- Author: Saoimanu Sope
About 15 years ago, Mary Maser saw an ad in the classified section of her local newspaper for a job opening with the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program serving San Diego County. As a community education specialist with EFNEP, she has provided nutrition lessons for thousands of Spanish-speaking residents until her retirement on July 1.
Maser, who is of Mexican descent and fluent in Spanish, enjoyed working with the Spanish-speaking community in San Diego because it kept her connected to her roots. Before joining University of California Cooperative Extension, Maser taught factory workers English and served as an interpreter in the medical field.
“I've had a lot of different jobs and being fluent in Spanish has helped me in my line of work tremendously,” she said.
“We offer the EFNEP courses in English and Spanish, but a majority of my students were Spanish speakers,” recalled Maser, who taught nutrition education and healthy living practices to adults. Making her students feel as comfortable as possible was important to Maser.
Based on her time with EFNEP, Maser said that she is most proud of her students' dedication.
“I was impressed with the number of students who showed up to every class, wanting to learn, even during the pandemic,” Maser said. When the COVID-19 shelter-in-place mandate hit California, Maser said she started teaching students over the phone.
“I had one student who was spending quality time with family in Tahoe, and I told her that it was okay for us to postpone class,” Maser said. “But she insisted and said she wanted to do it, so we did.”
Maser was the only community education specialist who worked in San Diego's North County. For years, she participated in community events like the Fallbrook Clinic Health Fair, promoting EFNEP and connecting with residents. In 2019, she was recognized by Senator Brian Jones for her work with EFNEP and continued efforts teaching healthy living.
“Many of my students didn't speak English well or at all and had varying levels of education. For some, it was the first class they ever took in their life,” said Maser. “There's a lot of fear and stress they deal with on a daily basis, but it never stopped them from coming to class,” she added, emphasizing how much she admires her students' tenacity to learn.
Shirley Salado, UCCE nutrition supervisor for EFNEP in San Diego County, described Maser as a positive, respectful and considerate teammate. “Mary loved to teach nutrition and fondly cared for the Hispanic community. She was so attentive to her participants, ensuring nutrition knowledge was clearly presented to help families make better healthy choices for their well-being,” Salado said.
In her retirement, Maser is looking forward to traveling and learning another language. “I think Italian would be the easiest for me to learn, and I know a little bit of Portuguese, but I'm also interested in French,” she said.
Maser will also be using retirement to practice what she has preached for so many years, by focusing on her health and wellness.
- Author: Saoimanu Sope
After 13 years of telling the UC ANR story through written articles and video production, Norma De la Vega retired on June 29. De la Vega joined UC ANR's News and Information Outreach in Spanish team in 2009 as a senior writer.
NOS fulfilled UC ANR's vision of developing educational and informational programs in Spanish to serve the Latino community. For more than 40 years, NOS has been producing information formatted for radio, television, and online audiences, and De la Vega has played an instrumental role in helping NOS expand its reach and diversify its creative approach to storytelling.
When she started, most of her writing focused on nutrition, highlighting groups like the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program and the Nutrition Policy Institute. “Norma's contributions were spot on,” said NOS Program Manager Ricardo Vela. “Her impact has been bringing the importance of nutrition into the stories that we bring to the community.”
De la Vega earned a bachelor's degree in science communications from Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México in her hometown of Mexico City. “Learning how to produce videos when I went to school was very different than now,” said De la Vega. “We didn't have the kind of cameras we do today.”
Following college, De la Vega worked as a television reporter in Tijuana before moving to San Diego County where she started focusing on writing. Prior to UC ANR, De La Vega worked as a writer for the Enlace Union-Tribune's Spanish newspaper in San Diego for nearly a decade.
Before it became NOS' primary medium for storytelling, De la Vega helped lead the team's video production effort despite her limited experience. “We weren't experts, but we realized the importance of video production to get our information out. It was a team effort,” she said.
