A couple of weeks ago I spent a few days in Washington, D.C. attending the APLU meeting with several people for UC ANR and the UC campuses as well as the UC ANR CARET representatives. I have to say, photo ops with politicians is not my thing but it was really fun to spend some time with UC ANR's impressive CARET representatives and hear what our work means to them. Equally exciting was to see Clare Gupta, Lorrene Ritchie and Gabe Youtsey talk about their work. Lorrene and I were paired together a fair bit throughout the day and a half of hill visits so I was able to see firsthand her exceptional ability to connect with staffers; she was amazing! I've already nominated her to participate again next year! Not only did I learn a lot just observing her in action, but I was able to hear Lorrene talk about NPI's work around the state and the impact it has for communities and families. This week I met Dani Lee for the first time, one of the newest members of NPI. Hopefully I will get over to meet the rest of the team soon.
You can imagine that after spending that time in D.C. talking about UC ANR efforts, how disappointing it was to return only to learn of the proposed ‘skinny budget' which proposes a 21% reduction to USDA funding. This certainly illustrates the importance of highlighting the impact of our work on food security, community vitality, natural resource protection and youth development every day, not just for 1+ day in early March. That's the purpose of Goal 15 in the strategic plan – help people understand the positive impacts we have and not be the best kept secret. Now more than ever we need to constantly communicate our impacts in a way that people can relate to even if they aren't directly tied to our programs. And, I believe, the more we can aggregate our impacts across programs to some common indicator that many, many people can relate to the better off we will be. This will be part of the conversation when we hold regional information sessions this summer to share plans for executing the strategic plan, particularly goal 5. Dates and locations are still in planning phase but I will keep you posted and I am sure something will come out in the ANR Update. In addition, there's some work planned with statewide program and institute directors plus the strategic initiative leaders for mid-May to get that conversation started. Just like I learned a ton of new things during my travels the past couple of weeks, I look forward to learning from this group of directors/leaders.
For now though, I need to get back to catching up on some things, including a couple of manuscript reviews I forgot I had promised to complete last week. Not to mention my Crucial Conversations training reading assignment that I had planned to complete by now….
This week I will celebrate Cesar Chavez Day for the first time. I am interested to see how Californians go about remembering the work and impact of Cesar Chavez. I don't recall learning about Chavez or the struggles of migrant laborers during my primary education; perhaps the result of living in New York State. However, when I was enrolled in a literature course at Cornell I happened to see a flier advertising an upcoming seminar which I mistakenly read as “The Grapes of Wrath”. I decided to attend the event in hopes that I could skip reading one of the assignments for the course. It turned out the title of the event was “The Wrath of Grapes” and was a movie followed by discussion about the life and efforts of Cesar Chavez. Needless to say, I had to read John Steinbeck's work later that semester.
I've never been one to sit down and read unless confined with no other activities from which to select. As I write this, I am on a long flight to attend the Western Extension Directors Association spring meeting. Knowing I would spend much of the day in the air, I packed up what I hope to be the final draft of a graduate student's M.S. thesis, a manuscript draft from my MSU technician for a project she led, the electronic files of a promotion packet from a faculty member at a non-US university, and a draft of the 2016 UC ANR Federal Report. Then, of course, there is still that Crucial Conversations homework that I really need to complete.
Thus far, I have only tackled the federal report. I can see where the information within it will be quite useful not only for the mandatory reporting, but also for future conversations much like the one we had when a group of us made Hill visits in early March. The impact stories provided by Specialists, Advisors and staff have tremendous use to me as I go about my work. They are one of the best ways I can stay up-to-date on what's going on around the Division and what impacts the work is having. I am optimistic that at some point there will be a means for me to query a database and have targeted information at my fingertips. During my 20 years as a Specialist I often wondered if anyone ever read what I submitted; it turns out that Katherine Webb-Martinez, Chris Hanson, Kit Alviz and others do read the information and assemble it in a manner for me to read. And I do intend to make use of the information. So as painful as it is to write things up and submit them, believe me, it is equally painful to read things that are carelessly assembled and just submitted so that it can be checked off the ‘to-do' list. Fortunately, that's not what I encountered today – so ‘thanks' to everyone who took time to thoughtfully prepare and submit impact statements about their work!!!
And speaking of reading… did you know that the UC ANR Davis building has set up a ‘Leadership Library'? It is in the lounge area on the second floor, just outside VP Humiston's office. We just set it up recently because in one way or other we are all leaders and can benefit from some tips and strategies. There are already some books on the shelves but if you have a stack at home or in your office that you are considering whether or not to keep, consider donating them to the shelves. And if you see a book that interests you, feel free to take it and replace it when you have finished it and are back in town. I've still got a stack in Michigan that I will have to work on getting to California. If the shelves are full, we can make more space or consider establishing a branch library in Oakland. Academia and UC ANR are about continuous education and improvement. For some of us that means picking up a book every now and then.
