Sunday, October 25, 2015

Ag Jobs A to Z: Extension

Photo credit: Iowa State University

I know I've shared my love for social media before, but today I'm especially reminded of that as I introduce you to Dana Schweitzer. This summer I "met" Dana through #AgChat, a weekly Twitter discussion surrounding agricultural topics. Every Tuesday I saw her online, she had great comments and it was so fun to read another Iowan's perspective. At the time, I was in Indiana with Beck's Hybrids, so we didn't meet in person until I returned to campus in the fall.

Once school was back in session, we met at The Hub to chat and enjoy coffee. In a matter of minutes we discovered her husband was from my hometown, we both have an interest in travel and share a love for communications. That afternoon we shared our ag stories and personal goals. Today, I'm excited to have Dana share her story with you!

1. Where did you go to school?

My undergraduate and master’s degrees are from Iowa State.

2. What inspired you to pursue a job in Extension?

My experience in 4-H, especially State 4-H Council, introduced me to the wide variety of career opportunities in ISU Extension and Outreach. As a student intern, I worked with Iowa 4-H during the sesquicentennial Iowa State Fair in 2004. I also completed a communications internship at ISU in 2006 that introduced me to many of the faculty and staff in the largest branch of ISU Extension and Outreach, Ag & Natural Resources.

3. How long have you been working in Extension?

In my current role @ISU_Farm_Energy, I’ve been working with colleagues in Extension and Outreach to address agricultural energy efficiency for more than five years. 

4. What skills are necessary for a career in Extension?

I think those who thrive in Extension and Outreach have a desire to help people find information and resources to help them with decision-making. If you are a self-starter with an ability to clearly communicate with clients (via phone, email, face-to-face, etc.), there is a career for you with ISU Extension and Outreach. Like any large organization, the university and the statewide county offices provide a foundation, but your connections with colleagues and clients will influence your work and help you to identify and develop your strengths. 

5. How does your job fit into the agricultural industry? (Who do you work with? Who do you help? Who helps you?) 

As energy prices have fluctuated during the past several years, the ISU Farm Energy team has worked with the Iowa Energy Center, the ISU Ag & Biosystems Engineering department, and statewide utility service providers to update information and resources for agricultural producers who want to improve the energy efficiency of their crop or livestock enterprises. Our work includes case studies, field research, and tips for managing and conserving diesel, gasoline, electricity, and propane all around the farm.

6. What career/internship opportunities are there with Extension?

Many career opportunities are connected to STEM fields. For example, on the ISU campus, many departments hire undergraduate students during the academic year and some opportunities may lead to part-time or full-time summer internships. There are also state-led internship programs affiliated with specific departments or colleges at ISU, such as the Heddleson Summer Internship with Human Sciences Extension and Outreach or the Rising Star Internship Program. Some of the counties across Iowa also offer summer internships with 4-H or related youth programs.

7. Is there anything else you would like a student audience to know?

Working in a full-time career with Extension and Outreach may require hours outside the normal working week, but with that there are also great opportunities to travel for conferences, presentations, or professional training. Being a lifelong learner is important in any career, but I think it is especially valuable in Extension and Outreach as we connect with people to help them find answers to the questions that impact their businesses, communities, and families.

I'm so glad Dana and I connected on Twitter and look forward to seeing where our goals take us. Thanks to Dana for sharing her story!

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