“I don't know about you, but I'm really excited to have this gathering,” VP Glenda Humiston said, as she greeted the people attending the 2018 ANR Statewide Conference in Ontario. More than 650 people participated in the conference held April 9-12 at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Ontario Airport. Humiston noted it was the first time since 2013 that all ANR employees had been invited to meet with their colleagues in person and discuss their work.
There were keynote presentations, science sessions, trainings, program team and workgroup meetings, numerous breakout sessions to attend, puzzles to solve in the resource room, a pop-up studio for News and Information Outreach in Spanish interviews and dozens of research posters to read. ANR leaders discussed how to chart a sustainable future for ANR. Wendell Brase, UC Irvine associate chancellor for sustainability; Sam Traina, UC Merced vice chancellor of research and economic development; and Kathryn Uhrich, UC Riverside dean of the College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, whose research has spawned start-up companies, discussed opportunities for innovation. Wendy Powers, associate vice president, announced the winners of the Distinguished Service Awards.
And in between, there was time to network with colleagues over meals and in the hallways.
ANR partners also joined the event, including members of the UC President's Advisory Commission on Agriculture and Natural Resources.
“Think about what California's agriculture would be like without Cooperative Extension,” said California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross, ex-officio PAC member and keynote speaker for the first day. “It doesn't just happen because of great farmers. It happens because of great partnerships. ANR is in every county.”
“I cannot tell you enough, what an asset you are to this state and to the industry that I love, agriculture, and to every consumer who has the joy of imbibing in our beverages and foods that come from these marvelous lands.”
Unique role in UC
On Tuesday afternoon, UC President Janet Napolitano joined the group. She called out ANR's work in climate change adaptation, agricultural innovation, food systems, food security, and nutrition education and noted the unique role it serves in advancing UC's Global Food, Carbon Neutrality, UC-Mexico initiatives.
She lauded 4-H for achieving parity in Latino youth participation in its programs, saying, “I think that says a lot about ANR's values and the impact it can have.”
Praising UCCE's outreach to economically disadvantaged Californians, the president said, “I'm going to continue to fight hard for funding for these programs at the federal level.”
Napolitano said she was pleased with the overall federal budget, noting that Congress increased funding for the National Institutes for Health and the National Science Foundation. “The University of California gets more NIH and NSF funding than any other university in the country. Almost 10 percent of the NIH research budget comes to the University of California so we have a lot at stake in those federal funds.”
For updates on UC's state and federal budgets, Napolitano urged everyone to sign up at https://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/support-uc/ucan.
On the Huron report recommendations for moving ANR out of the Office of the President's structure, Napolitano said she has appointed a committee to review the options and offer its own recommendations before the November regents meeting.
The crowd was inspired by Antwi Akom, UC San Francisco and San Francisco State University professor and founding director of Social Innovation and Urban Opportunity Lab (SOUL) and co-founder and CEO of Streetwyze. In his presentation “Race, Space, Place and Waste: How Innovation, Education, and Inspiration Can Fearlessly Catalyze California Towards Becoming the World's Leader in Agriculture and Natural Resources Management,” Akom spoke passionately about building more pathways for a more diverse array of Californians to participate in ANR programs.
“That's the first time I've seen members of the audience follow a keynote speaker out of the room,” Mark Bell, vice provost for Strategic Initiatives and Statewide Programs, later commented on the rock star treatment Akom received after his talk.
In her closing comments of the conference, Humiston said, “It was heartwarming to hear so many people tell legislators that ANR programs are important to them,” at the California Farm Bill hearing April 11 in Sacramento. If approved, the bill introduced by Assemblymember Anna Caballero (D-Salinas) would enable ANR to hire 45 more UCCE advisors and would offer incentives to adopt agricultural technology.
Concerning UC's budget challenges, Humiston said ANR is facing reductions in funding that will be absorbed through a slowdown in hiring and other means.
“There will be no layoffs. I took this job to grow ANR not shrink it,” she said emphatically. “The more the people of California understand what ANR does, the more they want us to thrive and be in place to better serve their needs.”
Humiston declared the conference productive and successful and thanked the Strategic Initiative leaders and conference and steering committee for planning the event and the Program Support Unit and volunteers for their hard work.
Doug Parker, Water SI, and Keith Nathaniel, Healthy Families and Communities SI, were the executive co-chairs and David Doll, Sustainable Food Systems; John Harper, Sustainable Natural Ecosystems; and Cheryl Wilen, Endemic and Invasive Pests and Diseases, were co-chairs.
