I am heading out on vacation tomorrow. That means I spent much of the week trying to check things off the list that aren't due until early August. No doubt, I will still be behind when I return the week after next, but we all need some down time!
I had the chance to participate in a UC Wildfire Symposium this week. Our CE Advisor and Specialists knocked it out of the park with their presentations addressing Strategies for the Wildlands Urban Interface. Congratulations to Lenya, Max, and Van for a job well done! The 600+ participants remained online despite cutting it close with the schedule. Clearly, they were interested in the discussion.
On Monday, we met with the DEI Advisory Council. The Council is eager to get to work advising UC ANR how best to advance the inclusivity of our culture. A few of us continued the conversation about that work the next day while we planned how to undertake the task of efficiently hiring a large number of academics while attracting top candidates. A challenge, but, a welcomed one.
The week has gone by quickly. Before I knew it on Tuesday, it was past 5 PM. The summer feels the same. I can tell the days are getting shorter because I am getting fewer strawberries each day. Three dogs contribute to the reduced yield, but isn't new. I'm not sure how many field days or in person meetings were held this summer. Hopefully we were able to host a few following reopening in mid-June. I haven't made it to any, but it looks like Mark was in attendance at a field day today. If we can keep COVID from getting out of hand, perhaps I can get a couple of outings on the calendar when I return.
I still have a few loose ends to wrap up before I disconnect. Here's hoping the fires and COVID stay far away and the heat dissipates in the next week.
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.
After a long year there's hope that accountability happens. The week started with a meeting to discuss the new DEI Advisory Council Charter. I am excited about the possibilities that the Council brings to conversations and action. Yesterday began with a small team of Extension Directors strategizing to advance change across the Cooperative Extension System through peer support, identification of best practices, and craft a developmental growth plan for the system. Small steps that may seem insignificant in isolation, but when summed across all efforts conveys that this is a movement, and not merely a moment. Yet, there is much work left to do before we can all breathe.
I am making progress on merit and promotion packages. Single digits remain to complete my first round reviews, then approximately another 40 hours of work in May to finalize decisions. I completed annual conversations with all but 2 employees so there is progress there, too. I have yet to learn the new systems for both UCOP and UC ANR review processes. Once I do, I suspect we will change to a new system. Everyone has worked so hard to adjust and advance goals; change was the norm. There is some fascinating work going on all around the state. We would need a Town Hall every day to feature all of it.
This week we celebrate Earth Day. My car will remain parked again this year. I hope travel resumes soon, even if to a lesser extent than in the past, to provide the chance to connect with new faces, see programs in action, and meet prospective partners. Later this week I have meetings to plan two separate meetings, both virtual again this year; one in late June and one in October.
The upside of staying home is that I believe we have finally gotten ahead of the yard work. In part, that may be because I seem to welcome the yard work as a nice alternative to Zoom meetings from the garage. My favorite flowers are blooming right now; ice plants. I love the orange color. However, allergy season is definitely upon us. I hear face coverings help with the allergen effects, but I haven't taken that approach. Should pollen make it difficult to breathe, I might have to test the theory. In the meantime, I will hope for rain and celebrate Earth Day weekend in the yard looking for hummingbirds. Each of us has the right to birdwatch or enjoy nature in our own way, without having to hold our breath in worry of what may come.