We wrap up the 5-location Information Sessions on Friday of this week, with 3 of those five sessions taking place the last portion of the week. It has been nice to get out and see those whom I don't often get a chance to see. Also, there have been some new folks that I hadn't met in person yet. For the summer, these five sessions took the place of county office and REC visits. Once summer ends, I will have to assess my schedule. However, I welcome any invitations to come out to your area and meet with the local team. Visits can be as long or short as the hosts' desire and be anything from an informal conversation around a table to an action-packed agenda with tight timelines. For me, the emphasis is on the connection and not the format.
Back in the office, I'm working to diversify our funding sources and build resiliency against the uncertainty of state and federal funding sources. The goals are to 1) develop capacity throughout the state, reducing the reality of too much work with too few people, and 2) provide more resources to do the work. I'm not alone if the effort; a number of us are working towards these goals, not for our individual programs but the broader UC ANR. The strategy is to identify opportunities for specific programs and secure additional resources. By so doing, the tide rises to lift all boats. Some examples include:
- Securing a $500,000 gift to expand the CalNat program, with a goal of building on that gift for a long-term sustained expansion of the program;
- Secured funding of $500,000 that was matched by the UC President's Office to provide the UC Presidential Researcher for Sustainable Citrus Clonal Protection, held by Georgios Vidalakis;
- Received $19M in state funding for structural improvements at 3 RECs plus Elkus Ranch, an amount that far exceeds all funds received previously for this purpose;
- Developed partnership agreements to co-fund 6 CE Advisor position and 2 CE Specialist positions. Partners included a state agency (2 positions), 2 UC campuses, one commodity group (2 positions), and two counties. An agreement is under review by a third county for a 7th CE Advisor position. Additional conversations with new partners are in various stages;
- Established 10 Community Education Specialist position, funded by CDFA, to work in Climate Smart Agriculture by leveraging our academic network;
- Worked with one County government officials to secure funding for FY18/19 and increase it in FY19/20, following three consecutive years without funding (other than space);
- Worked with one County government office to prevent removal of funding proposed as a result of a significant structural deficit in the County;
- Implemented new annual giving strategies, resulting in a total revenue increase of in FY18/19, compared to FY17/18;
- Establishment of funding campaigns to stabilize funding for Community Education Specialist positions in both 4-H and Master Gardener programs.
None of these successes happened overnight. Each required numerous conversations with donors or partners to determine common goals and establish a path forward. Following, continued maintenance of the relationship remains essential, requiring continuous time and effort.
The above accomplishments contribute to different 'slices' of our funding sources pie, making it perhaps appear as less significant accomplishments than say a $10M donation. Some of the above achievements represent Competitive Grants and Extramural Contracts, while others increase the County funds slice of the pie, and yet other strategies add to the Endowment Income slice. But that's part of the plan – to garner support for the breadth of work across UC ANR.
While not everyone feels a direct benefit from the efforts yet, over time everyone wins, even if it is in some small way (averting a funding crisis, maintenance of program support despite a flat state budget, one more person in the office delivering a program, etc.). No question that a $10M donation to a specific program or building fund is great, but I'm just as happy to spread the wealth a bit more even if it takes time for everyone to feel the victory. Like any condition change, this, too takes time.
A few months ago I was surprised when we saw no increase in our state funding because campuses did see increases. Yes, I knew it was possible because there was no conversation about increasing the OP budget and, after all, we are a line item in the OP budget. Nevertheless, I remained optimistic. It didn't materialize; the state said 'no' to an increase in the OP budget and did not call out UC ANR for any special augmentation. But that wasn't the end of the effort. Next came several months of negotiations with OP to find additional support for UC ANR that reflected what the UCSF Corridor model would have provided had OP not been prohibited from receiving an increase. We just learned that we will see a one-time increase, but not the full model provision. That's progress, and we'll take it!
Key to my responsibilities is thinking forward about what all of this means for UC ANR. What impact does our funding model have on the size of our programs, our funding sources, what we deliver, what capacity we have if we change nothing, and what opportunities exist to attract resources that enhance our position? I work through the 'what if' and then align scenarios with goals and key strategies. There isn't a single path but rather numerous paths that lead to the intended outcome. No crystal ball shows me what's ahead, what external forces will come into play at any given time, and there is error associated with the scenario projections. Thus, the failure to achieve the intended outcome is possible. But the forecast is necessary for managing what the future holds.
Often, I look back to better see forward. Funding history is the first place to start. Historically, federal funding for Cooperative Extension has declined. While that funding has been stable for the last decade, flat funding for Cooperative Extension since 2009 means an annual shortfall equivalent to the increased costs for peoples, supplies, and operations.