The steering committee was composed of Michael Anderson, College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, UC Riverside; Mark Bell, Strategic Initiatives and Statewide Programs/Institutes; Sherry Cooper, Program Support Unit; John Fox, Human Resources; Chris Greer, UCCE San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties; Brad Hanson, Department of Plant Sciences, UC Davis; Darren Haver, South Coast Research and Extension Center and UCCE Orange County; Mike Janes, Strategic Communications; Maggi Kelly, Informatics and Geographic Information Systems and UC Berkeley; Neil McRoberts, Department of Plant Pathology, UC Davis; Katie Panarella, Nutrition, Family and Consumer Sciences Program and Policy; Maurice Pitesky, School of Veterinary Medicine, UC Davis; Joni Rippee, Program Planning and Evaluation; Rachel Surls, UCCE Los Angeles County; and Patti Wooten-Swanson, UCCE San Diego County.
ANR leadership plans to host the next ANR Statewide Conference in 2021.
Continue the conversations
To see snapshots from the conference on Twitter, search for the hashtag #UCANRconf2018.
If you missed the poster sessions, most of the project posters can be seen by clicking on the title links at http://ucanr.edu/sites/statewideconference2018/Posters_and_Displays.
“I've heard great things about a number of the sessions and have been discussing some follow-up ideas to build on concepts covered during some of those sessions,” Wendy Powers wrote in her ANR Adventures blog. “It would be a disappointment if we all left the meeting, got caught up in our obligations and programs, and didn't continue the conversations.”
Kicking off the meeting by expressing sympathy for everyone affected by wildfires – including the ANR members and Master Gardener volunteers who lost their homes – UC President Janet Napolitano met with the President's Advisory Commission (PAC) at their biannual meeting Dec. 13 at the Courtyard by Marriott in Emeryville.
President Napolitano focused her remarks on the challenges that remain with our food system, saying that she sees endless possibilities for ANR to bring food and ag together with science and technology for agricultural innovation. She also praised ANR for expanding access to its programs and achieving parity in participation of Latino youth in 4-H activities.
Napolitano invited the PAC members to join the UC Advocacy Network, or UCAN, to keep informed about state and federal issues that impact the university.
VP Glenda Humiston introduced Anne Megaro, governmental and community relations director. Megaro, who has a Ph.D. in animal science and was the California State Senate Committee on Agriculture's consultant for five years, spoke about her background and discussed how she is working with academics to cultivate relationships with elected officials by sharing stories about their work.
“Every legislator should know ANR because we're in their district,” Megaro said.
“How can I help you talk about ANR?” she asked the PAC members, who responded positively.
Gabe Youtsey, chief innovation officer, described how the Internet of Things, data analysis, robotics, artificial intelligence, drones and plant biotechnology are helping farmers cope with challenges, including workforce shortages, water scarcity and pest pressure. The Apps for Ag hackathons have produced useful tools, but poor rural connectivity is limiting the benefits.
He also described the recently launched The VINE, which is designed to catalyze a statewide system to support innovation, entrepreneurship, expand economic opportunities and develop new technology for agriculture, natural resources and rural communities. Youtsey said food and agriculture need “patient capital” investors because venture capitalists desire a fast return on their investment.
Associate Vice President Wendy Powers briefed the commission on ANR's strategic plan. Our “Big Hairy Audacious Goal” is for every Californian to recognize the positive impact ANR has in their lives. The actions will be guided by UCANR's core values: excellence, community, innovation, inclusion, collaboration and integrity. Public value statements are being developed to shape our efforts and “they will give us the elevator speech to articulate who we are and what we do,” Powers said.
In the deans' updates, Keith Gilless announced that in June he will be stepping down as dean of the College of Natural Resources after 11 years to return to his academic work in fire research. Deans Helene Dillard of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Kathryn Uhrich of the College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, Michael Lairmore of the School of Veterinary Medicine and Gilless shared news of awards and large grants received and major projects underway in their respective colleges and school.
In wrapping up the meeting, Humiston announced that Mike Mellano, Dina Moore and Jean Marie Peltier will represent California in Washington D.C. for the CARET (Council on Agriculture Research, Extension and Teaching) meeting in March to advocate for agricultural research and the Farm Bill.
She invited the PAC members to meet next in April in Ontario, in conjunction with the ANR statewide meeting.
“We visited offices of 26 of California's 55-member congressional delegation in two days!” said Lucas Frerichs, government and community relations manager.
On March 6-9, a UC ANR delegation attended the 35th Annual Council on Agriculture Research, Extension and Teaching (CARET) meetings in Washington D.C. CARET is part of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU). They also made congressional visits to explain the importance of science and research to California.
Vice President Glenda Humiston was joined by AVP Wendy Powers, UCB College of Natural Resources Dean Keith Gilless, UCR College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences Dean Kathryn Uhrich, Nutrition Policy Institute Director Lorrene Ritchie, UC Cooperative Extension Specialist Clare Gupta, Chief Innovation Officer Gabe Youtsey, and Frerichs. Industry partners Bill Frost, former UC ANR AVP; Cher Watte, executive director of the California Asparagus Commission; Mike Mellano, fresh cut flower grower; Dina Moore, Humboldt County rancher; and Jean-Mari Peltier, managing partner of Environmental Solutions Group, served as CARET delegates from California.
