The meeting over the long weekend in San Diego is rarely my favorite meeting, but I managed to leave with some reading. I need to become more of a reader if I am to keep up with it.
A manuscript I hope to read talks about the changing role of higher education dealing with wicked problems. I have no excuse not to read it because it is available for download via Digital Commons. Our opening speaker, Richard Meyers, took us on a brief journey of his experiences both as the15th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for the U.S. Air Force and now as the 14th president of Kansas State University. He talked about the role of public universities and the similarities he has observed within his very distinct careers. One of the speakers later in the conference spoke about the need for public institutions to serve the critical role as an anchor and catalyst for community improvement. I suspect Justin Morrill had the same idea.
Throughout much of the conference, we talked about community engagement as a key to successfully effecting change to improve community challenges. We received an update on the efforts by Cooperative Extension to partner with the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation (RWJF) in policy, systems, and environmental change in communities across the country. I highly recommend a visit to the webpage to read the report. During the first phase of the project, three locations in Utah serve as pilot projects. We learned about the work taking place in Emery County, UT, led by youth, to drive suicide and addiction prevention programs. The activities are impressive. I can't wait to learn about outcomes. The conversation was about more than this project addressing community-scale condition change and the value of measuring change at both the individual level but also the community level. One example made use of zip code-driven data on community life expectancy. However, even at this scale, there are differences. For instance, in a 10-block area in one Northeastern city, the average life expectancy is 16 years less than the national average of 75 years. The conversation, as a whole, was worthy of thinking.
The RWJF announced the 2019 Culture of Health Prize winners. Among the five is the community of Gonzales, CA (Monterey County)! The community story demonstrates a commitment to continuous improvement to make tomorrow better than today.
One of our final speakers was not only dynamic but had a great message. His comments reflected that of an earlier speaker who repeated C.S. Lewis' words that "You can't go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” He, too, talked about the importance of higher education and public institutions and the need to make that experience accessible to all so that we really can make tomorrow better than today. To do so, requires each of us stepping beyond our comfort zone to be the change we seek. I appreciated his example that this means changing the paradigm from having 'weed out courses' in the first-year curriculum to 'opt-in' courses. Finally, he reminded us that our habits become our character. Our character becomes our destiny. I left with more reading, The Empowered University.
There will be no time for reading tomorrow. However, I have a chance to see some of our newer UC ANR members during the Administrative Orientation, so it will be a great day. Beyond that, I haven't looked at my calendar but, we will keep working to make each day a bit better.
Some days I am easily sidetracked. I started out reading an article about an upcoming meeting in Sacramento, focused on the state's agricultural future. Dan Sumner is one of the speakers at the conference, as is Erin Fitzgerald, who is someone I worked with in my previous position. The topic seems a natural segue to a fascinating article that Doug Parker shared earlier in the week.
I quickly found myself going to the Dairy Voice website to listen to Pete Kappelman's podcast on the dairy industry's need for change. The new Senior Vice President of Member and Government Relations at Land O'Lakes talks about the need to do things differently to avoid continuing the same outcome. Pete was asked his thoughts on the competition with non-milk beverages for market share and what he thinks about the growing interest in plant-based proteins. He talked about some of the new dairy-based products under development. I see the challenge not just on the marketing side but also at the farm level.
Back in the spring, Betsy and Dana took us to a dairy farm. Speaking with the farmer, I found myself in awe of how one makes a go of it when the milk price is $18/cwt. That's the same price we received back when I was managing a herd in Florida. Florida's milk price was always a bit higher than more prominent dairy states, but how, decades later, can a farmer stay in business when costs have climbed at a much faster rate. Economies of scale, alone, can't possibly make up the difference. I have no answer. The dilemma likely contributes to the commitment people in UC ANR has to the industry.
Please take a minute to reach out to Giulia Marino. Giulia started on November 1, 2019, as an Orchard CE Specialist in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis, based at the Kearney REC.
If you have a few minutes to read about a colleague, take a look at this interview by UnidosUS. Fe Moncloa talks about our 4-H programs that engage youth in computer programming, even when a computer is not available. The different tracks of programming make for an excellent example of taking a different approach to achieve an intended outcome by meeting people where they are.
Interesting reading opportunities filled last week. That extra hour went by quickly.
4-H week ended on a high note. I received the photo, below, from Steven Worker. Notice the enrollment statistics for the program with overall growth by 141% and a 290% increase in Latino youth enrollment over the previous year! Congratulations, Sonoma County UCCE! Steven is noticeably absent from the photo; he must have been running the camera. Seeing Diego in the picture reminded me of my visit to the 4-H program in Sonoma County, where the youth were learning about the four forces of flight. It's no wonder the program is growing when you learn things like that.
I received an article last week claiming victory for Fresno County as the top ag producing county in the U.S. Congratulations, Fresno County! Kern closely followed Fresno County, then Tulare Counties, so a shout out to them as well. The article quoted the Fresno County Farm Bureau CEO as pointing out that almost all of the top 10 agricultural counties are in California. The rankings may be no surprise to us, but it is nice to know others across the country hear the news.