State funding in 2017 for higher education across the U.S., remained below the pre-2008 levels. California funding was closer to pre-2008 levels than many/most states. The recent increase to the campuses may put the state funding on par with pre-2008 funding amounts. Nonetheless, it would be unwise to count on state funds to keep up with the pace of increased costs, much less regain the previous position.
In theory, the UCOP portion of the ANR budget is calculated using the “UCSF Corridor” model, and the source of funds continues to be the campus assessment. The corridor model has not yet been provided to UC ANR, in part because the OP budget remained flat in FY18/19 and now again in FY19/20 (no increase through campus assessment). Fortunately, for FY19/20, we will receive approximately 2/3 of what the UCSF Corridor model would have provided.
Once implemented, the UCSF Corridor model means that “in years where the University receives increased funding from the State, ANR would receive its "normal share" of the first 2% increase and then one-half of its normal share above 2%. In years in which the University receives budget reductions from the State, ANR would receive a reduction equivalent to its normal share of the first 1% and then 25% of its normal share above 1%. 'Normal share' is based on the percentage increase being allocated to the campuses for their base budget adjustment.” Glenda points out in a May 2016 post, “The bottom line, I believe, is that we now have a budget model that reduces uncertainty and allows us to plan and forecast into the future more effectively."
In my role, it is imperative that I think forward and calculate what the UCSF Corridor model means to UC ANR resources. While the uncertainty is reduced, it is replaced with predictable shortfall because, like this year, our increase is below that of the campuses yet we have academic and staff costs that keep up with the campus costs. Furthermore, even if we receive the full state increase, as campuses do, we could very well fall short of cost increases in any given year; this is not uncommon.
Clearly, state and federal funds do not offer a path for real growth. Diversifying our funding sources, using many strategies and ways is key to maintenance and growth. I don't share this with a defeatist attitude. If we know what we have ahead of us and prepare by laying the groundwork, we are more resilient to whatever we face. And, if circumstances are better than projected, we have a buffer! I will share a bit more about our diversified funding efforts in an upcoming post. This one is getting long.
The takeaway message is that we do have a lot of things going for us in getting ready for the future. Not the least of which is the caliber of our current programs and a long history of programmatic accomplishments. Rather than waiting to see what comes, we are constantly looking out 5 to 10 years, when making decisions to determine how that decision interacts with anticipated external factors and a projected funding reality. The growing list of tiny victories, in aggregate, make great strides towards ensuring that those who wish to be here 20, 30 years from now have the same or enhanced opportunities.
Which button do I push to have someone else do my work for me while I'm on vacation? I have been back a week now. Despite reading and responding to email while I was away, I just finished addressing all of the emails. I spent the weekend catching up. I wasn't able to catch up last week, and it appears there won't be time to catch up on anything this week. In the meantime, Mark Bell seems committed to reminding me how much fun it was to see dogs enjoying the beaches in Australia.
Today's a relatively normal day, full of hour-long meetings. Tomorrow starts the same, but I meet with the Academic Assembly Council for a block of time midday. Traditionally the approach to that meeting is to discuss concerns voiced by assembly members; tomorrow looks to be the same. On Wednesday the Peer Review Committee and the AAC-Personnel Committee meet. I have an hour or so to talk with them about the upcoming process despite the current year outcomes remaining incomplete for a few cases.
Over the weekend I blocked out some time in March to review dossiers. I can't believe I am already thinking about where I will find 200 hours for my part in the 2020 merit and promotion process. We need something that is far less time consuming and with better outcomes for all. The other, related activity I did over the weekend was to review and assess a promotion package for another institution. I still have one left to do next weekend before wrapping these up for the year. I suspect more requests may appear over the next couple of weeks. It is up to me to say 'no' if I don't feel I have the time or don't want to take the time away from personal time. I do these reviews during non-UCANR time and with seven total this summer, I think I've done my share. I am glad I reviewed the one that I did this weekend; it was perhaps the best-assembled document I have read in a long time. It was 34 pages and focused on the program impact highlights with supporting evidence. Included were only vital activities that supported impact statements and provided proof of recognized scholarship. I have no doubt it took considerable time and effort to assemble the document. Time spent was reflective of the need to convey program trajectory and reflect on program accomplishments, rather than compile tables and address formatting. For privacy reasons, I can't share the document with the meeting participants on Wednesday. I can discuss the approach; it mirrors an example document I assembled quickly for Wednesday's discussion.
I look forward to the conversation and the possibility of de-stressing the document assembly and review process.
