EmpowerU - Empowering Woodland Owners (and others)

Jan Smith leading cadets to remove privet

EmpowerU is a program developed out of the University of Minnesota Extension to address audience feedback and frustration about working with - or more accurately, not feeling comfortable approaching - decision makers. 

UMN Extension worked with 6 other states to develop and pilot a flipped classroom curriculum with eight online modules followed by one in-person daylong workshop (during the pandemic it was offered entirely online). Online learning modules include: Engagement - What, Who and Why?; Reliable Information; Who can help solve your issue?; Influence, Power & Persuasion; Good Listening & Questions; Framing an Issue; How will you engage? And Learning from others. By the end of the course each participant completes a personal engagement plan around an issue of concern. Interestingly about 70% of participant respondents described themselves as women. 

These women are changing the world! Krista Lutzta’s work getting invasive species policy changes enacted in 11 of Door County, Wisconsin’s 17 villages or towns was written about by NAISMA. Jan Smith’s efforts to remove invasive privet on the Chessie Trail in Virginia lead her to this statement, “I was so thrilled when I overheard one cadet say to another ‘No, don’t pull that bush. It’s a spicebush and host to the spicebush caterpillar. This is the privet.’  I felt like a proud momma.” Donna Boyle’s efforts to improve conservation at a local park are highlighted in this new video about the program. 

As we celebrate women’s history month I think it’s important to remember we’re still creating history and each of us can make a difference. Congratulations to these dedicated ladies. I hope you find them as inspirational as I.

EmpowerU is being offered across the country via different organizations often, but not always, connected to Extension or Master Naturalist-type programs. It is also available for free to organizations that can deliver it. Contact me, Angela Gupta, [email protected], if you’re interested. 

EmpowerU was supported by Renewable Resource Extension Act funds.

Jan Smith leading cadets photo by Lad Sessions.