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Crawford takes state extension position

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

After 30 years serving Saline County as a family financial extension specialist, Cynthia Crawford has become the new University Extension Director of Donor Education.
When offered a new opportunity within the University of Missouri Extension system, Cynthia Crawford, Ph.D, had to decide if she was going to abide by one of her own lessons.

"I've taught for years, even if your not looking to change, you need to be open to new opportunities and to new challenges," Crawford said. "When I was recruited I thought, 'Now, were you just giving that lip service or do you truly believe?'"

On Jan. 1, Crawford accepted the new position as Director of Donor Education for University Extension. In August 2012, she had celebrated 30 years as a family financial education specialist. After being based in Carroll county for 10 years, Crawford and her family moved to Marshall in 1993. She has spent 20 years in the Saline County office.

When the job first became available, Crawford said she wasn't initially interested.

"I really felt like 2012 was my best year of extension work," she said, adding she was happy with the financial education work she was accomplishing. "On the other hand, part of being a leader is moving on and getting out of the way. I felt like, at the 30-year milestone, it was time to get out of the way and let Saline County have new opportunities."

"I can truly say I gave it my best while I was here in Saline County," she added. "I could have done more of the same for the next 10 years, but perhaps my successor will have strengths I did not have."

Crawford and her husband, Robert, a local attorney, will be staying in Marshall.

With her new position she will have a local office, as well as an office at the MU campus in Columbia. Her position also requires extensive travel within Missouri,

"My husband and I do live in Marshall and his business will continue here," she said. "I'll be here some and I'll be in Columbia some, and I'll be out and about the state a lot working with our faculty and staff, with extension councils."

The mission for her new job is to "change the culture of our organization to have a more diversified income stream," she said. "While we are certainly grateful and it is critical to have our federal, state and county funding, we cannot rely on that. So we are looking at keeping that solid while adding to it."

State extension funding has been cut up to one-third in recent years.

"We have cut back, but our goal is to ramp up our mission which is to serve the people of Missouri with critical information at critical times," she said. "My goal is growth for the organization because the needs have never been greater than they are today for university extension's work."

Crawford will be working on the mission in three areas:

-- with extension faculty and staff to "get our people constantly thinking about additional sources of income in order to continue to do the mission of extension;"

--with donors. "I don't think that many people know the door is open to giving with University extension," Crawford said. "We haven't done a good job of saying the door is open for giving."

--with (extension) retirees and "continuing to honor the critical role they played during their working years and also to honor them in their retirement."

Although she said she will miss her financial education work, she will be able to use some of her knowledge into her new position.

"I am already figuring out how to incorporate some of that in the donor education work," she said. "For example, there is a lot of work to be done in estate planning and retirement planning."

Although after this year she will give up her position on the Saline County Women in Agriculture Regional Conference planning committee, she will be working with other Women in Agriculture conferences.

"I'll be working with them across the state doing some sessions on estate planning and retirement planning and deliberate decision-making when it comes to charitable giving," she said.

Crawford served as Program Director in the Saline County office for several years. However, a few years ago she and 4-H youth specialist Amanda Struchtemeyer began sharing those duties. "So that meant she was well prepared to move right into the CPD role," Crawford said. "I have every confidence of her ability and the ability of everyone who works in this office."

She also had praise for Saline County commissioners, as well as Saline County's extension council.

"If I could, I would clone the Saline County council, so other counties could have the committed and proactive approach this council takes. I'm not saying there aren't good councils other places; I am saying that I think this council is absolutely outstanding," she said. "Saline County extension has grown a great deal and is recognized as being on the cutting edge of extension work."

Crawford holds a doctoral degree in adult education with emphasis in community development and consumer and family economics from the University of Missouri. She also earned an education specialist degree and Master of Science in family and consumer economics, both from MU. Her B.S. in education is from Northeast Missouri State University (now Truman State). She was among the first group to be promoted to Extension Professional in MU's Non-tenure Track promotion system and was a member of the first cohort of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation International Leadership Fellows.

From 2000-2002, she carried out a special assignment, identifying and recruiting prospects for field faculty and system administration employment positions. Her varied educational programs have included financial counseling, estate and retirement planning, agri-tourism and creative decision making. She has recorded nearly 4,000 one-minute radio cuts, aired for more than 300 million cumulative listeners. She also has directed more than $500,000 in grant funded programs for rural Missouri.

Crawford and her husband have been married over 35 years. Their daughter, Lea works for the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority in Kansas City. Their son, Ross, who graduated last year from the University of Missouri, is a nuclear medicine scientist in Kansas City.

Although she spent much of December being overwhelmed with the new challenges ahead, now that she has started the job, Crawford is feeling more comfortable.

"I'm feeling really just very excited about this work as long as I can just take it one step at a time," she said. "I realize so much of what I have done over the years has prepared me to do this position."

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