In 2010, De la Vega wrote a story and produced a video on the importance of planning for old age. In many cases, adult children had to manage their parent's care without guidance, and most caregivers of the elderly spoke Spanish as their first language and needed more resources to do a better job.
De la Vega's story relied on research conducted by Patti Wooten Swanson, UCCE nutrition, family and consumer science advisor in San Diego. Not only was Swanson honored at the 2013 Galaxy Awards for her contribution to the story, but De la Vega, a member of the NOS team at the time, won first place at the Western Region Television/Video Communications Award Ceremony despite the lack of a Spanish language category.
In 2016, De la Vega produced a video of the first bilingual 4-H club, the result of a partnership with the Community Settlement Association in Riverside County. “A lot of good things were happening at that time and are happening now because ANR is evolving with more bilingual experts on different topics,” De la Vega said.
Although she started as a senior writer, De La Vega evolved and became a broadcast communications specialist. Her success in the role allowed her to become well-connected to other communicators and community leaders. “Norma always had a contact we needed for a story that we were working on,” said Miguel Sanchez, another broadcast communications specialist on the NOS team.
Lisa Rawleigh, NOS administrative assistant, established a personal and professional relationship with De la Vega. “Norma ensured that our Spanish articles were written properly and that we did not miss any accents or typos. I can always count on her to proofread my posts on social media,” said Rawleigh.
De la Vega said that she feels “enormously satisfied” to have worked with a team of fellow pioneers. “Although we were not experts, we learned so much every day and together,” De la Vega said. “Today, there are several experts in the production of community videos, and we helped enrich the graphic archive for UC ANR's community programs. I think our contribution was to lead the way in that direction.”
Looking ahead, De la Vega will be spending her retirement traveling and exploring other countries and cultures. Since she was a girl, De la Vega enjoyed swimming and can't wait to do more of it. “I love to swim because being in the water always makes me feel young,” she said.
Finally, De la Vega will enjoy quality time with her grandchildren, teaching them Spanish and volunteering at the Spanish immersion school they attend.
To read this story in Spanish, visit https://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=57440./span>
- Author: Mike Hsu
During nearly 20 years at UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, Lori Renstrom has embodied the spirit of the organization: a dedication to service and a roll-up-your-sleeves, whatever-it-takes ethic.
“It's true for most people at ANR – especially in a team kind of environment,” said Renstrom, the office manager at UC Cooperative Extension in San Diego since 2010. “People just seem to pitch in and get things done. It needs to be done, and so it gets done.”
As she gets ready to retire on July 1, Renstrom can look back on a whole lot of “done” in her vital administrative role – including transitioning all personnel from San Diego County support staff to UC employee status, moving the entire operation to a new building when their former one was demolished, and opening a satellite office in Escondido, in the north part of the county.
“They were just really heartfelt letters, so it was just really rewarding,” Renstrom recalled. “You feel like you're really doing something for the community, and the girls were so appreciative.”
Her passion for helping young people first brought Renstrom to UCCE San Diego in 2003, when she served as program manager for Off to a Good Start, under First 5 California, a statewide movement to promote early childhood development.
The program, funded for 8½ years at UCCE San Diego, offered educational opportunities and resources to families and local organizations – especially in the predominantly Hispanic communities of the South Bay – to assist them in providing the best environment for learning and growth for their children.
“We literally helped thousands of parents really understand that they are their child's first and most important teacher,” Renstrom said.
Renstrom's commitment to strengthening communities also extended to UC ANR itself. In 2014, she attended a workshop that revealed the results of a UC-wide work environment survey, as well as the challenges and opportunities across the system. For UC ANR, it was the need for a representative body for nonrepresented staff.
“Being here in San Diego, I would get UC San Diego's Staff Assembly bulletin; we were quote-unquote ‘members' of UCSD Staff Assembly and so I was like, ‘Why don't we have one?'” said Renstrom.
Responding to Vice President for Agriculture and Natural Resources Glenda Humiston's call for volunteers, Renstrom played an instrumental role in defining the function, structure and bylaws of the nascent Staff Assembly Council. She also served as treasurer for its first two years, and was UC ANR's first senior delegate to the Council of University of California Staff Assemblies.
