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Not your father’s Extension! The transformation of an organizational model

Part 2 of a 2-part series on program support projects happening in Virginia and Pennsylvania. If interested, also plan to participate in Part 1 on November 2nd, Extension21 – Support Modernization for Virginia Cooperative Extension. Audience: Extension directors, administrators, communication professionals, program teams and anyone else interested.

IBM is the corporate poster child of both success and failure. Once at the pinnacle of achievement for American corporations, in less than 10 years was days away from bankruptcy. Resting on its laurels, they became a dinosaur. In today’s world, it doesn’t take 10 years. With the reality of change or die, Penn State Extension is changing - moving full speed ahead – changing what we do and how we do it, with our sights fully focused on our customers! We are strategically implementing new operational technologies and strategies that allow us to interact with our customers in ways never before possible. We are developing a new product line focused on customer usability and priorities. We are dramatically expanding our reach and relevance. It has been a long, challenging and winding road. In this webinar we will give a sneak peek at the new Penn State Extension and an overview of the strategy, the structure, and the status, as well as lessons learned along the way.

Our presenters are Mary F. Wirth and Jon Emigh

Mary Wirth is currently serving as the Director of College Relations and Communications for the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences. The office is a component of the dean’s office that manages the college’s relationships and strategic communications with external audiences – with a focus on alumni, industry and legislators as well as future students − and covers all three mission areas of the college including education, research and extension.

The communications component includes a team of designers, writers, editors, photography, web, and creative specialists as well as business and marketing experts that are responsible for a variety of communication and marketing strategies. These include the college website and social media, E-commerce, CRM (customer relationship management), online registration, Extension and research publications, the publication distribution center, the college magazine, media releases as well as student recruitment publications and promotional pieces. The group also manages the college digital product development, including non-credit and credit online courses, and oversees the college branding efforts.

She is responsible for governmental relations efforts in the college, with a focus on appropriations, as well as industry relations and serves as the executive director of the Penn State Ag Council, an agricultural industry advisory/advocacy group that works to develop mutually beneficial relationships with college stakeholders that leads to support for the college.  

She also directs the college office of Conferences and Short Courses, a continuing education support unit for the college.  

Prior to accepting this position Mary worked in public relations and government affairs at both the state and federal levels on forestry issues for more than a decade, has extensive experience in natural resource issues, and served on both Congressional and Gubernatorial advisory committees on forestry issues.

She has a B.S. from the Penn State College of Ag Sciences, where she has now been employed for the past 15 years.

Jon Emigh is Associate Director of Business Operations for the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences.

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About the Extension Foundation

The Extension Foundation was formed in 2006 by Extension Directors and Administrators. Today, the Foundation partners with Cooperative Extension through liaison roles and a formal plan of work with the Extension Committee on Organization and Policy (ECOP) to increase system capacity while providing programmatic services, and helping Extension programs scale and investigate new methods and models for implementing programs. The Foundation provides professional development to Cooperative Extension professionals and offers exclusive services to its members. In 2020 and 2021, the Extension Foundation has awarded 85% of its direct funding back to the Cooperative Extension System, 100% of funds are used to support Cooperative Extension initiatives. 

This technology is supported in part by New Technologies for Agriculture Extension grant no. 2020-41595-30123 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture and membership funding. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the content are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. For more information, please visit You can view the terms of useat

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