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  • Tori Thoele

MU Extension: A Hidden Gem

MU Extension, which is an extension of the University of Missouri, falls under the UM System and includes these four colleges: UMSL, Mizzou, S&T, and UMKC. MU Extension and more specifically, MU Extension Saint Louis County, offers many diverse, and unique opportunities. MU Extension has done extensive research at the university level and on the scientific level to make sure the opportunities and classes they offer are reliable and are helping the community achieve their highest potential; they are here to offer a helping hand. The St. Louis County

Extension provides programs for youth, families, businesses and communities, and

the horticulture community.

There are three grand challenges MU Extension focuses on, which are: economic opportunity, health, and educational access and excellence. They offer many classes that fall under these categories, such as Neighborhood Leadership Academy and Neighborhood Leadership Fellows, the Youth Empowerment Program, the Master Gardeners program, the St. Louis Storytelling Festival, and 4-H Clubs like the Robotics club. The classes that would be most appealing, or have the most opportunities to build a better resume for college students, are the Neighborhood Leadership Academy and the Neighborhood Leadership Fellows.

Adam Brown, who is new to the St. Louis County Extension Council and is currently studying at UMSL to complete his master’s degree in public policy and administration, recommends NLA. “For anyone interested in Community Development, I would recommend the Neighborhood Leadership Academy - this is a class that helps develop local leaders who are empowered to create change in their own neighborhoods.” Jody Squires, MU Extension’s Urban East Regional Director, also says that NLA and NLF are geared toward college students who want to learn how to be a better leader and to be a leader within the community. “Neighborhood Leadership Academy and Neighborhood Leadership Fellows are two programs specifically geared toward civic engagement and community action,” she explains.

Squires also recommends volunteering for MU Extension. “Volunteers are a big part of how MU Extension reaches the community and connects with diverse populations. We are always looking for members to serve on our local County Extension Councils.” In order to run for MU Extensions council, one must be 18 years of age and be elected by people of St. Louis County. MU Extension council members work with MU Extension specialists to provide educational programming, and they manage the finances of the local extension operations. Council elections are every year in January for new members. Not only does volunteering introduce college students to people from different backgrounds, but it also creates an opportunity to gain experience in their future career field.

Teyuna Darris, a formal UMSL student who is pursuing her Ph.D. was previously on St. Louis County Extension Council, and she pointed out that people who are earning a teaching/education degree would benefit from volunteering in teaching a few courses such as 4H-Girls. Teyuna became a student for the Neighborhood Leadership Fellows which is where she learned more about the programs and opportunities that MU Extension has to offer college students. She decided to take the Neighborhood Leadership Academy class which taught her how to be a better leader and communicator. “I didn’t know that UMSL had arms that reached out,” Teyuna remarked. “To me, MU Extension means helping people survive. I’m a firm believer in pulling yourself up by the bootstraps, but everyone might only have the boots but they don’t have the straps. Or they might have the boots and the straps but they might not know how to tie them, and so that’s where compassion meets policy” Teyuna added.

Through NLF and NLA college students can learn how to make business connections and learn how to better network. ”When I walked out of NLF I walked out of there with a lot of information about the region, I walked out with a big network of people from superintendents, to academic coordinators to non profit start ups and business start ups, boys and girls club connections. Every week you’re meeting two to six people who work in different fields who go through those doors.” remarked Teyuna. Through different experiences, NLF also helps students discover what area they want to study.

Another series that MU Extension offers that pertains to college students is called the Labor Law Series. The Labor Law Series is a forum that brings academics, researchers, attorneys, and arbitrators to teach how to better improve their work environments for not only the employer but the employee too. The Labor Law series takes a look at the changing issues in the world today and what impacts the law of employment that surrounds employees and businesses. People come from the labor community in the mornings, every second Wednesday of the month. This series would be of great interest to business, economic, and labor studies students to grow their network and learn about the work environment. How the series is structured is that the educators look for issues that are starting to trend and develop a theme in the community and look for a way to connect/help laborers and business communities’ employees deal with those problems. The series is open to the general public and has been around for 15-20 years.

Douglas Swanson, a field specialist in labor and workforce development for MU Extension, also holds ties with UMSL. At UMSL Douglas is a part of the political science and history department faculty, and coordinates/teaches the labor studies certificate. The labor studies certificate is a six course certificate that can be taken at UMSL. The class titles include: Labor, Work, Society and Politics, Labor and Employment Law, Work and Working Peoples’ History, Workers and Globalizing, Labor and Community Leadership, Negotiation, Collective Bargaining, and Dispute Resolution. Once the six classes are completed, students will be rewarded a labor studies certificate which was just approved by the department of higher education. This certificate would appear on students' transcripts. On working for both MU Extension and UMSL Swanson stated, “I wear two hats, it does provide a great opportunity to be in the MU Extension space talking about UMSL, and in the UMSL space talking about the extension and helping different partners understand the value of both organizations.”

MU Extension is not only a great resource for the community, but for college students as well. They offer many classes and series to not only provide a stepping stone into the professional world, but it can also be a place that helps someone discover what they love to do within hands-on teaching and university level research. “MU is a resource for practical knowledge about practically everything,” stated Douglas. The next course for the labor law certificate, Collective Bargaining, starts at UMSL next spring. To learn about more upcoming classes/series that MU Extension offers you can go to

2019 Neighborhood Leadership Academy (NLA) Graduates


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