The word “community” can describe many things, such as the places where we live, our neighbors around us and groups of people we belong to. The West Virginia University Extension Service seeks to impact all of them positively, and sometimes in unexpected ways.
Enter the Family and Community Development program unit and its leader, David “Tony” Michael.
Michael hopes to use Extension’s professional knowledge communities to strengthen physical communities in each and every county as he steps in to his new role as program leader.
From better trained emergency responders and workforces to well-equipped local leaders and stronger local economies, the diverse program tackles a myriad of important issues for West Virginians.
Michael also brings with him a vision built from the structure of the program itself—integrated programming.
“We’ve got to have more integrated programming in order to make a greater impact on West Virginia,” he said. “By having programs work together while still keeping their individual identities, we start to see how these programs overlap. With this knowledge, we can focus on using the individuals and collective strengths of these programs to create bigger positive change.”
The vision in its simplest form is to integrate programs within other areas of WVU Extension programs to reach a wider audience. He believes by doing this, the impact in the lives of West Virginians and communities will be more visible.
As a key step, Michael pledged to cultivate a direct relationship with every other program unit in Extension.
“I want us to build a vision that isn’t just mine, but something collective we can build together. I believe there is power in understanding that we are unique individuals with different ideas, and I want to capitalize on that,” he said.
Michael’s time with Extension has given him the unique opportunity to see how different programs function, and he believes that more comprehensive, positive change can only be made through collaborations.
“Think of it like a row boat, when everyone paddles one direction and with a cadence—that’s when we really get moving,” said Michael. “We can have workers that are trained in the latest in safety but also in how to live healthier lives, and we can train community leaders who implement ideas proposed through civic engagement opportunities as part of youth development programs—the combinations are practically endless.”
Seeking the true essence of the WVU Extension Service’s power—Michael understands that when every program is connected, residents get more direct, and better, access to knowledge, education and guidance. They can improve their lives at work and at home.
As both a faculty member and program leader for the Institute for Labor Studies and Research, Michael worked to develop and cultivate better, more productive relationships between labor and business management.
He’s also served as the interim director of the Community, Economic and Workforce Development program previously.
Ultimately, he’s a West Virginian. A native of Talcott in Summers County, Michael acknowledged that his pride for his state and the people in it is at the heart of what he does.
“I’m from here, and I think I have a grasp of the problems that confront us not only as individual communities, but also as a whole,” he said. “We have some challenges, but I believe we’ve got the chance to make a significant impact for individuals, towns, counties and the state overall.”
Michael has earned his bachelor’s degree in English from Bethany College, and his master’s degree in English and juris doctor degree from WVU.