I had more gardening to do this weekend. That translated to more wounds. I am done with gardening for a few weeks because vacation starts next weekend, giving the weeds plenty of time to get ahead of me.
Over the weekend I learned more than I cared to know about one Western U.S. weed – foxtail. One of our dogs ended up with a foxtail deep in her ear; the plight of having big ears, I guess. Apparently foxtail isn't a big nuisance for cattle as I haven't heard of it lumped with Medusahead, Goat grass, or Cheatgrass. To me, Cheatgrass and Foxtail look pretty much the same, but I am a far cry from a gardening wiz.
I am surprised to see just how far the reach is for some of our Master Gardeners. Browsing through Facebook last week I was pleasantly shocked to see that one of my sisters had ‘liked' a post by the UCCE Sacramento County Master Gardeners. This sister is not a big gardener, likely knows nothing about Cooperative Extension, much less Master Gardeners, and lives in Virginia Beach, making it all the more impressive that the UCCE Sacramento County Master Gardeners have ‘reached' her. This highlights the power of the internet and social media as a tool for getting our information out beyond what we can do through meetings and print publications alone.
If you've read the 2018 Master Gardener Annual Report, you know how far their reach extends. The over 6,000 volunteers reached half a million Californians in 2018 by donating almost as many volunteer hours and receiving over 90,000 continuing education hours. What's more, the volunteers are long time volunteers. Pam Bone, from the UCCE Sacramento County Master Gardeners, was featured in the annual report to recognize her almost 40 years of volunteer service. Pam was the first UCCE Master Gardener volunteer. We are able to accomplish so much thanks to our volunteers across a number of our programs. I encourage everyone to take a look at the report. It is a great reflection of the broader UC ANR goals and public value, and a fantastic reminder of how fortunate we are to have dedicated volunteers.
The SI Leaders meet on Tuesday, followed by Program Council late Tuesday and into Wednesday. Friday the Blue Ribbon Panel meets to talk about making a visit to a few RECs in mid-September. While I am ‘in town' this week, it looks like it won't be slow at all. Summer will be over before we know it!
During our meeting this week, NIFA Director Scott Angle met with the group and shared a number of updates. Things are moving quickly to relocate NIFA to Kansas City. About a dozen staffers and 8 program people will remain in DC. Program staff have until the end of this week to apply to remain in DC. While it's disheartening to think about UC ANR's budget this coming year, I can't even imagine how those within NIFA feel about things. Director Angle talked about NIFA priorities, citing that efforts will focus on 5 areas: climate change, nutrition and health, policy, artificial intelligence, and sustainable intensification. This isn't new information though he emphasized that NIFA is committed to addressing climate change which is a bit of a different direction than previous messages that have come out of USDA. We also heard about plans to take a look at the capacity fund allocation method. It's unclear what this means but good to know it is coming. Hopefully it means good things for California.
We heard quite a bit about the matching requirement for NIFA funds. Efforts are underway to have a fix in place for next year's call for proposals. Unfortunately, there isn't a fix for the current RFA. Rumor has it Glenda played a big role in conversations to make headway.
We received an update from National 4-H Council. Good things are happening there. Mary Ciricillo's success in receiving $60,000 as a result of Foundation efforts was called out. And Fe Moncloa's co-leadership of the Access, Equity, and Belonging Committee was recognized for the resources under development. Of particular interest was a True Leaders in Equity Institute that was held in DC in April. Take a look at what some of the participants shared about what equity means to them.
It has been fun to hear what's going on in other states. Ten schools in Albuquerque, previously rated as ‘failing' now have 4-H Fridays where the last hour of the day is a 4-H meeting. Every student goes to a ‘club classroom' and works on projects. Attendance during the week and completed homework assignments are required in order to participate in the club that week. The result – better attendance, better grades, excitement over school! In Oregon, OSU Extension has partnered with REI to launch an outdoor economy initiative. Non-profits, for-profits, and agencies will be engaged as partners as the initiative develops.
I'm ready to head back to CA and put my new knowledge to use. If the ambient temp is going to be in the high 90's I would rather have that at home.
I arrived in Albuquerque Sunday afternoon. It was surprisingly cool here for the first 12 hours. While that has changed, 3 years in the desert that is California has acclimated me. Keith and Bill Frost, and Jean Marie Peltier are here with Glenda and I. Today's meeting started with a brainstorming session about the future direction of the Western Center for Metropolitan Extension and Research (WCMER); Keith is the California rep on the Center's Advisory Board but a number of others from UC ANR are involved with the center in various ways.
WCMER has been around for about 5 years so it is time to reflect on all that the Center has accomplished while simultaneously thinking about future needs without feeling chained to the past. What was most interesting about the morning discussions was the repeated acknowledgement that ‘urban issues' aren't much different from ‘rural issues'. Rather, a different delivery mechanism from the traditional Extension model used historically in rural Extension programs is needed to affect change in urban areas.
