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Urban Programs

We Grow People – Profiles of Extension Educators

We Grow People – Profiles of Extension Educators is a program of Cornell University Cooperative Extension of New York City and is supported by NIFA.

Cornell University experimented with an approach to staff development in extension education that centered on the development and discussion of “practitioner profiles.” Practitioner profiles, simply put, are first-person accounts of what educators do, feel, and experience in specific examples of their work. The program began as an experiment with extension practitioners working at an urban housing project in Harlem and with 13 Cornell University graduate students and one professor.

The students interviewed various extension educators who volunteered to talk with them and share their profiles. The educators worked in the areas of community nutrition education, nutrition programs, environmental issues, new farmers/new markets urban agriculture program, in workforce and 4-H youth development, and in EFNEP nutrition programs. During the educators' interviews, it was apparent that it was difficult for them to articulate what they do. Some said they are building people, families, and communities. Others described their work as organizers and brokers; schmoozers and scavengers; cheerleaders and encouragers of dreams; strategic planners and community builders; partners, friends, and mothers. The official language of “technical assistance” and “putting knowledge to work” by itself is far too narrow and flat to capture the rich, varied, nuanced practice of extension education.

The documented profiles gleaned from these interviews can be used as the basis for either individual or group reflection and learning activities. The learning outcomes made possible through creative use of practice stories range from modest, individual insights to a fundamental review of organization mission and direction. The profiles from this project reveal the essence of extension education as it is practiced in the urban context of New York City. But despite their urban focus and context, educators in all settings will find something in these profiles to learn from and relate to.


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