Interview with an Extension Specialist

I am very excited to have gotten the opportunity to interview and have a conversation with Kelli Armbruster. While Kelli’s title is “Information Specialist”, she holds responsibility over the Extension Service’s branding and advertising, as well as their state social media accounts. I had previously heard presentations from Kelli regarding her livestock sales and advertising graphic design business in several student organizations, and from class presentations. Her main duties is to market, and brand the extension service. They are currently undergoing a brand refresh, of making all of the bulletin boards, posters, and publications all match with similar fonts, colors, and logos. She wants to make sure that everything that comes out of their office looks good, presents the right image, and tells he right story. She also wants to help the county agents learn better ways to market and advertise the extension service. Their main concern is having a cohesive look through advertising across all counties state wide. She mentioned that there were many pop-up banners from all different years and that they almost all had a different font and colors on them. We got to talking a little more regarding extensions future and how some challenges could potentially be solved within her department of Ag Comm. The overall thought process was that the Extension Service’s main strengths would need to shift accordingly to appeal and be recognized by a younger generation. Some of the ways she is working on doing helping with the shift is having each county have their own Facebook and social media pages. The hope and goal is for the county community to follow or like their county’s respective pages, and see new events and articles that are relevant to their county. Kelli mentioned that one agent had started posting webinars and Facebook Live events and answering questions from their office. This had been getting great attention, and was working well in that agent’s county. She went on to say that Extension Service has a combination of circumstances needed, as most counties are trying to appeal to both the younger generation and still connecting to the older farmers and ranchers. We discussed a little farther into the subject of where she sees the future of Extension, and she went on to share several of her ideas that involved an Extension specific search agent for each state. Kelli had mentioned that when she attends state conferences or talks to ag agents that people in the community would rather google something to find a quick answer rather than looking for an Extension publication about it. I had a previous experience with this last summer when I interned in Grand Forks County. A county resident had spent some time on google researching tree diseases, and waited to call Extension until he has already ripped out 15 trees because he had read online that they had a disease that they didn’t have.
Kelli and I spent over an hour discussing Extension, graduate school and how it relates and is important, her previous jobs that led her to NDSU, and what she wants to do in the future. Since I had previously met her several times, I felt extremely at ease interviewing her and was confident that she could say her opinion on a topic instead of what was politically correct like other interviews I had conducted. I could write pages and pages about the helpful knowledge she shared. Her most vital piece of information that she told me was that she thinks all Extension staff should have or be working towards their master’s degree. Her theory on this was that as education based staff, agents should have a technical based bachelor’s degree in something related to their field, such as Dietetics or Crop and Weed Science. Then after they have gotten the knowledge base they should go onto get an education or communications based master’s degree to help them learn the best way to share their knowledge. I definitely agree with her on this point, and it was absolutely something that I will be considering when looking at graduate degree programs.
Kelli is a fantastic person to get to know, and she is definitely someone who has plans and is trying to help shape Extension’s future for the better. I appreciated her thoughts and comments, and would go back to her for other projects or even just advice on how to best equip myself to work in Extension.

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