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Engaging all Iowans in building a stronger state, preparing for a thriving future, and solving contemporary problems in research, education, and extension are central to the mission and vision of Iowa State University Extension and Outreach (EO). Achieving these goals will hinge upon EO’s ability to innovate and respond to the needs and interests of Iowa’s diverse residents. Similar to other rural states, the composition of Iowa’s population is evolving in terms of race, nationality, economics, and education. The identities of EO staff do not reflect the communities EO is committed to serving; therefore, programming and activities may lack cultural relevance. In three small studies, Iowa State faculty and research assistants, EO staff, and community consultants (CCs) collaboratively organized local “study circles” and “action forums” in an effort to better understand underrepresented families’ needs in three Iowa counties. The team recruited 98 adults and youth to participate in these group discussions. Often, participants were not aware of EO’s mission, logo, or programs and services. Residents offered ideas for fostering familiarity, trust, and connection. CCs also listened to residents’ barriers to engagement, such as program formats and topics, and documented useful resources to enhance accessibility. Participants shared ideas for programs that they would be motivated to engage in. In this article, the authors outline connections to prior work, recommendations, and limitations.


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19 Jul 2022
262 kB



  • Alternative title
    • Finding the Community’s Voice

  • Journal title
    • Journal of Community Engagement and Scholarship

  • Volume
    • 14

  • Issue
    • 2

  • Date submitted

    19 July 2022

  • License
  • Keywords
  • Additional information
    • Acknowledgements:

      Author Note: Tera R. Jordan publishes scholarly work using her maiden name, Tera R. Hurt. The authors gratefully acknowledge the support of Iowa State University Extension and Outreach and the Black Hawk, Linn, and Crawford County Extension Councils. We are indebted to the residents who willingly participated in the group discussions. We appreciate the involvement of the community partners, whose engagement and expertise, were valuable to this process. These partners included Tina Gress, Maria Gutierrez, Lorena Lopez, Erika Macias, Jose Macias, Terry Torneten, RaeAnn Gordon, Jim Harken, Susan Liddell, Pierre Manirakiza, Devin Mehaffey, Sofia Mehaffey, Ann Torbert, Felicia Carter, Jeannette Mukayisire, Madelyn Ridgeway, Shelly Smith, and Cynthia Thompson. We are grateful to the adults and youth who gave of their time to take part in this project to make their community better.