Next week I am heading to Redding and north to spend some time with Larry Forero, Yana Valachovic and their offices. The United flight I was on earlier this week ran an advertisement for Redding on the video entertainment system which has me once again in awe of the resources in California. But the state has nothing over UC ANR as far as impressing me. Last week seemed to be full of recognitions for a number of people in UC ANR. Here's just a few that you may or may not have heard about:
Tim Paine, professor and AES researcher at UC Riverside, was named the inaugural Tokuji and Bettie L. Furuta Endowed Chair, recognizing his work in IPM for woody ornamentals. It was a really nice reception with Furuta family members present and a strong turnout from Dr. Paine's colleagues. John Kabashima and Loren Oki, to name just two, were among presenters who had great memories to share of both Dr. Furuta and Dr. Paine. Dr. Paine gave an eloquent acceptance speech; highlighting that is was collaborations throughout his career that fostered his success.
David Lewis, UCCE watershed advisor and County Director of UCCE in Marin and Napa Counties, was named one of the two recipients for the 2017 Bradford Rominger Agricultural Sustainability Leadership Award by the Agricultural Sustainability Institute. The award recognizes the work David has done to help communities find practical, science-based ways to protect salmon habitat from agricultural erosion, cleaning up oyster beds polluted by dairy operations, riparian ecosystem restoration and conservation, and water quality planning to protect the Napa and Sonoma Rivers. Way to go David!
Sheri Zidenberg-Cherr, CE Specialist at UC Davis, was awarded the 2017 Academic Federation Award for Excellence in Research in recognition of the impact and significance of her recent work on school nutrition education and scientific literacy, school gardens to teach nutrition, and multicomponent interventions to reduce the incidence of childhood obesity. Congratulations Sheri!
I suspect I missed some recognitions so if you are aware of any, please feel free to share as a Comment to this blog.
And while those recognitions are acknowledgement of career successes, a number of new hires are just beginning their UC ANR careers. While attending the Western Extension Directors Association spring meeting this week we met with the Western Region Program Leaders Council (UC is represented by Chris Greer) and heard about the many, many plans that group has to develop resources for new, and experienced, academics including program evaluation and assessment videos and a new idea to develop an innovative way of sharing program approaches and successes that could have multiple uses, would be peer-reviewed and is an outlet for deliverables that are focused on engagement beyond what a journal article can provide. Here's just one example of their work to develop resources: http://extension.wsu.edu/wrpl/.
Enjoy your day off tomorrow in recognition of Caesar Chavez. If you get a chance, try to locate and watch “The Wrath of Grapes”. Did I mention that the Western Extension Directors Association spring meeting was held in Kona? There are definitely some advantages to being located in the Western Region. I wouldn't be surprised if the Midwestern Region meeting is held in someplace like Mankato or Omaha – equally as expensive to get to without the view. So before I head back and get some more reading done on the flight, I am going to take advantage of the 3-day weekend and go up 14,000 feet or so to see what snow pack remains on Mauna Kea. Hopefully the ‘vog' isn't too thick.
It is budget season across UC. I'm not sure if it works the same way across UC as it does in UC ANR but it is shaping up to be an interesting process and one that is very different from what I have experienced before. In particular, the differences are 1) solicitation of budget requests from statewide programs, the RECs, support units and administrative units, 2) the review of budget requests by Program Council and Administrative Review Committee, and 3) the organization of the entire process. Tu, Jennifer Bungee, Yuhang Shi and the rest of the team have worked hard to provide a process that is both efficient and user-friendly. I'm in awe of how they manage to keep everything straight and so thoroughly understand what is embedded in each number they see. Program Council has completed its review of the requests and I believe the Administrative Review Committee is near completion if not done. Now if we could only get a federal budget approved. I can't help but wonder if the federal government wouldn't be a bit further along if Jennifer was shepherding their process as well.
The numbers are in for the UC Contracts and Grants report. UC ANR numbers show an increase of 11.1% in awarded projects for the first two quarters of 16-17 as compared to the prior year. Congratulations to all of the awardees! Personally, I have always considered grant writing a bit of a game (the granting game) and it is always nice to win one. Hopefully funding opportunities will remain strong and the ‘skinny budget' represents a starting point for negotiations that ultimately acknowledge the need and value in research so that UC's numbers continue to increase.
