July 11-12, 2002

 

ITEM 116-2009-R0702             Authorization to Establish a 4-H Center for Youth Development; Montana State UniversityBBozeman

 

THAT:                                   The Board of Regents of Higher Education authorizes the MSU Extension Service to establish a 4-H Center for Youth Development.

 

EXPLANATION:                     Summary:   The discipline of youth development centers on the process of adolescent growth and development relative to transitions into and out of the second decade of life.  As has become increasingly clear, positive youth development is a critical need for all young people and ensures that our society builds competent, contributing citizens who make communities strong and economically vibrant.  Youth development is interdisciplinary and is an applied discipline that has become recognized as a field of study in its own right.   Positive youth development is an intentional process of experiential, research-based educational experiences that help youth acquire the life skills necessary to become socially, morally, emotionally, physically and cognitively competent. Competent kids grow into productive adults.

 

On the centennial celebration in 2002 of the birth of 4-H, a visible Center for Youth Development at the land-grant university in Montana will provide an accessible center of expertise in youth development for the entire state.  Such a center will serve as a locus for teaching, research and outreach consistent with our historic land-grant mission.  The Center will also provide enhanced recognition to the importance of the youth development profession.  Center status will help focus attention on critical issues and topics in youth development that are larger than the existing 4-H program.  Center status will also assist existing 4-H faculty in becoming more competitive for public and private grants.  There are no other “centers” associated with the Extension Service.

 

Program Description:  Montana youth are a high priority at the state, community and family levels in our state.  Concerns range from meaningful work for youth and workforce preparation to countering the rise in youth crime and delinquency.  Life skill education is necessary to prepare youth to be contributing citizens now and in the future.  The future well-being of the nation depends on raising a generation of skilled, competent and responsible adults, yet at least 25 percent of adolescents in the country are “at risk” of not achieving “productive adulthood.”  While Extension delivers youth education through 4-H, it can and should help other youth groups and agencies to apply research-based, scientific information on positive youth development so that all youth have access to the knowledge and programs that will help them reach their potential.  Through the initiative of a 4-H Center for Youth Development, we can help create a citizenry with a love for lifelong learning, growth and economic development.

 

Serving as a statewide resource for expertise in youth development is consistent with the land-grant mission of Montana State UniversityBBozeman.  Since 1914, with the passage of the Smith-Lever Act which established the Cooperative Extension Service, 4-H and youth development have been a integral part of university outreach and student recruitment.  Today, 4-H continues to serve in a key role “to teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture” as well as assisting both youth and adults for living in a global and ever-changing world by using the resources of land-grant universities and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Montana 4-H adds value to our young people and by doing so ensures that youth are one of our most important “value-added” products in the state.   Not surprisingly, the top ten largest enrollment projects in Montana 4-H include beef, swine, horse and sheep.  Others are foods and nutrition and clothing.  All our projects focus on transferring the latest science and research for improved practices.  As a result, 4-H continues to fill a niche in working with isolated rural families, but is also reaching out to those in towns and cities who long for productive outlets in the out-of-school hours.

 

Research into the “best practices” in youth development clearly indicate that intentional, well-designed approaches result in the kinds of positive outcomes that help youth make the successful transition from adolescence to adulthood.  While youth development occurs in families, peer groups, schools and in neighborhoods and communities, it is too important to be left to chance.  A 4-H Center for Youth Development will bring together the research, resources and knowledge related to positive youth development and will serve as the locus to which all youth-serving organizations turn for information, training, research and education.  Center designation will help facilitate and expand our community involvement beyond traditional 4-H audiences.

 

Designation of a “center” for youth development will serve to bring people and resources together around common concerns and issues.  Center status will further the growing interface between Extension and other departments on the Bozeman campus as well as with the other campuses in the Montana University System.  For example, center designation can strengthen existing ties between Extension and other departments and programs.   Some of the programs that will directly benefit from the activities of the Center for Youth Development include health and human development, the Most of Us Campaign, FFA, agricultural education, and education. As recent research efforts in 4-H have demonstrated, we have the capacity to work with units like the MSU School of Nursing and faculty at MSU-Billings to collaborate on critical issues affecting today’s young people.  Leadership for the 4-H Center for Youth Development will be provided by the existing 4-H faculty and staff, supported by the Montana 4-H Foundation. 

 

Currently, our work with other campuses is not extensive, but center status will help us become more visible as a resource for other campuses.  We already have a working relationship with two facultyBDr. Russ Lord and Dr. Sharon Hobbs--in the Department of Education and Human Services at MSU-Billings.  Most recently, we collaborated with Dr. Craig Wilson in the Department of Sociology and Joe Floyd at the Computer-Assisted Telephone Lab to conduct marketing research on 4-H in Montana.  We anticipate that our collaborations with the MSU-Billings campus will be strengthened by center designation.

