I am in DC for a few days this week to meet with Extension Directors and partners, including the new NIFA National Science Liaisons. These are the NIFA employees who stayed behind in DC while the rest of NIFA headquarters relocated to Kansas City a few months ago. My understanding is that the Liaisons will work to build stronger connections with other federal agencies, as part of an effort to increase funding opportunities for agriculture, nutrition, natural resources, and youth development programming and research. While I know half of the team, I want to hear directly from the Liaisons what they see as the vision for their newly created roles and how they plan to interact with Extension and the land grant universities as well as other federal agencies.
Because I had to fly in the day before the meeting started, I made good use of my time this morning by meeting early with a group regarding how we make the work of Cooperative Extension known in university circles. All of us, in all academic circles, need to do more to help the public better understand the public impact of research, i.e., how the results of the research will improve the lives of citizens everywhere. Within the academic family, we can work more collaboratively to engage local communities in the identification of research needs and implementation of research findings in ways that enhance adoption at the local level. The conversation was much like the one had at the ANR Governing Council meeting last week, where we discussed the public impact of our work and that of the broader UC system and the missed opportunities to partner more closely and achieve more in a streamlined manner. No surprise in this funding environment that this topic is on the minds of many.
Traveling to the east coast has its upside. The time zone difference is such that if I skip group dinners, I can still participate in Pacific Time business (email, webinars, and phone calls) such that I don't get too far behind. Except for Thursday's email traffic, I expect to be pretty much up to date on things when I land in Sacramento Thursday evening. The weather is similar on both ends of the country this week - rainy and anywhere between 40 and 60 F. While not ideal, regardless of the coast, this, too, shall pass.
Mentally, I am exhausted. The week started with a couple of excellent meetings on the Berkeley campus. Then came a full day at the UC ANR Governing Council where we had a lively and productive conversation about UC ANR's public value statements, our partnerships, and our statewide programs. I was pleased with the level of interest in our work by those members of the Council who perhaps don't know us as well as our traditional campus partners. I found the suggestions and insights very helpful. I believe there is much potential to build solid partnerships with new campus partners while strengthening existing partnerships such that everyone feels a win. Things won't happen overnight, but the conversation has to start somewhere. I believe that conversation is off to a good start.
I'm hearing good things about the outcome of Giving Tuesday! I know final numbers are not tallied but I understand we exceeded an aggressive goal of $125,000 by over $5,000 and increased our number of donors! How exciting! The outcome is particularly strong considering we had added a second day of giving back in June. There's so much good work going on in UC ANR, it makes sense that people want to give! Congratulations to everyone who had any role in Giving Tuesday – from IT who made the Donate buttons happen, to everyone who sent encouraging emails, to every donor. We couldn't have done it without you!
Today the Program Council met and reviewed the CE Specialist and CE Advisor needs. There were moments during the meeting where I thought we couldn't possibly finish on time, but we did. While the thinking that had to go on was grueling, we were all fueled by the anticipation of building our colleague numbers. I don't envy the decisions the Vice President has to make; there were no unnecessary positions in the bunch. However, I am elated that there are positions to be announced in the very near future.
Mental exhaustion aside, the week has been uplifting and filled with motivation to do more. I can't wait to see what tomorrow brings!
Here comes the rain. And, here comes the start of the holidays. You would think the week would be slow. Not so. There's much to be completed before the long weekend. I won't finish it all by Wednesday. But in many cases, I would prefer to do some work over the weekend when I have a devoted block time to spend on a task than rush through elements of the job in between meetings.
This morning I spent some time with a staffer for the Western Governors Association. We focused on some of the WGA priorities where there should be substantial opportunities for Cooperative Extension and university research to plug into WGA efforts. I learned of WGA's plan to launch an invasive species data initiative in April that will focus on gathering data across the Western region using a common platform developed by Google. Another focus, in partnership with USDA, seeks to identify key areas in the West to control cheatgrass using a tool developed by NRCS. And, fire resiliency remains of keen interest to the WGA.
Next week, I spend some time at UCB, meeting with CE Specialists and the Berkeley Food Institute. Tuesday is the ANR Governing Council meeting. On Wednesday, the Program Council meets. The rest of the week slows down a bit to catch up on emails and other work.
