Throughout the conference, we covered topics ranging from foreign influence and shadow labs to Title IX compliance to predatory journals. It is a bit alarming how all of these topics seem to intersect now. Also concerning was the number of federal agency speakers who made a point during their presentations to state "in the event of a government shutdown…" Perhaps another shutdown is imminent.
The most dynamic conference speaker talked about the 'normalization of deviation.' The speaker theorized that we ignore rules we consider burdensome, tedious, or energy-depleting when lack of conformance is not regarded as risky, unethical, or unacceptable behavior. When the deviator repeatedly and successfully 'gets it away with it' and there are no severe consequences, then the deviant behavior becomes the norm or the routine. The speaker provided examples most would consider as unethical behaviors such as the numerous violations of policy by BP employees in the Gulf who sought to save shareholders money. Also shared were less obvious examples such as NASA's knowledge of unreliable o-rings followed by misjudgment of the impact the lack of reliability would have on the unseasonably cold day that the Challenger launched. The speaker talked about organizational differences in policy interpretation. He compared Air Traffic Control where rule compliance ensures safety to NASA where risks are routine and a vital component of every mission. We need a mechanism to share new ideas and provide a thorough review and assessment. Otherwise, the innovator continues to practice their preferred way without perhaps full knowledge that the process has previously been tested and failed.
This week the Academic Assembly Council Personnel Committee (AAC-PC) met to talk about a new approach to preparing merit and promotion documents. The goal is to make the process less time consuming for candidates. Similarly, there is an approach under consideration that would do the same for the academic annual evaluation materials. Some institutions take the NASA approach and disclose evaluation criteria without any guidelines on how to assemble documents. Other institutions provide guidance documents, interpreted as rules that can be as lengthy as the candidate's review packages. I prefer the NASA approach; make explicit the criteria for success and leave it to the candidate to assemble their best case. However, I recognize that this can be uncomfortable for many who want a bit more structure and consistency between candidate packages for both merit reviews and annual evaluations. Next week the AAC-PC meets with the Peer Review Committee to pool ideas and develop a recommendation for me how best to proceed.
Lots to think about during my flight to Irvine. As one of the speakers commented in reflection on how their role has expanded over the last few years, "There is little time to be bored."
Only 3 hours spent on yard work this weekend and we had skipped last weekend. I think we've turned a corner and now have the gardens under control! For a while, it seemed that would never happen, but after many, many hours of hard work, it looks like the effort is going to pay off going forward. That's the case with many things – there's considerable upfront effort expended to reap the rewards later.
Last week we met with the UC Riverside CE Specialists. We always run short of time, but, overall, it was a good meeting. On the flight back, I started to imagine what it could be like if 330 academics valued the work of 400 community educators as they do their own. Then imagine that academics recognized that the work of other academics enhanced their work. Perhaps then the collective voice would work together for what each group wanted most. We all have an essential role in this organization, and while each group has its unique function, none succeeds without the other. There's work to be done to make that fantasy real.
This week the ANR Governing Council meets. These first meetings of the Council focus on our programs, our structure, our fund sources, and how funds are used. This week's meeting will include presentations from the UC Berkeley, Davis and Riverside deans about their use of the state and federal AES funds. In its entirety, the ANR budget is complicated. The information to be shared this week lays the groundwork for a more comprehensive understanding of the continuum of discovery to impact and all of the work it takes to accomplish all that ANR achieves.
Tomorrow the Academic Assembly Council Personnel Committee (AAC-PC) meets for the day. They have a long list of work ahead of them for the day. The purpose of the work is to pave the way for less stress in preparing annual evaluation and merit and promotion dossiers. Please thank the AAC-PC members for all of their efforts that will benefit every academic.
We had a good conversation during Tuesday's Academic Assembly Council. There was a long list of topics, but we were able to work through the list in the 2 hours we had. Honestly, we could have spent far more time on issues such as expectations of the different academic ranks, future hiring of academics, the importance and challenge of everyone hearing the same message across a large, dispersed organization, the merit and promotion process and time it takes to conduct the process each year, and feedback from across the academic assembly.
Program Council met at the Hopland REC, beginning Tuesday evening for dinner. Wednesday included an overview of the REC, a small slice of the vital work conducted there over the years, and a look at the plans, including opportunities that have resulted from the devastation of the fire. John did a great job with the presentation. We took a walking tour of the lower area of the REC which was very popular with participants. Program Council did have work to do; we spent time talking about what members saw as opportunities for the RECs.
Following Program Council, we headed to Lake County to have dinner with Rachel and Glenn. Thursday started with a good discussion in Lake County. I was surprised, in a good way, to learn that the local Tribal Health has doctors who prescribe Master Gardener classes as part of the diabetes prevention program. That's a powerful statement about the contribution of UC ANR programs to overall health and an excellent justification for working with counties to find support for our programs through Prop 63 funds that are grounded in improving mental health. We learned about how vital UC ANR programs are to a County of 65,000 people with little infrastructure and staggering statistics about the health and well-being of the County residents. UC ANR accomplishes its work through key partnerships. It was a story we had heard before, in other counties across the state.