 

The Center will have a significant out-reach component  to provide youth development training and information to people throughout the state.  Such a center will help MSU achieve status as the repository of resident expertise and information about youth development.  The Center will also serve to elevate those engaged in the youth development profession.  Currently, faculty in the state 4-H office work closely with public schools, especially those involved with the 21st Century Community Learning Center grants.  Center designation will facilitate this interface with the public schools in Montana.

 

Following a strategic planning retreat in December 2001, it is evident that the education, prevention, and youth development constituencies around Montana support the creation of the 4-H Center for Youth Development and look forward with anticipation to the support the center can provide to organizations outside the traditional 4-H clientele, to those in the youth development profession, and to those with connections to youth development work.

 

Center Structure and Implementation:    The proposed structure of the Center for Youth Development is not much different from the current State 4-H office.  The center will include an administrator, 3 Extension Specialists, a program coordinator, the Montana 4-H Foundation, and 3 support staff. Space for the center already exists in Taylor Hall and is provided by the MSU Extension Service.

 

The 4-H Center for Youth Development will serve as a university-wide center providing a collaborative environment for program innovation and design related to youth development education and life skill development.  Center designation will help us bolster our efforts to access resources on campus to serve the entire state.

 

Partnerships will be forged with others both on-campus and off-campus who have expertise and resources in the various fields related to youth development.  We anticipate close working relationships with the departments of education, health and human development, the Museum of the Rockies, the state prevention resource center and the MSU Social Norms Project and the Most of Us campaign.

 

Other features and Structure of Implementation: Center designation will facilitate an expansion of the current state 4-H office role.  Such status will be different from what we’re currently doing by giving us a broader mandate to interface with many other groups and organizations interested in youth development.  Center status will also help us be more competitive for extra-mural grants.  We’ll be able to take on a more active teaching and research role within and outside the university.  Our new status will elevate our work in the eyes of those both on and off campus.

 

In addition to the key features listed above, the following are additional dimensions of the structure and implementation of the Center:

 

Teaching:  MSU College of Education, Health and Human Development faculty, along with faculty in the current State 4-H Office, are working in collaboration with faculty from 9 other universities in the Great PlainsBInteractive Distance Education Alliance (GP-IDEA) to offer a on-line master’s of youth development degree as well as professional certificates in youth development.  This 36-credit degree program will provide opportunities for many kinds of students to complete a master’s degree in youth development no matter their location.  MSU faculty will be providing leadership for the following courses in youth development:

 

Youth Professionals as Consumers of Research (3 credits):  This course helps youth development professionals understand and evaluate research reports to reduce anxiety about applying research results to practice.  Specific emphasis will be on research and evaluation reports related to the youth development field.  Instructor: Dr. Kirk A. Astroth, State 4-H Office

 

Foundations of Youth Development (1 credit):  This course examines the fundamentals of youth development and the youth development profession.  Through this introduction to the field, students will explore the ethical, professional and historical elements of youth development as it has evolved toward professionalization.  Instructor: Dr. Kirk A. Astroth, State 4-H Office

 

Adolescents and Their Families (3 credits): this course covers adolescent development as it is related to and intertwined with family development.  The reciprocal influences between adolescents and their families will be examined.  Working with youth vis-a-vis the family system will be highlighted.  Instructor: Dr. Jill Thorngren, Department of Health and Human Development.

 

Youth Issues and Life Skills: This course will develop three strands: issues faced by youth today and associated risk and resiliency factors; life skills for youth; and skills necessary for youth professionals to work with young people.  Instructor: Dr. Mark D. Nelson, Department of Health and Human Development.

 

In addition, faculty in the existing 4-H office have already collaborated with on-campus faculty to offer a graduate level course on volunteer management in the summer of 2000.  This course can be offered again as a part of the Center’s activities.

 

Managing VolunteersBEDCI 500 (1 credit): This course focuses on practical and theoretical material from the area of managing volunteers.  The course is designed for practitioners in various professional fields who are seeking to improve or establish a volunteer program at their institution.  The emphasis in this course is on awareness of volunteer management resources and strategies, applying resources and strategies in a pragmatic fashion, and evaluating the effectiveness of resources and strategies.  Instructors: Dr. Kirk A. Astroth, State 4-H Office; and Dr. Martin Frick, Department of Agriculture and Technology Education.

 

Finally, one faculty member in the State 4-H office currently serves as the “instructor of record” for an Extended Studies course offered by trained and certified county Extension agents.  This course has been continuously offered since 1996 and more than 350 students have taken the course for graduate credit:

 

Developing Capable Young People-EDCI 588 (2 credits): This course teaches students the three perceptions and four skills necessary for all people to deal successfully with life.  Through this course, students learn how to develop these skills and perceptions in all young people so that they can become autonomous, contributing adults.  Instructor: Dr. Kirk A. Astroth, State 4-H Office.

