Globalization is having a profound influence on all facets of American society. The challenge for extension is to provide leadership to demonstrate local implications and potential consequences of an interdependent world. NIFA continues to lead this initiative with the land-grant universities and colleges in internationalizing the U.S. Cooperative Extension System through innovative, cost-effective programs.
To help meet this challenge, NIFA, in cooperation with U.S. land-grant institutions, launched an initiative in 2003 to strengthen the international dimension of state extension services nationwide. With leadership from Michigan State University, the initiative sponsored two national conferences, supported a competitive grants program, developed a website and began building a network of committed extension professionals throughout the US. As a result, providing leadership in a global society has been a reoccurring theme recently at state and regional extension conferences; several states have designated staff to act as liaisons for internationalizing extension; and, support for internationalizing extension has grown among extension's professional organizations.
Since its inception, the U.S. Cooperative Extension System has successfully adapted to societal changes. In recent years, those changes have increasingly been influenced by trends and events occurring beyond our borders. In today's globally interconnected world, even the most remote, rural US community is impacted by globalization. Changing demographics in many communities are creating new audiences for extension: 47 million people in the U.S. speak a language other than English at home and 12% of our population is foreign-born. Without strengthening the international dimension of its programs, extension will be unable to fully serve the changing needs of its local clientele. Whether it is increasing market opportunities overseas, understanding international environmental and health issues, or using cross-cultural skills to better serve diverse domestic audiences, extension can play a critical role.
NIFA intends to build on the initiative's momentum by continuing to develop a nationwide network of extension leaders and utilizing new technologies and local resources to implement innovative, cost-effective programs. We will broaden collaboration with professional extension organizations, NASULGC, non-governmental organizations, and other federal agencies with similar agendas. We intend to measure the success of this initiative not only in terms of professional development for extension staff, but by the benefits local clientele derive from an increased understanding of global connections.