If you haven't heard and/or don't already have the dates on your calendar, the 2018 UC ANR Statewide Meeting will be held the week of April 8, 2018 in Ontario, CA. The Strategic Initiative Leaders, Sherry Cooper and a planning committee are working on an agenda that leaves time for program teams to meet in conjunction with the event. This will be the time for program teams to meet during fiscal year 2018 (FY18); no additional funding will be provided to hold program team meetings between July 1, 2017 and June 30, 2018 (FY18) other than during the statewide meeting the week of April 8-13, 2018. In the coming months Sherry will solicit requests for meeting rooms so no need to try to book one quite yet but do keep this in mind. I'm looking forward to a productive meeting. If you have ideas for the planning team be sure to share them with any of the Strategic Initiative Leaders.
Tomorrow I have an early morning and I hear that I am starting it off by ‘looking at heifers'. This won't be the first time I have done that, though, admittedly, it has been a while. But given that I used to start my day by checking in on springing heifers at 3 AM and tomorrow doesn't start until 6:30 AM, I remain optimistic that I won't need to turn any calves.
Early Saturday morning I drove from Eureka to Davis. During that time period it felt like I was passing through universes complete with changing weather (rain, sleet, snow and then sunshine) and the transformation from dark to daylight. The scenery was stunning and the time I spent with the teams in Shasta, Trinity and Humboldt Counties was enlightening. I can't thank everyone enough for their time and hospitality. My brain is very full from all that I saw and learned. I also have to thank Joan for the sage advice she provided before I departed – “you'll need socks”.
We did look at heifers; they looked back and all was right in the world so we moved on. Then I saw an EFNEP training in Shasta County where the elementary school kids were learning about alternatives to sugary soft drinks. Ruby demonstrated a tremendous amount of patience with the group and Janessa was clearly in her element helping the kids with their paper exercise before they sampled a flavored water. On Friday, Jessica delivered the same lesson in Humboldt County to a slightly older group who clearly appreciated the fact that the training was in both English and Spanish. Jessica's enthusiasm for the training was contagious and the class couldn't wait to sample the agua fresca.
During my visit up north I had a chance to see one of Nate's passions – the Burney High School 4-H Club. Did you know that the STEM program has participants design and build aquaponics systems and egg incubators? Talk about getting youth excited about science! Not to mention they have access to 3 3-D printers! It's only a matter of time before this group trades in making planters to start cranking out prosthetics.
Thomas and Cody gave me an opportunity to see an organic grass-based dairy in Ferndale and we talked about water quality and air quality issues as well as their challenges and plans for the operation that has been passed down through Cody's family. Yana and Dorina were real troopers for humoring me so that I could visit a dairy; they both seemed knowledgeable about the regional industry which is likely a reflection of the close knit nature of the office. The collegiality was apparent the day before when Jeff, Dan and Deborah were also around in addition to some folks from some of the other offices co-located in the multi-service center building.
I learned so much about the redwood business from Pete Bussman. As much as I appreciate a redwood forest, I had never had the opportunity to meet with someone in the business so it was fascinating to hear about his multi-generation business and how the productivity has increased over time to the extent that there is 50% more redwood standing now than there was 30+ years ago on the same piece of land. It is unlikely that is the perception of most non-foresters, such as myself. Despite the rain, Pete was willing to walk us through his forest and share his thought process for making harvest decisions.
I met some fascinating people who all shared the importance of Cooperative Extension, from Bill (attorney) to Henry and Pam (grass fed beef), Dina and Mark (cattle and timber), Pete (cattle and forestry), Lee (cattle and auction yard), and Chris (cattle and agribusiness). It was evident that Cooperative Extension provides a needed and valued service in this part of the state. The prioritization of needs appears different which makes complete sense given the economic drivers and the population of the region. I didn't have near enough time to visit with Lenya while we celebrated the completion of Jeff's certification exam but her work with fire is a great example of a need and a position that was new to UCCE in response to that need. Emerging needs such as fire, water, disease prevention, and more underscore why it is so important that we periodically take a look at what the needs are, assess what capacity we have to meet those needs, and align/re-align our efforts to provide capacity to meet those needs. That's the purpose of Goal #5; that and determining how to help each person make their workload and expectations list manageable. The focus is about how we individually direct our own efforts to be most impactful but not overwhelmed. The conversation with Carol in Trinity County really helped frame how different the needs may be throughout the state and why a one-size-fits-all is not appropriate in a state as large and as diverse as California.
And did you know that Yana hosts a radio show on KHSU every 5th Thursday? She recently hosted the top post for the station, discussing the topic of ocean chemistry, global climate and local effects. I haven't downloaded the show yet, but plan to.
A great week with a bit of an annoying end to it. I set off the alarm in the UC ANR Davis building when I went in to return the keys and put my new plant in the office. I've dreaded the day I did that. On the upside, I survived it and didn't end up being dragged off in handcuffs while I waited for the security company to take me off ‘hold' and help me reset the alarm. So that leaves one of my ‘fears' over and done with; 1 left to go. Somehow I still managed to leave the building without returning the keys – after all I did say my brain was full.