ESP Membership Benefits

An Extension Professional

Epsilon Sigma Phi provides the following definition of an Extension Professional:

  • Is trained, experienced, and knowledgeable
  • Is culturally competent and demonstrates the ability to work with diverse audiences in a variety of settings
  • Exhibits excellent oral and written communication skills
  • Manages, networks, and collaborates to build alliances and partnerships
  • Adheres to high standards of personal and professional ethics
  • Demonstrates ability to work independently and is self-directed
  • Is an effective team member
  • Uses informational and educational technology to accomplish goals
  • Teaches in formal and informal settings as appropriate
  • Is a lifelong learner
  • Embraces and adapts to change
  • Upholds the Land Grant mission and that of his/her University
  • Is a scholar and demonstrates scholarship throughout his/her work
  • Is nationally engaged with educational presentations, research and professional development
  • Is a change agent, one who creates learning experiences that motivate and empower others to improve their life, family, business, community and world
  • Is a recognized source of practical, researched-based educational information
  • Maintains a positive attitude
  • Treats clients, colleagues and stakeholders with respect

Adopted by Epsilon Sigma Phi, 2008

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Understanding The Mission And Activities of
Epsilon Sigma Phi, Inc.

Even though Epsilon Sigma Phi (ESP) is an entirely free standing not-for-profit organization, to develop an understanding of ESP here is a capsule background of the Extension System in which ESP members are employed as Extension professionals. The Cooperative Extension System is a publicly funded, lifelong educational system that links the education and research resources and activities of 74 land-grant institutions, 3,150 counties and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The institutions are the land-grant universities established by the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890; institutions of the territories; Tuskegee University; and the University of the District of Columbia. Additional legislations in 1994, established the tribal colleges affiliation with the Extension System. This complex system is authorized by the Smith-Lever Act of 1914 and companion legislation in each state and territory.

Despite the sharp decline in the size and economic importance of rural America, the national Cooperative Extension System remains an important player in American life. Extension professionals are educators, scientists and support personnel who deliver university research to clientele by transforming “research into reality”. Field (off-campus) staff is the means of adapting research to the every day lives of people they serve. They are facilitators to empower people to solve their own problems. It has adapted to changing times and landscapes, and it continues to address a wide range of human, plant, and animal needs in both urban and rural areas. Today, extension works in six major areas:

  • 4-H Youth Development—cultivates important life skills in youth that build character and assist them in making appropriate life and career choices. At-risk youth participate in school retention and enrichment programs. Youth learn science, math, social skills, and much more, through hands-on projects and activities.
  • Agriculture—research and educational programs help individuals learn new ways to produce income through alternative enterprises, improved marketing strategies, and management skills and help farmers and ranchers improve productivity through resource management, controlling crop pests, soil testing, livestock production practices, and marketing.
  • Leadership Development—trains extension professionals and volunteers to deliver programs in gardening, health and safety, family and consumer issues, and 4-H youth development and serve in leadership roles in the community.
  • Natural Resources—teaches landowners and homeowners how to use natural resources wisely and protect the environment with educational programs in water quality, timber management, composting, lawn waste management, and recycling.
  • Family and Consumer Sciences—helps families become resilient and healthy by teaching nutrition, food preparation skills, positive child care, family communication, financial management, and health care strategies.
  • Community and Economic Development—helps local governments investigate and create viable options for economic and community development, such as improved job creation and retention, small and medium-sized business development, effective and coordinated emergency response, solid waste disposal, tourism development, workforce education, and land use planning.

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Regardless of the program, extension expertise meets public needs at the local level. Although the number of local extension offices has declined over the years, and some county offices have consolidated into regional extension centers, there remain approximately 2,900 extension offices nationwide. Increasingly, extension serves a growing, increasingly diverse constituency with fewer and fewer resources.

Extension professionals are educators, scientists and support personnel who deliver university research to clientele by transforming “research into reality”. Field (off-campus) staff is the means of adapting research to the every day lives of people they serve. They are facilitators to empower people to solve their own problems. The basic methodology of the Extension System is often illustrated with the adage:

Give a man a fish, feed him for a day;
Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime.

The work of Extension professionals requires in-depth knowledge of the processes of effective formal and informal education and the subject matter discipline in which he/she specializes. These specialties often segment staff into separate, and some times conflicting, entities that can be counter productive to the overall Extension mission. That is the “window of opportunity” for ESP. It is the organization that brings educators, scientists and support staff together to address issues of Extension professionalism. Over 3,200 Extension professionals maintain annual membership in ESP. In addition, ESP offers to the Extension System the benefit of support from over 3,500 retirees who maintain life membership in ESP in order to support other Extension professionals through contributions of money and service.

Epsilon Sigma Phi has a national operation to ensure that its educational opportunities are common to all Extension professionals across the nation. In addition there are 44 autonomously operated statewide/territory wide chapters in 46 states and two territories. Each of these chapters contributes to the overall mission of the organization but operate independently.

The mission of ESP as a not-for-profit educational and charitable organization is to: Foster standards of excellence in the Extension System and to develop the Extension profession and the professional.

Funding for these ESP programs comes from user fees, charitable contributions, memberships, non-profit sales of organizational ensign and fund raising activities.


In the current five year strategic plan of ESP the organization:

  1. Articulates the core values of the Cooperative Extension System through the Extension Professionals Creed which is updated periodically to reflect societal and economic changes. This value statement communicates the core values of the Extension System to employees, volunteers and clientele.
  2. Rewards excellence in performance among Extension professionals, volunteers, clientele and partner educators in other organizations in communities through a system of individual and team recognition. Recipients have either member or non-member status in ESP depending upon the objective of the recognition.
  3. Provides a framework through which members and non-members can join in collaborative efforts to provide professional development opportunities for adult and youth educators.
  4. Fosters leadership development through mentoring Extension professionals in the philosophy and professional practice of Extension education.
  5. Facilitates professional development by:
    1. Sponsoring national and regional conferences, educational publications, newsletters, distance learning technologies for staff, volunteers, and other professionals. The National ESP Conferences give an outlet for scholarly presentations by members and non members which are required by tenure and promotional tracks in colleges and universities.
    2. Giving honorariums and scholarships to members to participate in ESP sponsored and other professional development programs. Mini-grants are awarded to state chapters to provide in-service education to the entire state’s Extension System personnel and volunteers.


The same overall thrusts have been in place throughout the history of Epsilon Sigma Phi even though the methods used to implement these functions change over time. This organization’s impact is realized by the vast clientele of the Extension System. The professional skills developed by Extension professionals through ESP sponsored projects and activities provide this empowered benefit.

Prepared by Judith Carlson, National ESP Executive Director, December 1997

Reviewed and revised by Linda D. Cook, National ESP Executive Director, July 2007

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