Iowa State University

Iowa State University

Strategic Plan 2005-2010

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Report Brief

Report of the ISU Extension Futuring Committee: Submitted To Vice Provost Stanley Johnson, March, 2003


In October 2002 ISU Vice Provost for Extension Stanley Johnson appointed a group of Extension staff and customers to provide guidance to the organization as it approached its 100th year of providing service to Iowans (2003). The Futuring Committee was charged with four specific areas of inquiry. The Futuring Committee spent four months examining documents and plans, gathering and reviewing input, and meeting to discuss and develop its findings and recommendations.


Charge 1: Assess the environment in which Extension operates and the major tendencies for change in this environment.

  • Iowa is becoming more diverse -- a trend that will accelerate in the future.
  • Geographic delineation is only one basis from which to efficiently initiate, develop, deliver, and administer effective Extension programming.
  • Future programs and services need not be organized around the existing categories of agriculture, families, youth, business and communities, but rather on issues and services that draw upon interdisciplinary and holistic approaches to problem solving and program and service delivery.
  • In order for ISU Extension to fulfill its mission in an information-based society, the expectation is not more information, but targeted, usable information on customers' terms, not providers' terms.
  • Knowledge and information must play mediating roles to help build on common interests and goals, particularly in light of the growing heterogeneous interests and characteristics of Iowans.

Charge 2: Develop a vision for the future of the organization that is consistent with the evolving environment, the vision and the mission of Extension.

  • This vision is incorporated in the ISU Extension 2001-2005 Strategic Plan and is stated most directly in the mission statement: Iowa State University Extension builds partnerships and provides research-based learning opportunities to improve the quality of life in Iowa. We believe in quality, access, diversity, and accountability. We are dedicated to engagement, entrepreneurship, and local presence.
  • The Kellogg Commission's seven-part test of engagement can be used to help benchmark the mission: responsiveness, respect for partners, academic neutrality, accessibility, integration, coordination, and resource partnerships. The ISU Extension strategic plan offers similar characteristics for an engaged institution.
  • If these attributes are communicated to the citizens of Iowa and adhered to by ISU Extension, they provide a working vision for the organization.
  • ISU Extension will play a meaningful and significant role for Iowa in the future if Extension administration, faculty, and staff are conscientious stewards of the public resources provided and are creative and entrepreneurial in securing additional resources to further the mission.

Charge 3: Prepare a roadmap and guidelines for change that are consistent with the evolving environment, the vision and the mission of Extension.

  • The Futuring Committee organized its response to this charge around six central themes.
    • Theme 1: Breadth of clientele and subject matter
    • Theme 2: Role and posture
    • Theme 3: Geographic presence, coverage, and input
    • Theme 4: Collaboration and relationship to other entities
    • Theme 5: Program delivery modes
    • Theme 6: Internal actions and accountability

Charge 4: Establish priorities for change based on the vision and roadmap.

  • Nine action steps are listed to address one or more of the six themes (above). There was consensus among Futuring Committee members for Action Steps 1-6, but less than full committee consensus for Action Steps 7-9.
    • Action step 1: The Vice Provost for Extension should work collaboratively with the Provost and President of ISU to develop a long-term strategy to enable ISU Extension to utilize all colleges and departments to provide service to Iowa and Iowans.
    • Action step 2: (a) Establish ongoing assessment of client needs process that is fully open and forward looking. (b) Once needs have been identified, they should be prioritized and resources acquired or reallocated to support the delivery of programs and services to meet those needs.
    • Action step 3: Establish a process to systematically review all ISU Extension programming and determine comparative worth on: meeting goals of Extension's strategic plan, meeting Iowa's priority goals, alignment with sources of funding (public resources for public good versus private resources for private gain), and return on investment vis--vis outcomes and impacts.
    • Action step 4: In conjunction with County Executive Councils and the Iowa Association of County Extension Councils, develop alternative models for local presence.
    • Action step 5: Develop and implement guidelines for branding ISU Extension services and activities.
    • Action step 6: Expand a coordinated professional development program for staff to assure they are competent, state-of-the-art, 21st century Extension educators.
    • Action step 7: Establish a coordinated mechanism to help clients and staff access research and information at ISU and other institutions.
    • Action step 8: Establish an ISU Extension client information system.
    • Action step 9: To effectively implement the action steps outlined above, ISU Extension should examine the current organizational structure and distribution of resources.


Iowa State University Extension. (2003, March). Report of the ISU extension futuring committee. Ames, IA: Author.

Submitted by Leah Ewing Ross, April 2004. This is a report summary and excerpts are quoted directly from the text.

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