I started a new project over the weekend. It progresses faster than expected, likely attributable to not having followed the directions. I was able to make process improvement because I am uninhibited by the notion that I must follow the instructions. By so doing, I assumed the risk of having to start over. Given my experience in the project area, it was a risk worth taking. Depending on the situation, this won't always be the case.
Mark Bell sent a nice photo from his working vacation last week, during which I believe I had daily interaction with him. I don't know where he was when he took the photo though I suspect it was closer to Seattle than Davis. I am doing my best to be in vacation mode this week from 2 pm onward (or 3, or 4, depending on the day), minus cooking dinner.
Monday, several of the leadership team met with Mikael Villalobos from UC Davis. This was our second meeting with Mikael to learn from him and discuss learning opportunities for UC ANR, tapping into his expertise. Linda has worked with Mikael in the past. I am eager to see what trainings UC ANR offers this year and how they are received by prospective participants. Given that in-person trainings are on hold for a while, virtual trainings offer a nice option and avoid the need for travel time. We have observed increased participation by clientele in our offerings; I suspect we all may be more likely to participate in virtual learning sessions as well.
Yesterday I met with a small group to work on our REC Strategic Framework assignment focusing on one of the goals. I will admit that I am looking forward to not having 3 strategic plans on my list of activities in progress. In addition, I serve as a board member for a national leadership development program and we are working on a strategic plan for that program as well. I am a ‘planner' and fan of strategic plans, but this is a bit much, even for me. However, I learned a new collaboration application – Mural. Teams can use it within Zoom. It comes complete with sticky dots and voting tools. Mural can definitely make the virtual learning/work environment more interactive. Take a look. Kit has already forewarned that she might use it in our training session later today. Perhaps I will be fonder of virtual sticky dots. What's interesting in this application is that the host can track who has used what number of dots and confirm that participants did not place more than one dot on an item during voting.
Later this week, there is a meeting to hopefully move towards finalization of guidance on income generation. We are past due on needing such guidance and it will be more critical to think about income generation going forward.
In general, my, week becomes far less interesting as it progresses with routine COVID-19 calls for several hours on Thursday. No end in sight for those calls, but I remain ever optimistic that we will soon see signs of the pandemic winding down.
Had this been a normal year, I would be heading to Glacier National Park for a week of no cell phone and no Zoom meetings. But this isn't a normal year (I hope!). Instead, my calendar opened up such that I can participate in a multi-day training that aligns with two of my personal core values, not the least of which is continuous improvement. I have to admit that I am dreading the training, not because of the topic, but because of the format. We have to share an ‘object' as part of our self-introduction and reveal something interesting about ourselves. What's worse, we will be journaling through the entire course. Ughh… not my thing. Can't I just make a spreadsheet of some sort? I've had to give my introduction considerable thought. Here's what I have from which to select:
- As part of my self-introduction in kindergarten, I shared that my career goal was to become a pickpocket
- In high school, some teachers encouraged me to pursue a career in music
- I've never been to a dentist, but have all of my teeth and no cavities
- I am half of a set of Irish twins and ‘the middle child'
Perhaps I should call in sick next week.
As part of a virtual national meeting I am attending this week, I listened to a presentation by Scott Hutchins from REE, who talked about REE's continuous improvement efforts, including establishment of Mission-2-Mission goals, measuring and documenting impacts, and a priority-based hiring plan. That all sounds familiar. Dr. Hutchin's comments reflected USDA's Science Blueprint. He spoke a bit about USDA's Agriculture Innovation Agenda and its application for setting discovery goals (targeting and steering efforts) as well as the benefits now recognized as a result of the NIFA and ERS moves to Kansas City.
Parag Chitnis, Interim Director for NIFA, shared that the Request for Applications is under development for the Urban Agriculture program and should be out early in Federal FY21 (October-ish). That RFA will be of great interest to UC ANR personnel. The Sustainable Ag Systems RFA should be out at about the same time. The program ties closely to both the Science Blueprint and the Agriculture Innovation Agenda. Of note for this program is that two years of funding will be awarded in a single year. I'm curious to see how ‘sustainable' addresses resiliency of our ag system. I suspect researchers needed to look to the COVID-19 AFRI program for those opportunities (applications were due June 4, 2020).
NIFA, too, focuses on continuous improvement and provided an update on Project CAFÉ (Collaboratively Achieving Functional Excellence). The Project responds to feedback from state partners about process improvements needed for grants management, capacity funds management, and customer service. Thanks to all from UC ANR who provided feedback to NIFA last year.
Just a couple more days of the virtual national meeting, then back to homework. Maybe I will find something interesting over the weekend!
Can you believe that the pool season is half over? The daily strawberry harvest is all but done in my yard, and even zucchini season seems to be winding down. The only thing not slowing down is COVID cases. I'm sure I am not alone when I say that I miss visiting our county and REC locations, field days, and events though it wasn't often that I could make such trips.
Work has not slowed at all. By not leaving town for vacation, I am optimistic I can avoid the accumulation of emails, messages, and meetings that would typically pile up while on vacation. This week I was supposed to be in Kansas City for meetings. The sessions will occur by Zoom, and the schedule condensed. Like many of you have experienced, the rest of the day has filled with other Zoom conversations. I turned in one of my homework tasks – an update on my slides for the Administrative Orientation in August. I started with an easy task rather than the most time-sensitive assignments. I am awaiting more motivation to tackle those. The opportunities keep flowing, and so, too, does the work that goes into exploring them! That's a good thing. We may have more success connecting with new partners now than we've had before, out of need, or for some other reason. I had an email from someone today about finalizing an agreement to fund a couple of Academic Coordinator positions. Honestly, I had feared the agreement would be put on hold, but it will move forward regardless of the COVID economy!
