It drizzled a bit this morning! What a welcomed occurrence, though I hope it is sunny for the visit to the Lindcove REC on Friday. Despite the rain, the thought of fire is never far away. Take a look at this new report from UC, including our very own Faith Kearns and the California Institute for Water Resources. Congratulations, Faith, on this effort! In particular, I like the policy focus of the report.
The South Coast REC crew have a few minutes of fame for their longstanding program success. The Voice of OC recently talked about just some of the farming activity that goes on at the REC. Take a look. Congratulations to Jason, Tammy, and the entire team that keep agriculture front and center despite urbanization of the area!
Earlier this week I had a chance to meet with the AAC-Personnel Committee. That group certainly stays busy. I enjoyed the conversation and the follow up discussions since that have largely centered on ensuring success for our expanding workforce.
The hiring continues! Since last post, I believe we have filled one or two additional CE Advisor positions (up to 4 now, I believe) plus a new CE Specialist position. This is all very exciting. Equally exciting is the list I received of National Association of County Agriculture Agents awardees. Newer UC ANR academics are among some of our awardees. Congratulations to Brooke Latack who received a national award for a featured story, Apurba Barman who placed as a national finalist for a fact sheet, Sonia Rios who received an early career achievement award and was a Western Region Finalist in the newsletter competition and the photo competition, Zheng Wang who was a Western Region Finalist for the event promotion competition and the website/online competition, and Michael Rethwisch who was a Western Region Finalist in the computer generated presentation with transcript competition and received one of the competitive spots to make a national presentation. Special thanks to Zheng Wang for service as the Western regional vice-chair of the Recognition and Awards Committee!
The deadline to submit position proposals is fast approaching. After I return from the Lindcove Citrus Tasting and tour with UCCE Tulare County, I will be checking email for CE Specialist position proposals from our campuses. Program Council met yesterday and has a process outlined to review and deliberate each submission. It has been hard work for those submitting proposals and will be hard work for Program Council and the Vice President to make decisions. But, work well worthwhile, considering this is what we have wanted for a long time. Imagine how exciting it will be to have more colleagues across the state!
On that note, time for a rest before the work resumes.
Welcome to Dr. Hung Doan who started Monday, November 1st as a Small Farms Advisor, based in Moreno Valley, with programmatic responsibilities in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties. We are excited that Dr. Doan is here; please reach out with a warm welcome!
I anticipate we will see a number of welcome announcements over the remainder of the fiscal year. While a tremendous amount of work for everyone across UC ANR, the circumstances are both exciting and long overdue! Mark Bell and the HR teams are doing a great job working with committees and keeping things moving, despite the many moving parts. I am not sure I could keep all of the various searches straight in my head! Those serving on multiple committees may have the same challenge. Thanks so much to all who are participating!
This is a short week for me. In addition to our scheduled holiday, I am taking two days off. Before I get to that, the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities will have the annual Excellence in Extension Awards ceremony. Of all the meetings on my schedule this week, this is a highlight of the week for me though there are no California winners this year. We can't win every year.
Another highlight of the week is a chance to meet with the Academic Assembly Council Specialists and Other Titles committees. Last week I met with the Academic Assembly Council. Each conversation focused around resources. While it is hard to imagine that such a sizable increase in state funding did not get us everything we all want, that is the case due to a long history of deficit budgets. We have work to do to get our support levels from all funding sources to a point where we have the capacity necessary to tackle all of the big challenges facing Californians. We have made tremendous progress, and the work doesn't stop there. Nationally, Extension directors are discussing strategy to build resources across the entire 1862, 1890, and 1994 Extension System. Now is the time to do so. And, working together, our collective impact can be strong. I will ponder strategy while spending a couple of days staring out at big water.
I have a few agreements to review over the week. We continue to hear from prospective partners for positions and program resources. Next Monday, I meet with a new donor who has a fascinating background. I look forward to many more such opportunities. In the meantime, a bit of rest while we hope for more rain.
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."