In addition to providing support for ANR employees, Staff Assembly Council was invaluable in making more people across UC aware of the organization's work throughout the state, Renstrom said.
“Not only are we connected throughout the state for ANR, we're now being connected with all the UC campuses, which is amazing…it kind of starts connecting dots for people,” she explained.
Another original member of ANR Staff Assembly Council, Nikolai Schweitzer, said that Renstrom has been invaluable in a variety of roles during the first seven years of the body's history.
“Lori's leadership skills with creating, developing and managing the Staff Assembly Ambassador program, the Wellness Program and the 2018 Statewide ANR Conference Staff Assembly events have been unparalleled,” said Schweitzer, agriculture supervisor at UC Sierra Foothill Research and Extension Center. “Lori's dedication and service to UC ANR Staff Assembly is the reason for its successes and her contributions will be missed.”
In retirement, Renstrom aims to tackle home improvement projects, read to kids at the local library, and travel with family, friends and “active senior groups.” And, befitting her personality and career, she will not be joining those tours where participants passively watch the world go by.
“I don't want to ride a bus and just look at things through the bus window,” she said with a laugh.
- Author: Jonathan K. London
Linking UC Davis researchers with regional changemakers is core to the mission of the Center for Regional Change. One new program designed to achieve this goal is the Regional Change Public Dialogue series. The dialogue series, supported by a grant from the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, is intended to share cutting edge research from CRC-affiliated faculty with a diverse array of community leaders, as well as catalyze new research partnerships.
On May 11, the CRC hosted its third public dialogue at the Kearney Research Extension Center in the San Joaquin Valley town ofParlier. Kearney was an ideal site for this event as one of the experiment field stations that the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources system dedicated to applied and solutions-oriented research.
[The event was streamed live on May 11 and recorded on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/UCDavisCRC.]
Complementing the agricultural and environmental focus of much of the Kearney projects, the research presented at the public dialogue focused on improving social, economic, health and political conditions in rural communities such as Parlier.
Keith Taylor, UC Cooperative Extension economic development specialist, introduced his research on cooperatives as engines of community economic vitality. Bernadette Austin, CRC associate director, presented the forthcoming work of UC Davis professors Anne Visser and Catherine Brinkley on agricultural and community sustainability in the Sacramento- San Joaquin Delta. I shared the new report, "The Struggle for Water Justice in the San Joaquin Valley."
Following the lightning talks, the participants -- including leaders in the agricultural, environmental justice, immigrant rights, economic development, transportation, and air quality sectors among others -- divided into discussion groups to highlight the key insights and potential applications of the research. Some of the most compelling ideas of the evening included developing a map to represent the relationships between water and social/economic/political power in the San Joaquin Valley and an action research agenda on rural cooperatives as a way to diversify and localize the regional agricultural economy.
Given the success of the Regional Change Public Dialogue series, the CRC will be seeking ideas and resources to expand the program in the future. We welcome your ideas on new directions!
Jonathan K. London, Faculty Director, Center for Regional Change
- Author: Pamela Kan-Rice
UC VP Glenda Humiston, 4-H member Melina Granados of Riverside County and UC Merced Chancellor Dorothy Leland gave the UC regents a presentation about UC ANR's community outreach and impact. The Public Engagement & Development Committee meeting was held at the UCSF–Mission Bay Conference Center on Jan. 24, 2018, in San Francisco.
Opening the discussion, Humiston gave an overview of ANR, explaining that for 150 years ANR has been bringing the power of UC directly to the people in all California counties. Melina, who was born in Mexico, talked about her role as president of the Eastside Eagles 4-H club and what she has learned. Leland described joint projects between UC Merced and ANR in climate adaptation, nutrition and drone technology research.
Watch the 25-minute recording of the UC ANR presentation to the regents below, or visit https://youtu.be/ptFS8HwlsjE.