I was encouraged to see a call to action regarding our budget by our stakeholders and partners. Repeatedly over the last several months, I have thought about the challenges brought on as a result of not having the ANR budget treated as a campus budget. It had brought back memories of the same struggle in Michigan when the trustees handled Extension and the Agriculture Experiment Station (AES) budgets, each a line item in the state budget, different from the rest of the higher education budget. Given that faculty would have split appointments that crossed budgets, there was always a disconnect if the higher ed budget (both UM and MSU) received increases when Extension and AES did not. Eventually, there was an agreement to treat AES and Extension the same as the remainder of higher education. Hopefully, that same arrangement can be reached for UC ANR, again. I say 'again' because applying the 'UCSF Corridor Model' to ANR was intended to rectify the disconnect. We shall continue to push for the use of that model in FY20/21 and beyond.
Last week the Peer Review Committee met for a long day of conversations by Zoom. Despite the length, I found the meeting very useful. I did end up with homework, the likes of which I hope will make future advancement decisions more straightforward. I learned that there are 95 merit and promotion cases scheduled for 2021. Of course, some individuals may defer or depart. Acceleration cases will offset, or perhaps exceed, the number of deferrals or departures. Regardless, many academics will prepare portfolios this fall and into early winter, and many will review cases next spring. I might need to check the prescription on my glasses sometime after January.
Have you heard about the groundbreaking accomplishment out of UC Riverside? Hailing Jin has identified a peptide that can kill the bacterium that causes citrus greening disease! This is great news for citrus growers and consumers of citrus!
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 statistics and news is far from good, with California cases on the rise and testing supplies running low in some areas. Jose Aguiar is doing his part to keep the new infections down. Take a look at the Public Service Announcement that Riverside County asked him to film. Hopefully, the County runs the PSA in Spanish and English. I'm curious if there are many more of these PSAs under development across the state. As trusted advisors, friends, and neighbors, it makes sense that counties recruit CE personnel to get the word out.
On Friday, I listened to Regent John Perez and the new UC President, Michael Drake. Dr. Drake spoke passionately about the need for public university engagement with communities and the public university's role in improving the lives of residents. It was as though he were reading our strategic plan as he spoke (see slide 24). He also talked about the need to lead efforts around societal challenges, such as climate change. President Drake referenced this year's World Food Prize winner, one of his faculty at Ohio State University. I have high hopes that the work of UC ANR becomes core to his messages of UC successes.
This week holds various meetings, including work on the UC ANR Strategic Plan update and meeting with the Peer Review and Academic Assembly Council Personnel Committees. Coupled with the REC Strategic Framework meeting that took place last week and a training series that starts in two weeks, I foresee a fair bit of homework in my near future. One of the activities requires journaling. I should have asked more questions upfront as homework has never resonated with me, much less keeping a journal. There's always room for personal growth and development. Perhaps, with practice, I will learn to like homework.
I have tuned in to a few TED talks recently, some of which seem to have translated into interesting action items that could bring long-term benefits to UC ANR in building support and funding resiliency. The action items are in addition to an impressive national effort that is both gaining momenta and taking up a bit of time. I look forward to sharing more details in the coming months. In the meantime, I need to think about my homework while enjoying the brief relief in temperatures.
This year, the 4th of July holiday seemed surreal. From the record-setting days of COVID-19 cases to the alarming speeches, I would be fine if we don't repeat one like this anytime soon. Great to see that some were able to get away and maintain physical distancing.
Last week was a short week. This week is anything but a short week. Each day is full of meetings from morning to late afternoon. No time for work on any project this week. Today, we held the County Director monthly meeting. The customary 2.5-hr meeting seemed long, likely due to the afternoon timing. Having had no break since my first meeting of the morning didn't help. The Strategic Initiative Leaders meet Tuesday afternoon before Program Council begins. Program Council runs through midday Wednesday, followed by a meeting of the Vice Chancellors for Research. Thursday includes, among other sessions, several hours set aside to makes some needed budget decisions, despite the fluid budget situation. On Friday, the week winds down with a full day of strategic planning for the REC system. Zoom fatigue is a real thing!
To prepare for a Thursday meeting, I watched a few videos over the weekend that focused on farming with data to address how we will build on precision agriculture to increase food production by 40% while reducing the environmental footprint of agriculture. The meeting addresses USDA's Agriculture Innovation Agenda. If you are interested in participating in this Western listening session, please register here. Note this is a working session where participants will select a breakout topic for contributing their ideas.
The UC Regents meet this week. Rumor has it we will learn who will serve as the next UC President. We are eager to help the new President learn about UC ANR and the great work that goes on all around the state. Our recent retirees are acknowledged far and wide.
Some good news is that the UC ANR 4-H planned giving site is now live! Planned giving is a new topic for UC ANR. Hopefully, a more general site that promotes planned giving for all programs will follow.
Enjoy your week. I know many were able to take a 4-day weekend, making this a short week.