We went on to Glenn County and learned about the great things going on there; we met a farm family that benefits from some of the work of UC ANR CE Advisors. Now we have a team of Community Educators to advance similar work. There is significant research going on in Glenn County that helps farmers and families, alike, address business and personal challenges.
During the week we learned of the Governor's new budget. UCOP remains flat. It is difficult to hear the news, given the evidence of how vital our work is to the people of California. We need to continue to share our stories, gathering more of them with more concrete impact data. While I am disappointed in the budget outcome, we are by no means defeated. Tomorrow starts another week with its own set of setbacks that don't even come close to competing with all of the successes./span>
In between the rain, tornado warnings, and disappointing playoff games, I took some time this long weekend to engage in some hobbies to engage my creative side. For the most part, this was relaxing. While not a hobby, I started my taxes. I don't mind doing taxes which is good because I do them for others and I still do them for multiple states. What was frustrating was the 'new improved' tax laws does not benefit an individual whose income is quite low. In fact, that individual will owe twice the federal income tax they owed last year even though the income is a combination of tax-deferred retirement investments and SSI. That leaves me wondering how the less fortunate will come out of this and reminded of the work of UC ANR, such as that of EFNEP, that is so important.
At the monthly Davis staff meeting last week, Shyra provided an enlightening overview of EFNEP, including testimonials from EFNEP participants and their health care providers singing the praises of the program. Interviewees talked about their weight loss, the savings they have observed in their grocery bills, and even the improved health outcomes as a result of the program. If you are not familiar with the program, contact Katie or Shyra to learn more. Shyra did a great job! Now we need the federal government to reopen so that this vital program can focus on what matters!
No need to travel to the Woodbridge Preserve these days to see the Sandhill Cranes fly in. I need to go to my back yard. A couple of cranes and a handful of egrets have taken over what is currently a bit of a lake. We've excluded the dogs from the area for the time being to minimize the mud they track around on their paws. Instead, they stand at the fence barking at the birds that have taken over their yard; I'm not sure which is worse.
The Academic Assembly Council has been busy putting together their nominations for the new UC ANR Governing Council. There wasn't much lead time provided to AAC to get the nominations submitted. Next time the AAC will have more notice. By early February we should know who will fill all of the available seats on the committee.
I am not traveling this week, so I should be able to catch up on things in both offices this week and maybe even continue with some of my hobbies during the evenings. I need to make the most of my time as soon enough it will be time to do yard work.
I have to admit that there are days I miss the 9-min commute. This morning was one of those days. I slept in 30 min later than my usual Oakland day wake up because I was driving all the way to Oakland rather than taking the BART from Pittsburg and I didn't want to arrive much before 6 AM. Had I left at my usual time I would have been ahead of the crash; had I snoozed only once instead of twice I may have been right in the middle of it. As it turned out, I was behind the crash only far enough that I sat for an hour before Highway 12 closed altogether and I had to cross the center lane and return home. In my past life if there were heavy rains a small piece of one road would flood and I would have to drive 3 miles out of the way to detour. Though I have only traveled this route for about 6 months, I have no doubt the fatal crash was the result of taking unusual risks to get somewhere a mere few minutes earlier. Sometimes there is something to be said for being careful, albeit a bit slow.
This month we made real progress on the strategic plan goal to improve the competitiveness of CE Advisor pay. It took quite a bit of time to make these strides because of the need to ensure we could achieve our goal of increasing salary competitiveness without compromising our goal of increasing the academic footprint. VP Humiston approved a four-year plan to increase annual pay for CE Advisors, and all CE Advisors are receiving increases effective October 1. CE Advisor pay has been a long-standing concern for ANR, and the four-year plan represents a significant investment in our people. The CE Advisors are essential to everything we do at ANR, and this plan recognizes their critical role. More background information is linked from the Strategic Plan website.
The CE Advisor salary plan was only a small part of the agenda of last week's Academic Assembly Council. Other topics that ensued during the time I attended included the position call process, Professional Development Fund uses, and REC recharge rates. We also discussed making a change to the bylaws to provide for election of a member to serve on Program Council. It was a full agenda for the AAC.
One thing that is not progressing slowly is the calendar. Can you believe tomorrow is Halloween already! And it seems dark so early now – next week that condition only worsens! With the end of the month near, this also means that some important leadership opportunity deadlines are fast approaching. If you have ever thought about serving as a Strategic Initiative Leader, be sure to consider throwing your name in the hat before the November 6 deadline. Application information is available the three Strategic Initiatives that have leadership openings. If you have County Director or REC Director experience, consider devoting a portion of your time towards serving as an Assistant Vice Provost. These are 2-yr appointments, 10 hours per week on average, and won't result in a greater number of direct reports, relocation or increased travel. An email was sent to all academics on October 12 with information about how to indicate your interest.
Looking at this week's calendar, I clearly need to wrap up my UC ANR Competitive Grant reviews. And the reminder from Katherine Webb-Martinez that Program Council members owe her something before Friday only reinforces the looming deadline.