 2020, the total net return of both accounts was 9.00%.  Both accounts recovered from the stock market volatility due to the COVID -19 pandemic.  The two accounts increased in value by $154,223 in 2020, and generated $20,769 in income.  Asset allocation charts for both portfolios were presented.

The RDM Committee thought that our membership might find the most recent Patten & Patten “Outlook and Market Commentary of interest.  It is reproduced below:

Outlook and Market Commentary by Patten & Patten:  The forward look into 2021 is optimistic.  The key to market and economic performance in 2021 will be vaccine distribution, a daunting logistical challenge that will experience occasional missteps.  Consequently, we expect uneven economic growth characterized by frequent, but temporary setbacks, especially during the first half of the year.  Economic data will remain quite distorted and volatile because of the pandemic, but by the second half of the year, we expect a gradual return to normalcy.

The economic dislocation created by the pandemic was atypical for supply and demand which was out of balance.  Economic damage was concentrated in the restaurant, leisure, travel, hospitality, and entertainment sectors.  Vaccine distribution should lead to capacity restoration, especially among those sectors that suffered the most from restrictions.

We expect the corporate priorities could shift as the paramount objectives of efficiency and productivity are supplanted to a certain extent by security and redundancy. It is possible that investors will begin to favor more resilient supply chains, even at the expense of margins.  Concepts such as “just in time” inventory management could lose luster to “just in case” storage.

Another source of economic volatility will be the tension between demand that has been “pulled forward” and demand that remains “pent up”. COVID-19 has no modern historical precedent against which to make comparisons.  Additionally, we expect temporary spikes in inflation that could, in turn, prompt investors to question the policy direction of the Federal Reserve.

COVID-19 accelerated the Darwinian nature of capitalism as legacy industries already in slow decline, such as many bricks-and-mortar retail formats ultimately succumbed to competitive forces.  Certain sectors have already witnessed dominance of new business models that leverage technology, facilitate distance, and improve productivity.  The pandemic also validated and accelerated adoption of services, such as video conferencing, that had otherwise been experiencing slow growth.  Most important, however, the global scientific effort to develop diagnostics, therapies, treatments, and vaccines highlights, perhaps, the greatest acceleration of research since the Great Space Race of the 1960s.  Society will likely benefit for decades, in ways currently unimaginable, from applications developed from advances made during the last year in health care.

Eventually, policy makers will shift their focus to the politically-motivated process of contending with the explosion of public debt issued to support the economy during the pandemic.  We do not believe this is a debate that will pre-occupy market participants during 2021.  Nevertheless, we are concerned that a premature discussion of fiscal austerity could serve to inhibit post-COVID economic growth. 


Industry-University Partnership Facilitating International Internship in Sustainable Agriculture
by Jehangir Bhadha, Member, National Global Relations Committee 

The ESP Global Relations Committee works with members and affiliates to identify opportunities and international and global programs of interest to members.  We are hard at work identifying successful programs which may serve as a model and strengthen our support to chapters and their global committees as part of our Strategic Initiative in our Plan of Work to build international interest.  University of Florida has developed a partnership with the U.S. Sugar Corporation which exemplifies one such opportunity in sustainable agriculture.

For several years the University of Florida (UF) and U.S. Sugar Corporation have successfully conducted a joint program that provides internship opportunities to undergraduates from Brazil. Every Fall semester up to two interns from Luiz de Queiroz College of Agricultural (ESALQ/USP) Brazil are selected to complete a 4-month internship on the topic of sustainable agriculture. This is a paid internship funded by U.S. Sugar and supervised by Dr. Jehangir Bhadha (Assistant Professor, UF - Soil and Water Sciences Department). The interns travel on a J-1 visa and participate in the Exchange Visitor Program. The program is unique because it not only exposes the interns to different cultural activities and traditions, but more importantly it exposes them to both academic and private company research opportunities. Most interns in this program have never been exposed to a private company setting; at the same time, the interns get to interact with fellow graduate students and postdocs working in the lab and field on topics related to sugarcane nutrition and production, soil sustainability and environmental quality. During their visit, the interns have the opportunity to present at a departmental symposium, and attend traditional Thanksgiving feast with faculty members and their families. The interns also get to participate in extension and outreach activities such as local fall festival, farmers market, field days, and open-houses. Thanks to this industry-university partnership, as of date 8 student interns from ESALQ have successfully completed the program and gone on to pursue graduate studies or placed in industry related jobs. All ESP members are welcome to participate in the ESP Global Relations committee to learn about additional global opportunities for Extension professionals.


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

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