After a somber weekend recalling the tragic events of 20 years ago, the week has gone by quickly through meetings that spanned national committee budget approval, to discussion about allocation of ANR funding, to seeking new resources through grant brainstorming. The ambient temperature is improving as the week progresses, which is welcomed given that I will spend the weekend trimming 48 Queen Palm trees that are growing far too fast for my liking.
On Monday, I attended my second offsite meeting since the pandemic shut down. Glenda and I met in Modesto with several of the executive directors from commodity group partners. Of course, we talked about the position call process and recently released positions. The partners are eager to engage with Program Teams to develop positions that meet emerging needs.
Earlier on Monday, I had a meeting with a firm that is interested in partnering with UC ANR to develop metrics and a performance dashboard for a California city housing department. I think there is potential to strengthen efforts in that community. On Tuesday, a few of us met to discuss an interesting ecosystem project that seeks a long-term partnership with UC ANR. The project, while a bit out of our current program area, fits squarely into our mission and offers a novel approach to partnering with one or more of the campuses. I am interested to see how this advances.
Today, Wednesday, included a brief stint with the county directors. However, much of the day was spent working in ECOP committees to approve the fiscal year budget and further the work of the Program Action Teams. A day full of meetings tomorrow, directed primarily as touch-base standing meetings, leads into tree-trimming Friday.
A fun fact I learned this week: 4-H has its own American Idol tryouts coming up on September 24th! Tryouts will take place via Zoom. There are age restrictions, so this is not a career change opportunity for many, or most, of us. Regardless, I hope the weekend finds you singing!
The weeds continue to grow, despite the heat. I, however, have avoided the gardens for the last 2 weeks, and perhaps this weekend as well. When we first moved in the gardens were overgrown, or ‘lush' as the previous owner described, and hummingbirds were everywhere. Our first summer our record hummingbird spotting was 7 at once. This year, I am up to 5. Perhaps leaving the gardens for a bit will increase numbers. That's what I will use as my excuse for the next couple of weeks anyway.
The weeds aren't the only thing not slowing down. With this new funding, there's so much to do! We are already preparing for next year's merit and promotion cycle and recognizing that the following year or two will produce record number of cases. Tomorrow the Peer Review Committee meets for the day to talk about next year's process. Tina, Mark, Pam, and team are busy planning and preparing for an intense recruitment schedule. We'll need everyone's support and assistance to make this work. Since I arrived in 2016, I've heard regularly the goal to ‘increase the academic footprint'. Box checked.
Once we have the accomplishment implemented, it's time to establish our next mantra and aim to achieve it. Perhaps something that reflects the importance of program development and delivery with community partners. We need to give this some thought. Ideas welcome.
This week, I am attending a national conference. Sessions are pretty well spaced apart, leaving time to conduct UC ANR business as well. One session this morning include comments higher education's fears about an undergraduate ‘enrollment cliff'. The year 2023 is projected to be peak enrollment, following which the long term implications of restrictions currently faced by international students, reduced enrollments of 18 to 20-year olds during COVID, and declining interest in and ability to afford college may combine to create significantly reduced enrollment numbers across the U.S. While 4-year institutions appear to be a bit better off than 2-yr institutions, there are financial concerns for all institutions. More conversation and development of solutions that help institutions cooperate more, to the economic benefit of students and the institutions, are needed. Perhaps if Extension can figure out how to share non-credit curriculum across state lines, we will have something to model for credit-based instruction.
Admittedly, conducting both CA work and participating in the conference is making for a long, packed week, but with COVID cases back on the rise, I am okay staying off planes and out of crowded conferences a bit longer. Vaccinated or not, please be safe out there. We have made it too far to slip backwards.
Budget meetings were held this week. It was nice to be in the Davis building and see more people than I saw last week! Also nice, and timely for our budget discussion, was the Governor's signing of the state budget. We discussed much about the increased support for our work. The intent behind the restoration of the FY19/20 budget was to allow us to resume our efforts underway prior to the pandemic, including operating funds, equity program assessment, and strategic goals. The additional funds from the legislature are clearly aligned with the legislature's desire to restore the academic footprint to that of over a decade ago. These are all good things. After 5 years of a different picture, I am optimistic that a number of goals can be addressed with these funds; not everything, but enough that each and all benefit directly or indirectly.
