For Immediate Release
Thursday, March 10, 2022
Contact: Ples Spradley, TPSA Awards Chair
St. Louis, MO – The Pesticide Stewardship Alliance (TPSA) held its annual conference virtually in February and presented the Program Innovation Award to the University of Illinois Pesticide Safety Education Program (PSEP) Team. Michelle Wiesbrook, Extension Specialist – PSEP, accepted the award on behalf of the team and serves as the program’s weed scientist. In addition to Wiesbrook, the team includes Travis Cleveland, Matt Gill, Sarah Hughson, Jean Miles, and Maria Restrepo-Turner – all state pesticide safety education specialists and staff with the University of Illinois Pesticide Safety Education Program.
The University of Illinois Pesticide Safety Education Program (PSEP) Team is charged with developing and administering educational content for the state’s 32,000 licensed commercial and private pesticide applicators. In partnership with the Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDA) Bureau of Environmental Programs since the 1960’s, PSEP annually plans, provides registration for, and conducts 35-40 high-capacity in-person training clinics throughout the state, with an average annual attendance exceeding 12,500.
The PSEP Team delivered a rapid development and deployment of asynchronous online training courses and remotely proctored certification exams for commercial and private pesticide applicators in Illinois. A total of 7 unique training courses were utilized by 7,000+ individuals, and 12,000+ remotely proctored exam attempts were administered across 19 unique certification exams. While initiated as a response to COVID-19, overwhelmingly positive clientele feedback has implanted this new outreach method as a permanent fixture in the PSEP program and the Illinois Department of Agriculture’s pesticide applicator certification program.
The final product combined PSEP’s online training courses and IDA’s online certification exams into a convenient “one-stop-shop.” More importantly, the online format offered clientele a safe option to access PSEP courses and take their certification exams from anywhere in the world, at any time of day. PSEP training opportunities have also expanded to many remote, underserved areas of the state.
The new online training courses and testing option developed by the PSEP team provided an innovative solution to a problem affecting pesticide users throughout the state. These program advancements will reshape and enhance PSEP’s outreach abilities well into the future and also work as a model for Extension’s future online course development.
The Pesticide Stewardship Alliance (TPSA), founded in 2000, is an organization of federal, state, and local governmental agencies, educational and research institutions, public organizations, private corporations, and individuals that are actively involved in different aspects of pesticide stewardship. The goals of TPSA are to increase the effectiveness, efficiency and longevity of various pesticide stewardship efforts.
The 2023 Pesticide Stewardship Conference is scheduled for February 7-9 in Reno, Nevada.