 

Research: With its new status as the 4-H Center for Youth Development, faculty within the current state 4-H office will have a stronger ability to collaborate with other departments on campus to conduct relevant research related to youth development.  Some of the past research efforts indicate the potential that a 4-H Center for Youth Development can have:

 

Montana Public School Students’ Out-of-School Time Study (2001):  This study reported the results of a statewide survey conducted in twenty-one randomly selected counties in Montana during the fall months of 2000.  Within each county, no more than two school districts were selected for further study, and within each school district, students in the 5th, 7th and 9th grades were selected to participate in the study using a 74-question instrument.  Nearly 2,800 surveys were returned from more than 50 schools, including schools on four of Montana’s seven reservations. Approximately 2,500 usable surveys were used in the analysis.  Faculty at the MSU College of Nursing’s Center for Research and Creativity coded and entered the data.  This data was analyzed by research faculty in the MSU Department of Health and Human Development.

 

Focus Group Study of Belgrade Employers, Educators, Parents and Students Related to Workforce Preparation. (1996)  A research project designed to examine what Belgrade employers are looking for in high school graduates and how well the schools are preparing students for these careers.  Conducted 12 focus groups of the four segments and triangulated data to produce a report for the Belgrade schools.

 

Developing Capable People--Montana (1995). A research project measuring the effectiveness of the training provided by this program to result in behavior change.  Participants complete a pre and post-test survey instrument with a follow-up survey of a random sample of participants 18 months later. Results so far show a statistically significant improvement (alpha = .05) in positive behaviors and a decline in negative behaviors.

 

The National 4-H Impact Assessment Project. (December 1997BPresent).  This national research project is designed to assess the impact of the 4-H experience on young people.   For more information on this project, visit the web site at: http://Ag.Arizona.Edu/icyf/ICYF4HPage.htm

 

Montanans Perceptions of Child Well-Being Issues. (1998) A public opinion poll of 404 randomly selected residents of Montana regarding a variety of issues related to child-well being and state funding.  A major press conference to unveil the results was held on “Stand for Children Day” June 1, 2000 on the steps of the capitol in Helena.

 

Future research efforts that current faculty wish to collaborate on include tracking the incoming freshman class at MSU-Bozeman to assist with understanding the dynamics of student recruitment and retention; a longitudinal study of 4-H club members in Montana; and tracking risk behaviors of 4-H and non-4-H participants through the state’s collection of data in the Prevention Needs Assessment.

 

Outreach:  As the 4-H program annually involves more than 25,000 youth and 4,000 adult volunteers, the 4-H Center for Youth Development will continue to have an important and central role in supporting the 4-H program, its activities and infrastructure.  4-H continues to be a critical outreach program of the university to youth and their families, and this role will continue under the proposed Center.  This outreach function will not change with the establishment of the Center.  In addition, though, the outreach efforts of the Center will be broader than the traditional 4-H program.  An important example of the kind of role the Center could play is reflected in 4-H’s leadership in convening the Montana Collaboration for YouthBan alliance of all the major state-wide youth-serving organizations in Montana.  This group has been in existence for nearly 2 years and continues to grow.  Center designation will help us leverage our skills in convening partnerships and collaborations that will benefit the people of the state, especially our youth.

 

Importance of the Center to Montana State UniversityBBozeman and the State of Montana:  The role of the 4-H Center for Youth Development is unique in its ability to be of tremendous importance to both the campuses of the university and the rest of the state.  Currently, there is no recognized center of expertise on youth development and few places for field practitioners to turn for assistance, guidance and resources related to positive youth development.  With regard to the campuses of MSU, the Center will:

 

$              play a key role in promoting “best practices” for positive youth development

$              offer practitioners and professionals access to high quality, research-based information, training and resources

$              offer students the opportunity to study key elements of youth development

$              offer practitioners and professionals access to professional certification in various components of youth development

 

With regard to the state of Montana, the Center for Youth Development will:

 

$              foster a spirit of collaboration between state agencies and non-profit organizations involved in youth development by convening groups like the Montana Collaboration for Youth

$              focus on developing today’s young people so that they can be contributing, competent citizens of tomorrow through dissemination of best practices, training and innovative use of technology

$              improve the quality of all youth development programs and organizations through training, resource-sharing, information brokering, publishing and research leadership

$              provide assistance to the broad diversity of youth development organizations, including the national youth-serving organizations like Scouts, Boys & Girls Clubs, as well as community centers, museums, arts centers, service clubs, faith-based institutions, and youth sports organizations.

 

Funding Requirements: The 4-H Center for Youth Development seeks no additional funding from the state for either personnel or operations.  Through Extension, operating funds already exist to support current faculty and their work.  This gives the Center an advantage in that it will not be totally dependent on grant funds, although the faculty will actively be seeking outside resources.  Center status, though, can only serve to enhance the work in which we are already engaged.The existing FTEs already allocated to the State 4-H Office will be part of the new Center.  Funding to support operations of the Center will be the same as those that currently support the State 4-H Office.  In addition, the Montana 4-H Foundation and faculty in the 4-H office will provide leadership for seeking extramural funding from foundations and state/federal government grants to complement its current programs.