Since March 2015, Miranda Meehan has been working as the North Dakota State Extension Livestock Environmental Stewardship Specialist. This year, she received the Communicator of the Year award. Meehan looks at livestock in environmental actions, including a research and extension component, and effectively communicates information to producers, which led to her receiving the award.
On behalf of the NDSU agriculture communication department and the North Dakota chapter of the Association for Communication Excellence, Scott Swanson, NDSU agriculture communication electronic media specialist and state representative for North Dakota’s chapter of Association for Communication Excellence, presented the award to Meehan during the NDSU Extension conference Tuesday, Oct. 23.
Meehan explained how receiving the award was a shock: “I was very excited and humbled at the same time because I know there are a lot of people within extension that are doing great work, and so to be selected out of everybody across the system was definitely humbling.”
Meehan shared how the award is something that recognizes people in extension work that are communicating research effectively in North Dakota. Her position relies on her effective communication skills. She works with an agent in each county, relaying information to which they then relay to their producers in their specific county.
“I think one of the things that I do is I focus a lot on working with the county agents, and so that’s helping me be an effective communicator because it’s multiplying the impact of the work I’m doing,” Meehan said.
“In agriculture it’s becoming increasingly important to be a good communicator”
Most people focus on traditional aspects of relaying information, such as traveling to each county and presenting, but Meehan said she tries to implement different types of technology to further her extension. She uses tools like social media to reach audiences and created the NDSU Grazing Calculator App for producers. Meehan explained that previous recipients of the Communicator of the Year award normally implemented different communication strategies and that is why they get acknowledged for their work.
Despite her success, communication is not something that has come easily to Meehan. She explained how she used to be a very shy person, but continued to work at it. She shared how she thought agriculture was less communication based than it turned out to be and that communication is critical to the production process.
“If you aren’t able to effectively communicate, then you’re not able to get your message to the people you’re working with across the state, so I wouldn’t have an impact,” Meehan said.
Meehan continued to explain the disconnect people feel between scientists and producers and how it is essential to be able to effectively communicate scientific facts to those who do not understand the terminology.
“As scientists, we’re trained to talk to other scientists and communicate our research results, but to take that and make it so that you can communicate it to people that aren’t familiar with those scientific terms, specifically in my case, producers, is very important because if they don’t understand what you’re talking about, they’re not going to use the information you’re giving them,” Meehan said.
Meehan explained the importance of teaching others that are not familiar, especially consumers, because the technologies and information are needed to be successful in the field of agriculture.
Her position at NDSU follows the land-grant mission of the university. “The role of extension is critical – it’s a part of our land-grant university,” Meehan said. “An extension is that arm that takes the research that is being done here at the university and brings it to the citizens of the state.”
To give advice to students and those within the agricultural field, Meehan said, “Even if you don’t feel like it was a success, you might be having a bigger impact than you think you are.”