Last week the VP Council (Vice President's Council) met. This Council is made up of the statewide program and institute directors, business unit directors, vice provosts, and the associate vice presidents. The group meets quarterly to talk about issues of importance to the division. Last week, much of the meeting was about the results from the recent Staff Engagement Survey and moving forward to address some of the findings. The report is long, and in addition to positive outcomes, there is always room for improvement.
Kamal Khaira attended the VP Council meeting, just back from a trip to Bora Bora. I have to admit that I am a bit jealous. I lose track of time, but it's hard to believe that Kamal has been leading the UC CalFresh program for just over a year now. If you haven't had a chance to meet Kamal, take a look at the new UC Davis alumni feature and learn more about her background and what drives her. Then, be sure to find the time to connect with Kamal. Be sure to read the ‘Making A Difference' story on page 18, too. It is truly inspiring.
Later today, I head down to San Diego for the Western Region Administrative Officers Meeting. I don't usually attend this meeting. However, California is hosting the conference this year. I have a chance to welcome the group and thank them. The administrative officers and their teams provide tremendous support to the programs of UC ANR and its equivalents around the region.
It is a short week for me. I am taking Friday off as part of a long weekend to celebrate a milestone wedding anniversary. It will be far from a trip to Bora Bora but still better than the honeymoon, where we spent the night at a hotel near campus. The next morning we fed my anaerobic digesters before heading back to say farewell to out-of-town family and friends. Yep, we've come a long way.
Twice in the last week, someone has raised to me that I should be more active on social media. I have all the classic excuses: 1) no time, 2) don't want to be tied to my phone that much, 3) a Luddite-in-training (maybe a Neo-Luddist), 4) can't decide which platform, 5) can't be constrained to 60 characters, 6) nothing exciting to say, 7) don't like the idea of being followed, 8) I am better suited as a lurker. I wonder how long I can get by using those excuses. I may need to take some lessons from a few of the gurus, like Rose Hayden-Smith, Faith Kearns, and, of course, the Strategic Communications team. But, you know I don't like homework (very low on the Fun Scale).
If you are an Instagram user, be sure to follow Laura Snell and Dustin Blakey. They post incredible photos – clearly the benefit of living in some of the more remote areas of California. Dustin recently posted a fantastic night sky of Volcanic Tablelands #volcanictablelands. Rob Bennaton sent me a photo of a few of the Contra Costa 4-Hers meeting with their Board of Supervisors (thanks Rob!) in celebration of National 4-H Week. What an exciting day for the youth! The Board learned a bit about the program and the positive impacts the program has on youth, thanks to the 1-pager that Charles Go put together.
Fun Facts (compliments of Charles Go)
- 4-H youth are 3.5 times more likely to contribute to their communities
- 89% of 4-H youth indicate that they think about how their choices affect others
- 4-H youth are two times more likely to go to college
- 83% of 4-H youth are comfortable being a leader
- In Contra Costa County, 4-H youth participated in 229 projects ranging from cows to computers, public speaking, and financial management
- 262 adults serve as volunteers in Contra Costa County, and there are over 200 Junior and teen leaders
I haven't been out visiting counties lately (invitations welcome), so I appreciate the photo and facts. They are a nice departure from my odor facts.
Today was a full day meeting of Glenda, Tu, Kathy, and myself to talk about items that have been awaiting our decision as well as do some planning. You would think with all of the meetings we have, we wouldn't need an additional meeting, but opportunities are rare to focus on topics and plan or project, versus react. Everyone is swamped with meetings.
I became so engrossed in having a few hours of unscheduled time the other day that I ended up missing a meeting. I'm not sure when that popped up on my calendar, obviously sometime after I had last checked. The upside is that I did get a few things checked off my list. I'm still working on a presentation, but knowing I don't have to finish it until Sunday, I am likely to continue procrastinating.
We wrapped up the Information Sessions on Friday. Mark stayed behind in San Diego to enjoy the weekend. Each session brought about different topics for discussion during the open session. One common theme was that of the need to retain current academic and staff employees as well as a need to increase the numbers of employees focused on program delivery.
This week I will be back in San Diego on Wednesday to talk with the local office about the challenges of reduced staffing. The UCCE San Diego team isn't alone in this challenge, but we need to do some planning and brainstorming. I don't expect there will be time for the zoo or the sunset unless there is a delay in my return flight.
I'm headed to Fresno Tuesday evening to attend a local meeting to discuss the 4-H program and brainstorm how best to fund program growth. Hopefully, the attendees bring good ideas to the conversation. That program is doing such important work. Recently, the County received a $62,000 grant to pilot Work-Based Mentoring with At-Risk/Foster Youth. Congratulations to Alena and the team for their efforts to make this happen!
We are identifying new funding models for positions across the division. Considerations include County or other partner support for program staff or academic positions, endowments for program staff or academic positions, and recharge for business and research positions. All options come with challenges. Status quo has its own set of challenges.
On our way from the Kearney session to the San Luis Obispo session, we stopped at the SunMaid grower store in Selma. We discovered flavored raisins. Who would have thought that raisins, a product that has stood on its own for decades, would need to reinvent itself to keep up with changing consumers? One of our traveling group commented that the expansion in the product line did not sit well with the industry. I suspect that will change if the marketing strategy proves successful.
Thursday the Vice President's Council meets followed by the Dean's Council. At some point, I will have to identify what preparations I need to do for those meetings, but for now, I will focus on now through Wednesday.