The group split up into teams to visit the offices of Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, agriculture committee members, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Minority Leader of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi and other California representatives.
Although no U.S. secretary of agriculture had been confirmed at the time of their visit, members expressed their support for agriculture.
“One thing that members of Congress – Republicans and Democrats – can certainly agree on is that the support for agriculture and the University of California is strong,” Frerichs said.
Read more about the CARET visits in Powers' ANR Adventures blog.
“Kathryn Uhrich has excelled as an academic administrator, interdisciplinary researcher and inspiring educator. Her multidisciplinary research has spurred new technologies as well as creative collaborations with agricultural and plant researchers,” said D'Anieri. “We are very much looking forward to her arrival at UCR.”
D'Anieri expressed his appreciation for the dedication of interim dean Cynthia Larive, professor of chemistry, and for the effort of the search committee, led by Michael Pazzani, UCR's vice chancellor for research.
Uhrich, a distinguished polymer chemist, served from 2009 through 2013 as dean of Mathematical and Physical Sciences in the School of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers. Serving more than 300 faculty in six departments, she developed programs to increase research and teaching collaborations between departments and colleges in the university. Working with the department chairs, she led the modification of the university's promotion process to recognize contributions of academic leadership. Under her leadership, support for research funding and assistance with applications for extramural funding increased along with university investments in new approaches to teaching science.
“UCR's commitment to excellence in interdisciplinary research, inclusion, education, and international engagement strongly aligns with my experience and expertise,” said Uhrich. “The excellence within the College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences is well-known by scholars, and it is an honor to join the faculty and leadership team of UC Riverside. I am excited to work with staff and faculty to further academic excellence, as well as with students and alumni who have benefited from UCR's commitment to excellence.”
Both as dean and leading member of the Rutgers faculty, Uhrich worked with the university leadership and state legislators to initiate the construction and design of a new chemistry/science building to expand both the research and teaching capacity of the faculty. Previously, as graduate program director in the chemistry and chemical biology department, Uhrich worked to diversify the graduate program to include more women and people of color. Working with alumni, she raised funding to create new fellowships to support graduate students.
Uhrich's research links chemistry with the life sciences and engineering disciplines to create new materials and design new devices in which polymers can be used to increase health and extend life. Widely recognized as a leading innovator in polymer research, Uhrich's research focuses on designing bioactive, biodegradable polymers for use in drug delivery, food safety and personal care. She has been issued more than 70 U.S. and international patents, and her work has spawned several start-up companies, including Polymerix Corporation, which created biodegradable delivery systems for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and coatings for surgical implants.
Uhrich has authored more than 140 peer-reviewed papers. She has also collaborated extensively with colleagues in this country and overseas, and worked in close partnership with companies such as Chanel, DuPont, Exxon Mobil, Johnson & Johnson and Merck.
Uhrich earned a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from Cornell University, and her B.S. in chemistry, with honors, from the University of North Dakota.
In her work at Rutgers, she has been a champion of enhanced STEM education for women and people of color. As dean, Uhrich worked with departments and the University to ensure inclusive practices for faculty – from faculty hiring, to faculty promotion and recognition. As a board member of the Rutgers' Office for the Promotion of Women, Science, Engineering and Mathematics, Uhrich worked to foster supportive environments for students, faculty and staff from diverse backgrounds. As a researcher, Uhrich's interest in mentoring the next generation of scientists is reflected by the composition and size of her research team: she has supervised 60 Ph.D. students from four departments and more than 80 undergraduate students.
Uhrich's professional experience includes stints as a visiting professor at the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, and the University of New South Wales, Australia. Her research lab has hosted dozens of visiting scientists from across the globe including Australia, Brazil, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Netherlands, Nigeria, Puerto Rico, Scotland, and Turkey. Through various roles, Uhrich champions institutional support for international research at Rutgers. She was a postdoctoral researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and also worked at AT&T Bell Laboratories and at Eastman Kodak.
In addition to her status as a fellow of the American Chemical Society, she is editor-in-chief of the Journal of Bioactive and Compatible Polymers and a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Members of the search committee were
- Michael Pazzani, Vice Chancellor, Research and Economic Development (Chair)
- Ward Beyermann, Associate Professor, Physics
- Anupama Dahanukar, Assistant Professor, Entomology
- Jay Gan, Professor, Environmental Sciences
- Cheryl Gerry, Financial and Administrative Officer, CNAS
- Mikeal Roose, Chair and Professor, Botany and Plant Sciences
- Frances Sladek, Professor, Cell Biology
- Glenn Stanley, Professor, Psychology
- Sue Wessler, Distinguished Professor, Botany and Plant Sciences
- Preston Williams, President of the Graduate Student Association
- Jose Wudka, Professor, Physics and Astronomy
- Francisco Zaera, Distinguished Professor, Chemistry