It is only Wednesday, but a crazy week already. Program Council met this week as did the Strategic Initiative Leaders. Those meetings always lead to much thinking after the meeting wraps up. Thursdays are ‘COVID day'. Between calls with the Vice Chancellors for Research, the ANR Emergency Response Team, and Directors (REC, County, and Statewide Program/Institute), the day is full of progressive conversation each week. On Friday, the REC Directors and County Directors, taking a chunk of time out of the day, but well worth the chance to connect with everyone in some small way and share some ideas.
In between, I have made slow progress working on a concept that hopefully generates much interest among prospective partners. I need to wrap that document up and get it out to others for their input. We are winding down details on a new agreement that will fully fund two academic coordinators in the natural resources program area. Thanks to others in UC ANR, we have leads on a couple of possible partnerships that could result to two much-needed CE Advisor positions. I am looking forward to those conversations.
The Academic Assembly Council (AAC) Personnel Committee has continued their hard work to update the e-book, in preparation for the upcoming review period. That group doesn't make it easy to keep up, but I believe revisions are complete and both Mark and Mark are working with a group of the AAC to pull together training that will launch in October.
I am looking forward to the long weekend, despite the temperature forecast. I do have to do a bit of work to get ahead of next week's commitments, but the yard work is already caught up! I thought I was ahead on finishing my contribution to the Master Gardener auction – that ended quickly and I now find myself needing to wrap that project up this weekend. Of course, there's the pool, too, that needs some use before fall sets in. No doubt many of you have your sights set on Friday afternoon as well. Everyone, enjoy!
This week is flying by, Zooming by, actually. A number of meetings that occur every quarter hit the calendar this week. One of those was with the Academic Assembly Council. I was surprised at the new faces on AAC – the year seems to have gone by so quickly. Some of the AAC committee chairs agreed to an additional year. This is the case for Steven Worker and his role as chair of the Personnel Committee. Steven and the committee have been quite busy again this year. They have been working to provide greater clarity to the e-book. Last year the committee overhauled the book significantly. Fortunately, I believe this year's lift is a bit lighter.
The UC ANR strategic plan refresh is well underway. Attendance was strong at this week's input webinar. Those of us who will be sharing goals at next week's session are busy preparing slides and strategizing how best to share the goals to stimulate feedback and creative ideas for success with the goals. For those interested in attending, I suspect a reminder and registration link will be sent on Monday. We welcome the input and ideas!
The President's Advisory Commission Emerging Issues committee met today and continue to formulate their feedback for UC ANR priorities. One of the new PAC member, Paula Daniels, joined the group today and shared her work leading the LA Food Policy Council. She spoke highly of Gail Feenstra's efforts. This presentation followed a conversation last month brainstorming roles for UC ANR in building a resilient food network. The committee will continue its discussion later in August, before reporting out to the entire PAC at the end of the month. Key to the conversation is building resources to fund new priorities, in the absence of ideas about what to let go.
This afternoon I met with the Vice Chancellors for Research from the 10 campuses plus the directors of the three national labs. Keeping the UC research enterprise at the forefront of state budget decisions was front and center for the meeting. The VCRs talked about providing input to our new UC President about key opportunities at each campus. The pandemic was center stage in the conversation as well. While most campuses are operating at 25 to 30% of normal research intensity, COVID cases in researchers has remained low or zero. Hopefully, the return of undergraduate students to any extent will not be compromise continuation of research activity.
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>