I need to develop a presentation between now and the Governing Council meeting. I have two topics to cover. The first is about the public value of our work. That topic is a carryover from the last meeting, so the presentation is ready; I need to remind myself what messages I wanted to convey. The second presentation is about how we partner to achieve our impacts. My goal is to leave the Council members thinking about how their campuses can partner with UC ANR to translate campus research to broader impacts in communities throughout California. Mark Bell will provide the Council with an overview of our statewide programs and institutes. While the last meeting focused on fund sources and uses for UC ANR and our partner campuses, this meeting will focus on the programmatic side of our work. In sum, the Council should have a pretty thorough understanding of UC ANR though nothing compares to seeing our programs in action and hearing from clientele the difference our work makes.
Safe travels to all those on the road this week. Enjoy the time away, time with family, and the onset of winter weather.
The County Directors were in Davis today. The agenda was meaty with lots of details, discussions, and decisions to be made. It was a bit overwhelming at times to think through everything. At one point I thought to myself, “Did we really talk about topic X just two hours ago? It seems like it has been days, so much has been covered since”.
Many, many of us continue to work to secure program support for UC ANR from traditional funding sources. Efforts haven't translated to that increase in state funding that may be viewed as the big win. However, we continue to plug away, building the foundation for success. The anxiety and frustration comes from waiting for that positive change while simultaneously having to manage with less. In the meantime, we've had an amazing number of tiny victories that we might before never imagined possible. Some may not recognize that the sum of those tiny victories is truly impressive.
One tiny victory on this front is that Regents are asking to learn more about us! Just 6 months ago, we still hadn't had the opportunity to make a presentation to the full Regents committee. Now, we've hosted two tours and some of the Regents are tweeting about our work. I've posted in the past about other tiny victories and hopefully many recognize that there are a host of other examples.
Because it's not in our best interest to rely solely on traditional funding sources to meet program needs in the future, we've placed equal effort into diversifying our support through new and expanded partnerships. So while those looking at success through the lens of what it's looked like in the past don't see what they would like, anyone who's closely watching the results of what's happened when we've tried something new can't deny that it's pretty exciting. That's not to say we don't need to recover what we used to have. What I see in the sum of the tiny victories is the potential to not only get back what we've lost but to go beyond that and to do so in a way that makes us more resilient to whatever lies ahead.
Thanks to all of the Directors for their contributions to today's think sessions and to their leadership in meeting tomorrow's needs for California. And, many thanks to all who have made the victories happen! We'll get there, not without some bumps along the way, but we'll get there. As I was recently reminded, one rock starts a landslide of good things.
Despite no rain yet in California, the Midwest and Northeast have had snow days, making it time to acknowledge that winter is on its way and so, too, are the holidays. Some years I undertake crafty projects for the holidays. This year has been one of them. I recently finished a project where the vision grew as I went along. Because I didn't have a template or pattern to follow, I had to make things up as I went along, basing decisions on experience, input from colleagues, and intuition. While the end product wasn't exactly what I expected and left me with some practice samples, I'm confident the recipient will be pleased. Sometimes it helps when creating something that, while the functional criteria are clear, the design criteria remain a bit fluid.
Congratulations to Surendra for his recent recognition by the Entomological Society of America with the 2019 Distinguished Service Award!
Yesterday the Academic Assembly Council met. I was able to visit with the Council for a couple of hours. I'm not sure where the time went; before I knew it, our time was over. That tends to be the case when I meet with the AAC. It turns out there are some outstanding 'to-dos' on my list that I need to complete. Those meetings occur frequently enough that things keep moving forward. And, now that Mark, Mark, and I are meeting with the committees (one of us for each committee), we hope to keep ahead of concerns and maintain open two-way communications with this vital group.
Today I had a chance to meet with Yana to work on a grant. No surprise, we got side-tracked. However, we made significant progress thanks to all of the work that Yana, Scott Stevens, and others did to set the stage. What's really cool is seeing how pieces of seemingly unrelated opportunities are falling into place, much like what sometimes happens when you don't have a pattern to follow. Surendra wasn't the only one to receive kudos - Yana had nothing but praise for Kendra Rose. I only hear good things about Kendra so no surprise there.
Tomorrow is a County Director meeting. It's a tight agenda. The position reconfirmation process, 4-H support and a vision for the future, and a model for improving communication with County Directors are all on the schedule.
In between, I hope to shake the last of the cold I managed to catch last week and give some thought to what projects I want to take on over the upcoming long weekend. After all, even creating on the fly takes some preparation to ensure you have all the necessary supplies on hand.