ISU Extension and Outreach Partnership Builds a Strong Iowa

Almost 30 years of benefits to Iowans and millions in grants, as awards multiply

In 1986, an introductory meeting with an extension specialist and an early-career scientist inspired a promising partnership for university engagement with Iowa communities that focused on Iowa State University's motto "science with practice." Almost 30 years later, this partnership continues to grow and stand strong, assisting Iowans and looking toward a bright future.

Richard Spoth, the early-career scientist and now director of the Partnerships in Prevention Science Institute, received the 2015 Presidential Award from the Society for Prevention Research for his contributions to the field of prevention science. Spoth attributes this lifetime achievement award as recognition of the benefits of this partnership and collaboration with ISU Extension and Outreach, particularly Human Sciences Extension and Outreach.

"This award truly illustrates how our collaborations have helped move prevention science into more widespread community practice," Spoth said.

The partnership started out small, but has grown into consistent, effective educational programing and valuable scientific findings directly benefiting Iowans. Without the partnership with ISU Extension and Outreach, Spoth feels that they wouldn't have had or still have such an effective reach and impact.

"PPSI is providing Iowa with a community-university partnership model called PROSPER that is promoting positive youth development, strengthening families and supporting Iowa communities and schools," said Spoth.

PROSPER communities experience a wide range of benefits among youth, schools and families plus economic returns. Even those who are't directly participating still gain the benefits, said Spoth. "Our social network analyses show that youth benefit, both directly and indirectly, through changes in their peer networks."

PROSPER is a scientifically-proven delivery system for youth and family programs that centers around making a positive change in the lives of Iowans. Programs implemented through PROSPER work to lower the number of negative behavioral outcomes in youth, reduce effects of negative parenting, reduce lifetime drug misuse and more.

Over the years, partnership projects have reached thousands of Iowa youth.

Due to the partnership with Human Sciences Extension and Outreach, Spoth and his team have been able to implement effective programs and have maintained long-term and wide-ranging positive outcomes throughout Iowa. Research summarized in several published articles show that benefits for youth extend into young adulthood.

The partnership collaborations also have generated many contributions to the science side of "science with practice," with more than $80 million in grants to Iowa State and collaborative universties, primarily from the National Institutes of Health, and over 200 articles published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. Along with these accomplishments there have been many awards and recognitions accumulating over the years.

"PPSI's scientists and staff are valued partners," said Deb Sellers, associate dean in the College of Human Sciences and director of Human Sciences Extension and Outreach.

Sellers also was honored this year by receiving a Visionary Leadership Recognition Award from Epsilon Sigma Phi, an extension organization, this October. Sellers explained that this award represents her efforts to position Human Sciences Extension and Outreach for the future and to take advantage of new opportunities.

"Dr. Sellers' award is most well deserved; she has been an outstanding partner," said Spoth.

By implementing changes in management and programming models, Sellers believes that Human Science Extension and Outreach can have a bigger impact in Iowa communities.

Sellers respects ISU Extension and Outreach's 100-year legacy and is not afraid to take risks to ensure Human Sciences Extension and Outreach is relevant in an ever changing world.

"We empower people and grow lives and we keep that as our focus," said Sellers. "We are about positive change."

Sellers expresses that an important way Human Sciences Extension and Outreach will continue to create positive change in Iowa is through its partnership with the Partnerships in Prevention Science Institute and PROSPER.

"The promise of this partnership between the institute and Human Sciences Extension and Outreach bodes well for the future," said Spoth. "We hope our past is prolog and that the partnership will yield even greater benefits in the future."

As Spoth looks toward the future, he sees the potential to engage more Iowa youth, families and communities through a PROSPER inspired state collaborative among youth and family health service providers. He also hopes to broaden the reach of the institute by bringing the latest information and up-to-date, scientifically-proven programs to Iowa communities and beyond.

"Our ultimate goal is to extend the research at Iowa State and translate it into a product or an opportunity that improves the life of Iowans," said Sellers.

To learn more about PROSPER and the Partnerships in Prevention Science Institute and the programs and findings they offer visit or Also visit the Human Sciences Extension and Outreach website to view programs and other educational opportunities offered throughout the state.