Last week the South Coast REC team were incredible hosts to the UC ANR Governing Council. From the tours, to the food, to the partners who make it all happen, no one left without a clear understanding of why UC ANR is important in communities across California. The tour stops that included a visit to Alex's work, a stop where it was easy to see the impact of Cheryl's herbicide demonstration, and a stop to see how Darren's agriculture program seamlessly transferred to addressing urban needs. Each stop was rich with examples of how it's the partnerships that make everything happen so much better than any member of the partnership could do it alone. As tourists, we could have visited with the researchers and partners all day. Then it was on to lunch where we were treated by local talent to an incredible meal and beverages made with ingredients from the REC. Following, Bea and Niamh, with their partners, delighted us with strong visuals of what they encounter in their work. For Bea, that's the ‘creepy crawly' and for Niamh, they are the furry things. Thanks to everyone at South Coast REC for the hospitality! I know the entire team was involved in making it happen.
At the end of the week I headed to D.C. for a meeting. One of the topics was identification of grand challenges. Relevant to UC ANR, one challenge identified was' the Extension system of the future'. That's a topic we need to think about as we approach the 2025 and imagine the next iteration of our vision. A second topic, ‘the food system of the future', is one that I know the Sustainable Food Systems Strategic Initiative is already making plans to brainstorm about in the near future. I will be interested to see how these topics develop, both in UC ANR and across the U.S.
In the meantime, because I am on vacation this week, I am not giving much thought to either topic though I am on the lookout for a few furry things and trying to avoid most things that are creepy crawlies. I'm enjoying reconnecting with a group of friends I haven't seen in some time and spending extended time with those I do get a chance to see every now and then. Given that UC ANR is full of world travelers, I'm sure many of you have been where I am. A few of you found my summer test easy. Let's see how you do this time. Here are a few hints:
- I am not in the U.S. or in a U.S. territory
- English is the primary language and the USD is the most popular currency
- I am not cut out for these warm temperatures
- Water and history were two of the primary drivers for choosing the location, in addition to weather for those in the group who are deep in snow this time of year
- We are in the Central Time Zone
- There is no Visa requirement for U.S. citizens but there is an exit tariff
- I don't expect to see a capybara but a Jabiru stork is possible
I hope the clues were helpful!
I hope everyone enjoyed the warm weather over the 3-day weekend. I spent a fair bit of time outside getting the gardens ready for spring. All my plants need now is rain.
Please welcome Carolyn Whitesell who started this week as a Human-Wildlife Conflict CE Advisor, based in Half Moon Bay, with programmatic responsibilities in San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, and Sonoma Counties. I have no doubt Niamh and Roger look forward to having another colleague. Based on the news I heard this weekend regarding a mountain lion in San Mateo County, I'm sure the County is glad to have Carolyn on board.
Today was full of meetings, in part because the week is short a day and, in part, because I begin traveling with few days left available in March to schedule anything. During a call of Vice Chancellors for Research, we talked about the coronavirus and how campuses are handling risk and travel challenges. I was quite surprised to learn how few faculty have been caught in China. While there are a dozen or so students, only 3 non-student employees are impacted, thus far. Hopefully, none of the U.S. cases are impacting UC employees. We are a long way from talking about this in the past tense.
Wednesday the ANR Governing Council meets. We are taking a field trip to the South Coast REC. The meeting is a bit shorter than the typical meeting, to allow for travel, but still full of good information for the members. The agenda focuses entirely on UC ANR programs at South Coast, including urban forestry, water conservation, production agriculture, urban wildlife, and the important role UC ANR plays in urban areas. I'll be interested to hear the impressions of our Governing Council members.
Later this week, I am off on a different type of field trip for a quick board meeting in D.C. before heading back. While only a quick trip, I have big plans to get much work done onboard the plane. We'll see how that plays out.
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.
Yard work season is in full swing. That means research agricultural field research is underway as well. It doesn't look like water will be a big concern this year. I'm hoping my yard is ‘under control' by Memorial Day to avoid weeding, pruning, and tree trimming during the heat. In spite of yard work, I made progress on the dossier reviews. I am halfway through with 39 packages left to undergo my first review.
Today was the first meeting of new UC ANR Governing Council. The 6-hr long session was intended for the Council to get to know each other and UC ANR. Both Glenda and Tu gave overviews of our high-level goals, programs, funding sources, and expenditures. While all, or most, of the Council members know a fair bit about UC ANR, the details were likely informative to all. The fact that Cooperative Extension is a 3-way partnership between federal and state governments and the local community (county) may be a detail that was unknown to some of the Council members before today. Numbers of academics and staff largely depends upon the level of support provided by each of the three partners. Should one partner step away, the entire partnership is compromised.
During the Western Extension Directors Association meeting last week in San Diego, I learned that the Extension Director in Nevada had made tremendous progress demonstrating the value that Cooperative Extension brings to the state. Though Cooperative Extension was slated to receive a 72% cut to its state funding back in 2011 (proposed by the Provost; a 33% cut proposed by the Governor), it appears that things have turned around mainly due to County support for programs. Clark County (Las Vegas) is partnering with Cooperative Extension to address youth violence by providing Cooperative Extension a $60 million contract to solve the problem through its 4-H program and sub-contractors on an as-needed basis. Also, the Director requests a $4.7 million increase from the State. I grabbed a copy of the 1-page ask to review and share with others.
Other states are in a very different position. The University of Alaska is merging Cooperative Extension and the Ag Experiment Station. That by itself isn't a problem. It is the intent to downsize both that causes concern. One of the three campuses plans to close, and while Fairbanks has not declared exigency, some speculate that tenured faculty may lose their jobs. The thought that field-based academics may be released when their communities need them most is of great concern.
These conversations as well as others throughout the 2-day meeting reminded me that while we may not have the density of positions per capita or square mile as other states, we do support our people very well, offering travel funds, grants support, program evaluation support, and many training opportunities.
Tomorrow I head to Denver for an Extension administrators meeting before visiting with the team in San Bernardino County.