Fort Valley State University research and Cooperative Extension personnel recently came together during a three-day conference in December 2017 to engage, learn and work as a team.
Sixty staff members attended the third annual Empowering and Motivating Personnel in Research and Extension (EMPIRE) Conference at Lanier Islands in Buford, Georgia. The theme focused on “Re-engaging the Mission.”
Celeste Allgood, FVSU’s accountability coordinator, who organizes the annual event, said EMPIRE represents the Cooperative Extension program and the agricultural research departments from the College of Agriculture, Family Sciences and Technology. The conference fosters an open climate for learning and sets the tone for the upcoming year.
Allgood said the intent is to create an environment where faculty and staff are able to discuss agricultural and community issues constructively, as well as develop trust and communication throughout the college. As a result, she noted this improves group interaction and sustains collaborative activities throughout the year, creating an excellent research and programmatic system.
“I thought this year’s conference went well,” Allgood said. “We continue to provide a forum where Extension and research professionals can engage in honest and open dialogue. They have opportunities to get to know each other and to learn from each other. The faculty and staff learn new techniques and tactics to strengthen communication and interpersonal skills. The skills, in turn, can create stronger, more dynamic relationships with our clients and stakeholders in the state of Georgia.”
Dr. Mark Latimore Jr., FVSU’s Extension administrator, echoed the same sentiments.
“I view this conference as one of the most successful ones as we attempt to bring Extension and research personnel together. We’re learning more and more about what we’re doing in research and in Extension so we can better serve our clients,” he said.
Among the activities presented at the conference included team-building exercises from inclusion practitioner Tonya Parker and development group Lapdog Inc.
Shane Sullards, president of Lapdog, and his group of professional facilitators introduced a bike initiative, where FVSU personnel worked in teams to build bicycles. The teams then personally presented the bikes to eight young boys with Eagle Ranch, a community uniquely designed to help make life better for children and families going through a crisis.
Sullards, who is an Eagle Ranch graduate, said the bike component is very tangible and a long-standing gift for the organization, which is located in Flowery Branch, Georgia.
“Their success rate with children is way higher than the national average. People give their time selflessly,” he said. “For a season of life, they impact people in an unbelievable way.”
Commending the partnerships between FVSU and other local organizations, Sullards noted this activity was a lot about connectivity in the community. “It’s win-win all around,” he said.
FVSU is Georgia’s only 1890 land-grant institution, with a mission to provide an educational opportunity for all through innovative scientific research and Cooperative Extension programs. As a land-grant institution, FVSU receives federal funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to engage in programs that are stakeholder driven and respond to emerging issues related to food and agricultural sciences.