I am attending a virtual conference this week. This makes for long days, because the ‘at home' work continues. I miss the old days when traveling to a conference meant you did not have to do double duty – the conference, and the usual meetings back home. Next week, I travel and continue to participate in a number of Zoom meetings. I am certain I am not alone in having difficulty finding a way out of what seems to be perpetual 10+ hour workdays. Always looking for the upside, I know I will not have too many meetings scheduled the last week of October due to jury duty. Time flies and my county clearly keeps close tabs on when my reprieve expires.
The Strategic Plan goal owners met this week. I believe we are making good progress, though there will always remain much to do, and then there is the homework. In particular, there are some interesting discussions underway with new partners and prospective donors. Then there are the efforts around DEI that continue to expand with learning opportunities and hiring practices, in particular. The new state funding will go a long way in expanding who and how we reach new audiences, through an expanded CE Advisor and CE Specialist footprint and new resources targeted at reaching our clientele in with modernized methods, while simultaneously offering advancement opportunities for some of our critical program staff. Finally, I am excited that we will take steps to right size our business support units with over 20 new hires. Again, improvement is never-ending, but we are clearly gaining ground.
This is a big week for a couple of our own. On Friday, the California Ag Leadership Foundation holds the ceremony to announce the 2021 Profiles in Leadership Award recipients. Introductions to this year's Leadership class will occur during the ceremony as well. Congratulations to Tracy and Betsy for their remarkable accomplishments!
I witnessed about 15 minutes of rain last week. Hoping to see more of it soon. In the meantime, in between presentation preparations this weekend, I need to take care of some weeds. While the rain won't help with weed control, the cooler temperatures sure make a difference.
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!
It's an extra short week for me. I am having a ‘no meeting' Friday to take care of a few personal meetings and then catch up before the weekend hits. I look forward to cooler temperatures to make yard work a bit easier. I envy David's trip up north this week where the temps are more comfortable. I was surprised to hear from Lenya about the Monument Fire in Trinity County. As large as it is, I am surprised it hasn't made the news like the other fires have.
The week has entailed a series of 1-hr meetings, a few of which have ended early. Salary advancement conversations have been the purpose of several of the meetings. In addition, I met with National 4-H Council, Extension Foundation, and the Northeast Extension Directors. I am working on my workplan as incoming chair of ECOP, that national Cooperative Extension organization. We are strategizing how to build resources for the system as a whole. Hopefully, I won't spend the year meeting with people through virtual meetings, only. We can only speculate where the pandemic is headed. I continue to keep travel to a minimum, unless I can hop in the car to get somewhere.
One of the recent achievements for the national Cooperative Extension organization is funding from CDC to encourage vaccination. Ricardo, Marcel, Linda, and others have worked hard to develop TV spots targeting non-English speakers. Here's just one of 8 30-second TV spots: Variantes del Coronavirus / COVID-19 variants. Leyla has actively shared some of the other UC ANR activities with the CDC project manager around this topic. I learned today that another, much larger grant with NOAA focused on climate smart communities is right around the corner. Start formulating ideas and how we might partner with Sea Grant to prepare communities across California. We will continue to look for more novel partners and assess how we can work with other states to achieve project goals.
I hope everyone enjoys the weekend!
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.
Another busy week with many overlapping conversations focused on opportunities for UC ANR. When I met with Dr. Carrie Castille a week or so ago, her comments focused on the need for responsive outreach around the Biden priority topics of climate change, economic recovery following the pandemic, and a need to increase the diversity and inclusiveness of the land grant system. These are all priorities for the Cooperative Extension System this year and for the next couple of years. In addition, issues associated with the urban-rural interface, including infrastructure and workforce development, are areas of emphasis and where, I think, there is tremendous opportunity to demonstrate the Cooperative Extension value to more decision makers. We've been in this space for a long time, but we may not have communicated our impact story using language that resonates.
During a conversation with other CE directors from the West, I learned that Idaho talks about 4-H as ‘students first class at the University of Idaho'. I wonder how that would be received by the UC Academic Senate. No harm in trying it out. Colorado State University is working to ensure systemwide branding so that when a user visits the Durango County Cooperative Extension website, they recognize immediately that they are on a ‘ram' site (the CSU mascot). The goal is to lift the profile of CSU in communities across the state and convey the entirety of CSU efforts in any given county. I took a look at a site for the University of Missouri system. The system has focused on the collective impact by the system for the benefit of each county. I like the approach. Thinking about the size of the UC system and of California, I am tired of thinking about what it would take for us to accomplish something similar. Rhode Island would be far simpler.
There are many more conversations yet to be had this week, including more partnership opportunities. Last week's conversations produced some new agreements that I need to finalize. Mary Blackburn started the conversation during this afternoon's history discussion. Her words blew me away. I had read her story, but to hear it in her words was truly special. I have started reading through merit and promotion documents and annual evaluation documents. I have a few more than usual this year. But who knows, perhaps I will get a chance to read one of Rachel Long's stories this weekend. I just learned that she is a published author of more than research. Another example of the immense talent across UC ANR!