April 1996 // Volume 34 // Number 2 // Commentary // 2COM1

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Colorado State University Cooperative Extension Creates a Blueprint for Change

Change is a way of life in Colorado and Colorado State University is charting the course for change with Cooperative Extension 2000, an innovative plan to identify and implement strategies to address Colorado's emerging priority issues. With this blueprint, we can better serve both our traditional rural audiences and our growing urban audience. Cooperative Extension educators, aided by the latest communications technology, will continue to deliver unbiased, research-based information while serving as change agents to help people identify solutions to critical local issues - issues that often focus on the interdependence of rural and urban communities.

Milan A. Rewerts
Colorado State University Cooperative Extension
Fort Collins, Colorado
Internet address: mrewerts@vines.colostate.edu

Katherine M. Timm
Outreach Relations Manager
Colorado State University
Internet address: ktimm@vines.colostate.edu

Right sizing, reinvention, restructuring, and reform are familiar words to most of us. They're synonymous with change. And, Colorado has changed dramatically during the past 80 years. Our population has exploded, people have migrated from rural to urban areas, and access to communications technology that previously was found only in science fiction movies now is commonplace.

The dramatic change we are experiencing either excites us or leaves us weary and troubled. Some of us long for the "good old days" when things seemed to be stable. Others are waiting for things to "return to normal."

Colorado State University Cooperative Extension is no exception. Our mission is to deliver timely, relevant, research- based information to society. That means we must constantly examine ways to effectively deal with right sizing, reinvention, restructuring, reform, growth - and change.

Cooperative Extension has been in a state of constant growth since it was created more than 80 years ago, and every step along the way, Extension educators have seized the opportunity to help others grow as well.

Today, Cooperative Extension is charting the course for change through implementation of Cooperative Extension 2000, an innovative plan that serves as the blueprint to help all Coloradans put knowledge to work into the next decade and beyond. The goal of the plan is to identify and implement strategies that effectively address priority issues of Colorado citizens.

Colorado State Cooperative Extension is a federal, state and county-funded program initially created primarily to serve the needs of rural communities throughout the United States. Throughout its history, however, Cooperative Extension has evolved into a sophisticated network of educators who work diligently to help improve the quality of life for all who access our programs. Today, that means rural and urban populations alike.

Providing equal access to educational information that serves the citizens of Colorado communities is our obligation and privilege as the premier outreach component of Colorado's only land-grant university.

Serving urban populations is not new to Cooperative Extension. Extension educators currently provide information and educational programs in the areas of 4-H youth development, consumer and family education, and agricultural and natural resources to all 63 Colorado counties, just as we have for the past 80 years. We did not shift our emphasis from rural to urban, rather, we focused our programs as in-migration occurred in what once were considered rural areas. And, as the population of our state continues to swell, Cooperative Extension will continue the evolutionary process of growth - a term that is synonymous with our organization.

The primary goal of Colorado State University Cooperative Extension is to help the citizens of our state put to work the knowledge borne of the research conducted at our nation's land- grant universities. Free flow of knowledge is at the heart of the land-grant system, and, indeed, our country.

The creation of land-grant colleges in 1862 influenced the western landscape by educating farmers and ranchers about the agricultural sciences, which provided the tools they needed to cultivate what was thought to be uninhabitable land. But it wasn't until 1914, when the Smith-Lever Act was passed, and Cooperative Extension educators found their place in modern history, that the western United States became a major entity in the agricultural world marketplace.

Since then, the western states have experienced constant and considerable growth. What once was considered primarily a ranching and farming state now is dominated by urban sprawl. For some long-time residents, the growth process has been painful as traffic increases, open space sprouts new housing developments, neighborhood shops are replaced by "super stores," housing costs rise, and communities grapple with the need for additional services and schools.

In contrast, some of our more traditional rural communities struggle to survive as the traditional agricultural economic base changes. Do these communities sit by and watch as native sons and daughters migrate to cities in search of higher-paying jobs and what they perceive to be a better lifestyle? Or do they draw upon the knowledge and resources available to them to identify opportunities to attract businesses to their communities that will entice their young people to remain?

In both examples, the communities in question are in a period of transition that offers tremendous growth potential. And, in both cases, Cooperative Extension educators have, and will continue, to play an important role as "change agents," who help people identify solutions to critical local issues - issues that often focus attention on the interdependence that exists among rural and urban communities.

But Cooperative Extension educators do not just act as change agents in local communities, we also affect change at the university level by providing valuable feedback to the university community about critical issues that affect our state. In many cases, this multi-channel communication system drives the research and educational programs conducted at Colorado State, contributing to Colorado's social, economic and environmental well-being.

Despite 80 years of success, we cannot and will not rest on our laurels. We will continue to embrace the changes that bombard us in this dynamic, mobile society. And, more important, we will continue to provide relevant programs of excellence to help the citizens of our great state grow and prosper in a society that simultaneously thrives on and is threatened by the change associated with right sizing, reinvention, restructuring and reform.