The funding is the result of everyone taking time to tell our story. Take a look at this one example, where Lynn tells the 4-H story with Farm to Table Talk podcaster, Roger Wasson. We know Lynn's busy; please thank her for taking the time to do this. If you don't have time to listen to the entire podcast, just check out the first 60 seconds!
Have you had a chance to attend the interview seminars of the new Kearney/Westside REC Director candidates? Two of the three webinars are complete. I hope our stakeholders take time to review the recordings and weigh in on the candidates. We have a number of recruitments open now for director positions in counties, statewide programs or at RECs. I hope we are fortunate enough to have a strong pool of candidates for each position. These represent advancement opportunities for staff and academics, alike.
Tomorrow is a bit hectic with Zoom meetings with both state and federal decision makers, COVID meetings (I hope those wind down soon!), and a few odds and ends. Friday is a bit lighter on the agenda and cooler if I end up in the garage for the day. Next week is another virtual national conference. I'm still undecided if I am eager to end those or look forward to continuing abbreviated conferences with fewer sessions and less hallway time. One conference I am looking forward to is the next ANR conference. Five years goes by fast. And, with all of the hiring ahead of us, this next year will be crazy fast.
In the meantime, please welcome Sandipa Gautam who started this week as the Area Citrus Integrated Pest Management Advisor, based at the Lindcove REC, with programmatic responsibilities in Tulare, Fresno, Madera, and Kern Counties. Welcome, Sandipa! You are joining at an exciting time!
See everyone at the Town Hall!
A little boredom sounds good right now. Merit and promotion package reviews are over, but time still seems to be inadequate for the workload. I think it is due to the short week whereby the number of meetings didn't decrease, but were rather crunched into fewer, longer days. The budget outlook is bright, and with it comes a workload to meet the obligations to the funding. Overall, a good problem to have. I am not complaining. I suspect I overcommitted to requests to serve on committees, provide leadership and feedback. Sound familiar? It happens.
This week I attended a national conference for the Western Region Extension and Experiment Station Directors. On Monday, we had a business meeting, updates from our federal partners, and an awards ceremony. The California Dairy Quality Assurance Program team was honored for their impactful work – congratulations to Deanne, Betsy, Jennifer, Randi, David, Nick, Jeff, and Denise! I hope I didn't forget anyone!
During the conference we talked about the Land Grant University, post-COVID. Extension Directors in the West have been discussing this monthly since January. Today, we received an update from President Barry Dunn on the Wokini Initiative at South Dakota State University that provides scholarships and intentional support to American Indian students (Lakota and Dakota). This year, the inaugural class graduated. The program has strong metrics, with success declared when the student achievement and completion of American Indian students exceeds that of the remaining student population. The update was inspirational, to say the least, focusing on the opportunity and responsibility in front of leaders today. ‘We can begin again, and change the ending' (C.S. Lewis) was the takeaway message. During the Q&A there was reference to some of the work underway with the Karuk tribe by UC ANR, led by Jennifer Sowerwine. It is always nice to hear another state call out the efforts by UC ANR!
Given the holiday this week, and the upcoming holiday, the message was timely. There's no time for boredom. We have important work to do; work that the state legislature clearly recognizes as an opportunity to lift all up and ensure opportunity for all.
The short week is off to a great start, weather aside! I hope everyone enjoyed the Memorial Day holiday and took time to remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedom. Take a look at this short video to learn how Michelle Hammer-Coffer reflects on Memorial Day. Thank you, Michelle, for your service and efforts to keep us all safe!
Big Dig Day is this Friday! It's time to show your support for UC ANR. We are so fortunate to have made it through this last year and UC ANR has much to be proud of and thankful for. I haven't heard if there will be matching opportunities, so I am unsure how early I need to set the alarm, but no doubt I will be showing my gratitude.
There's good news in Orange County! Thanks to the generous support of the Orange County Farm Bureau and the Orange County 4-H Council, he Forever 4-H Orange County Endowment will be established. Congratulations to the Orange County UCCE team!
Master Food Preserver received a plug in the Washington Post. Congratulations to both Sue and Erin who were quoted. And a huge ‘thank you' to reporter Becky Crystal for calling out the program!
The big news is that the Senate and Assembly Budget Committees released on Tuesday a joint plan to be negotiated with the Governor that provides a $32.1 million ongoing increase to UC ANR. This conversation isn't over, but we are far closer to a meaningful increase that I have seen in my time at UC ANR!
My garage has heated up considerably over the last week, but I hear my key FOB will work in the Davis building in just a month. I hope the good news keeps coming!