The rest of the week is meetings plus a tour on Wednesday afternoon. On Tuesday evening we have a cultural presentation during the group dinner. I can't remember where the tour will take us but by the time Wednesday comes I will be eager to not sit in meetings.
During the recognition lunch David Haviland and team will be recognized for their IPM work as recipients of the Western Extension Directors Association Award of Excellence. Congratulations to the group for their accomplishments! Be sure to check out the website in a few weeks to read the award abstract for the team.
Welcome to Amer Fayad who started today as the new Director, Western Integrated Pest Management Center! Amer is located in the Davis UC ANR building. California is fortunate to be the current home for the Western IPM Center.
One thing UC ANR doesn't have is a Chile Pepper CE Specialist. I was surprised to learn that New Mexico State University has a Research Specialist that focuses on chile peppers. And, NMSU has a Program Specialist, too! The positions are key to the Chile Pepper Institute whose mission it is to ‘educate the world about chile peppers'. I think those who grew up in the Southwest best appreciate the value of such an institute.
The April 2019 academic footprint numbers are in. Now granted there were a number of colleagues who departed just this past week, but, overall, the numbers are promising. CE Specialist numbers are at the highest (n = 119) since I first started tracking the numbers. CE Advisor numbers are tied with a year ago (n = 173) and just 2 persons less than the October 2018 high of 175 CE Advisors. Academic Coordinator numbers are where they have been most of the quarters (n = 31) and Academic Administrators remain steady (n = 7). The non-CE ANR Academic numbers tend to be most variable but are higher than 2018 numbers.
Speaking of CE Specialists, please welcome Dr. Susana Matias Medrano. Today was Dr. Medrano's first day as Assistant CE Specialist in Obesity, in the Department of Nutritional Sciences and Toxicology in the College of Natural Resources at UC Berkeley. And, adding to the CE Advisor numbers, Mohamed Nouri started today as Assistant CE Orchard Systems Advisor, based in Stockton with programmatic responsibilities in San Joaquin County.
It seems that it has been a while since I welcomed new academics to UC ANR through this blog. I believe the last time was at the very end of May. Perhaps I've missed a couple of new hires; I suspect we didn't hire any during June. Either way it is nice to see some new hires.
We have slowed the hiring over the last few months. While we are moving forward with a few of the 2018 position call process positions, we have not released a wave of positions to be filled over a 2-year period. The CE Specialist positions from the 2016 position call are now offered, accepted, or filled. A few CE Advisor positions from the 2016 position call remain under recruitment. In spite of the slowed hiring, the academic footprint numbers look really good. I'd have to guess that is in part due to taking a new approach to funding some positions. Imagine what they would look like if we didn't have two consecutive years of a flat budget!
Perhaps I need to add to my ‘to do' list a plan to determine how best to track program staff numbers. This group is so critical to delivering the mission, it is as important to build that footprint as it is the academic footprint. I will have to think about this a bit over the upcoming long weekend.
It's that week of the UC ANR year when a number of our colleagues prepare for their next act. Some are retiring, some are just moving on. Hopefully all are excited about their post-ANR adventure.
While I was attending a LEAD21 Board meeting last week, the program manager shared graduate statistics. The findings from the fall 2018 alumni survey indicated that 68% of respondents (n = 399, or approximately 25% of all alumni) 3 years post-graduation remained in the position they were in at time of enrollment. However, for the 2017-2018 class it appears that the percentage will be much lower. At the 2018 graduation, 9 of the 83 class members had changed positions during the course of the 9-month program. This may be a trend that is consistent with general frequency that people change jobs these days. I don't have the data at hand but last I heard non-retirement turnover of UC ANR academics and program staff was not increasing. It may be time to look at those data again and see where we stand, particularly given the goals of our strategic plan to recruit and retain top talent. To really understand the data, we would want to compare with a peer organization so that we can separate UC ANR impacts from generational trends.
Speaking or retirees, guess who just returned from the world's northern most settlement with more than 1,000 residents? Bill Frost was fortunate to spend summer solstice under the midnight sun. Not many people have the chance to visit Longyearben, Norway but don't overlook it when making your Bucket List. For Bill, I don't think it was a planned part of retirement. This goes to show us that you never know what's around the corner.
Other findings from the LEAD21 alumni survey was that participants felt that, following the program, they still struggled with 1) recognizing the underlying cause of conflict and 2) identifying ways to incentivize creativity in the work place. This makes sense. A week ago I would have thought that perhaps I would have more time to think about these topics this week and next. That is proving to not be the case. Year-end is approaching fast and there's little time to look up, much less contemplate, despite wanting to connect with all of the retirees and personally thank them and wish them well.
I have heard from a few CE Advisors who are contemplating their time with UC ANR durint their final days before achieving emeritus status. One CE Advisor said “it's been an incredible experience and privilege to work for and with UC ANR / UCCE on so many levels, not least in my role of public service to the community.” Another CE Advisor reflected “I sincerely thank the University for support and guidance and for providing me with a platform to accomplish my work.”
To all who are moving to their next adventure, thanks for all of your contributions to UC ANR. We couldn't have done it without you!