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Integration in Action: A New Series

Posted by | April 23, 2010

Since President Floyd announced our reorganization more than a year ago, we have worked to define and implement an integration of the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences and WSU Extension. Questions remain for many, though, about what we actually mean when we say “integration.”

Perhaps the best way to articulate the ideal is to provide examples of it in action. Over the next several weeks, we’ll feature successful integration stories in CAHNRS News and in the Dean’s Blog. These are stories about the power of partnering between departmental and county faculty. In each of them, faculty members have accomplished things together that they couldn’t have accomplished alone.

One prime example comes from WSU Whatcom County Extension and the Department of Human Development. Extension educator Drew Betz, who is located in Bellingham, has partnered with Professor Laura Hill and others since 2001. Betz leads WSU Extension’s Strengthening Families Program for Parents and Youth 10-14, a national program delivered throughout Washington by WSU Extension faculty. Hill conducts research on the effectiveness of prevention programs.

Betz and the counties with a Strengthening Families program had data about the number and nature of families with whom they’ve worked. Hill had the assessment and analysis tools needed to interpret that data in terms of effectiveness and impact.

The beauty of integration? Working together, Betz and Hill develop the research questions they want to answer, collect the data and analyze it to answer those questions. It is truly an integrated, collaborative scholarship endeavor. County Extension faculty generate research questions and produce research for journals and national conferences in this project. On-campus faculty members help with the outreach effort by processing data and generating reports for community partners.

This partnership goes a giant step further. In April 2009, Betz and Hill joined forces with Professors Robby Rosenman and Ron Mittelhammer from the School of Economic Sciences as well as Bidisha Mandal, an Extension economist specializing in health issues. Their proposal was to develop new models to assess the cost effectiveness of programs such as Strengthening Families. They received a two-year, $275,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health to conduct that research.

I look forward to sharing more success stories with you over the next several weeks. They highlight the opportunities available by leveraging all aspects of the university in the programs we offer.