I said ‘good-bye, for now' to the Great Australian Bight. It wasn't easy but it was time to get back to work. Travel turned out to be a bit hectic but everything worked out in the end. After all, if the worst thing that happened was that I had to stay a few more days, I certainly wasn't going to complain. One of the challenges was managing luggage; Qantas has different baggage rules with limits far less than that allowed by United Airlines. I found I had to juggle things around while still remaining under the weight limit that was less than what I had on the flight over. The result was moving items from one piece to another then weighing each piece (carry on and checked bags) to make sure I was under the total limit of 32 kg with no individual piece exceeding 23 kg. The process seemed more complicated than necessary and was further complicated by the fact that I wished to carry on my laptop and camera with extra lenses. Technology comes at a hefty weight.
The process of juggling buckets and keeping within a restricted limit that was far too low for what I wanted to accomplish served as a good step in bringing me back to reality (out of vacation mode). The process paralleled that of trying to maneuver UC ANR goals given budget realities. Faced with a flat budget that functions as a reduction because dollars don't cover the increased costs, does one devote the same level of funding to provide existing personnel with the resources for success (travel funds, discretionary funds, support staff) at the expense of increasing the number of programmatic positions (staff and academics) or vice versa?
I want both and I'm not giving up until we have both. Fortunately, and unlike the luggage situation, we can have both but it takes some work, some time, perhaps a leap of faith, and stepping outside the comfort zone. The fact that the Program Planning and Evaluation unit's academic footprint numbers show that we are holding ground in spite of last year's budget situation reflect that we can maintain support and numbers. Sometimes it feels like we are going backwards but then I realize that it was only a half-step backwards followed by a full step forward. The challenge is the time delay between steps.
We continue to hire new academics. Just yesterday Kamyar Aran started as an Assistant CE Specialty Crops Advisor with programmatic responsibilities in Contra Costa and Alameda Counties. Please take the time to welcome Kamyar and position our newest colleague for success. We have a few other new CE Specialists and CE Advisors joining UC ANR this month. I will share their information when their start date occurs.
In the meantime, there's a flurry of activity and interest in building support for UC ANR's budget. From UC Regents requesting tours of county-based programming to elected officials seeking input about our programs to clientele groups holding events and asking ANR to showcase their contributions, Anne Megaro has a full plate as do many, many others who develop and deliver the programs across the state who will be involved with these meetings. It is very exciting to see this high level of interest. Now is when we really have a chance to tell people who we are and the value our programs deliver all across California, to every Californian.
The August Costco Connection ran a story this month about the 5 questions to which the answers form the pillars of a company's success. In the article, the author references Steven Covey's comment that companies need to “begin with the end in mind”. The author concluded that “you can't know what you want to be until and unless you have envisioned it.” The timing of the upcoming 5-location workshops couldn't be better. Envisioning the ‘end' is the focus and more specifically, discussing how to provide the evidence that we have contributed to the stated end goal. The idea of capturing condition change data can be daunting but the author of the Costco Connection story says the answer to the ‘how' step is to “have fun, be brutally honest, work hard at it every day and it will become as natural as the air you breathe.” I'm counting on that applying the principle to the ‘how to have it all' question as well.
We've moved on to our second destination, leaving Perth behind. The only clue I have to provide for our new location is that we are in a different time zone, an hour and a half away. This might be the first time I have experienced a ‘half time zone'.
Perth was an interesting place, far less congested than Sydney or Melbourne with great wildlife viewing on Rottnest Island. Prior to our arrival there I had no idea that Rottnest Island was developed during WWII as an artillery base, though the area was never attacked. While I opted to explore the island from the ground, others took a different view. Different perspectives only help add to the experience.
Lorna and John recognized the quokka that draws thousands of visitors to Rottnest Island, encouraging tourists to take a selfie with the small marsupial. Much like the capybara of the Pantanal, the quokka can be seen everywhere and they cause costly damage to trees and vegetation on the island. Perhaps there's a market opportunity for nutria after all.
We stopped at a diner that had quotes scribbled all over the walls. One I particularly liked read “Turbulence is everywhere; it's how you ride the wave that makes the difference”. Very fitting given we were close to a popular surf beach.
I brought three dossiers with me to read and review. These are from other universities. So far, I've only managed to complete one. The return flight occurs during the day so perhaps that facilitates completing the remaining documents and reviews.
Generally, I focus on having a clear intended outcome in order to provide direction in my work life. But when it comes to vacation, I definitely lean towards “You don't always need a plan. Sometimes you need to breathe, trust, let go, and see what happens”. Other than a purchased return flight, we have no appointments this week. We'll see what happens.