Minnesota Extension's new design emerges

18 centers all that could be afforded

By Janet Kubat Willette

The University of Minnesota Extension Service's new design is starting to emerge.

Last week, Extension Dean and Director Charles Casey announced the 18 communities that will be home to regional Extension centers.


Regional Extension educators are in the process of filling out interest surveys to indicate what areas they would like to work in and where. Regional center staff should be announced by September. Extension educators who will work in customized positions at the county level will also be announced in the fall.

The Extension Service announced it was moving to a regional center model in May, after the state legislature cut University of Minnesota funding in a budget-balancing session. The reorganization comes a year after Extension laid off or gave early retirement to 15 percent of its staff in an effort to deal with stagnant state and federal support.

Funding issues continue to plague Extension as it moves forward. At one time, Casey said up to 22 centers could be located across the state. The number was scaled back to 18 because it's "probably as many centers as we can afford," he said. "We would like to do more."

But the 18 centers do give Extension a presence across the state, Casey said, allowing for programs to be carried out from Houston to Kittson counties and from Rock to Cook.

Choosing the 18 center locations was no easy task, Casey said.

"We had a hundred communities that submitted proposals," he said. "We obviously only had 18 we could select. It's very hard to fit 100 communities into 18. We looked at our criteria …; geographic distribution …; technology support …; all of those criteria and made some difficult decisions."

The University of Minnesota outlined nine criteria to judge regional center applicants, including partnership opportunities, technology access and location.

Locations for centers within the communities has not been determined. Casey said this will happen on a community-by-community basis throughout the remainder of 2003. The regional centers will open Jan. 2.

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