I had lunch with the UCCE – Riverside office one day last week. Understandably, some are very eager to get back to an office environment and resume client meetings. With new pests emerging frequently, field access is essential to staying ahead of production challenges. Others have found some positives to remote engagement with clientele. Carmen indicated that she feels more connected with her growers in San Diego because she doesn't need to find time to make the commute. She has used video chats to look at their grape fields and troubleshoot problems. Hopefully this increased engagement can be maintained going forward. Stephanie talked about the 6 virtual camp sessions her team is developing. No doubt, those will be very popular with parents. And Myriam has 13 of 18 EFNEP participants finishing a virtual learning series. She has another session planned this summer. Myriam said that some of the participants worked with their kids to learn how to use a computer. A useful skill, made possible by shelter at home that could be of use to these clients in the future. Rosa and her team are working on Zoom gardening workshops for the public and virtual sessions with schools just in case schools don't resume in person this fall. The hour went by very quickly so I didn't have a chance to talk with everyone. Hopefully I might be invited back soon.
I attended the 2020 World Food Prize Laureate Announcement. This year's laureate, Dr. Rattan Lal, has a long career using a soil-centric approach to building soil health. I'm sure his work is familiar to some. Dr. Lal joined the faculty at The Ohio State University in the 1990's. He is a 2007 Nobel Peace Prize certificate holder. I encourage you to look into his story and his science; so much of what we do today around the topic of soil health is built on his foundational work.
This week, the meeting schedule is a bit lighter with many short meetings and few that extend more than 60 minutes. However, the ANR Governing Council meets one afternoon this week for 90 minutes or so. This meeting was in addition to the standing schedule. The PAC now has committees with committee meetings in addition to the PAC meetings. As it is, the PAC meetings have moved from twice annually, to four meetings per year. The intended outcome is greater productivity
It has occurred to me that I am attending even more meetings than pre-COVID, perhaps due to availability because travel time is non-existent. I have a whole new outlook on travel time now; whereas I hadn't previously thought of it as ‘down time', now I see it as an alternative to meetings. On the other hand, the meetings are productive and important, especially when I get a chance to interact with our offices and RECs.
I hear there was rain in some places yesterday! None in Lodi. I love the cooler weather, but rain means the garden will grow – more yard work! At the risk of upsetting all gardeners out there, I will admit that after spending close to 30 minutes pruning one rose hedge on Sunday, I took to the hedge trimmers for the remaining two. They may not look as good as they could, but they will grow back. And, if that philosophy is good enough for my self-haircuts, it is good enough for the garden.
Did you know that Program Council now reviews Emeritus requests and provides a recommendation to Vice President Humiston? The new practice is the result of policy changes that require some involvement of the Academic Senate during the review process. We are fortunate that 4 Academic Senate members are Program Council members. So far, the process has gone well. The question came up during the Academic Assembly Council meeting last week.
Today the ANR Governing Council met. Much of the conversation focused on updates to our strategic plan. Specifically, the Council provided input on what success looks like and how we will recognize success (metrics). I left with some ideas to improve a goal or two. I also left with a sense that the Governing Council understands the importance of UC ANR to the UC system. There was a strong sense that success means that ANR is considered an 'essential function' and 'key to the recovery of the California economy.'
Later in the day, I met with a group of Extension Directors from around the country, and we talked about the struggle to increase our capacity funding from the U.S. Government. One member of the group reminded us that the NIFA Director challenged us to develop a 'big, bold, audacious goal' such as solving food insecurity. Funding what we have always done isn't a draw for new funding. We discussed the idea of focusing on critical areas where we could build capacity around topics that would resonate now – security (financial and food), K-12 at home, rural health, and farmer stress.
There seemed a fair bit of overlap in the conversations between the ANR Governing Council and the meeting with Extension Directors. Both discussions included recommendations to focus on crucial objectives where failure is not an option. And both sessions included conversation around the new normal, with a sense that we aren't going back to pre-COVID times. Instead, we need to find a path forward and identify new opportunities along the way. One Extension Director cautioned us, "don't over study it; if you don't move, you are going to miss it."
I need to think a bit about what all of this means. I suspect it comes down to balancing the importance of planning, even when everything is uncertain, with not getting so locked into a plan that you forfeit the nimbleness necessary for seizing fleeting opportunities.
Last week the South Coast REC team were incredible hosts to the UC ANR Governing Council. From the tours, to the food, to the partners who make it all happen, no one left without a clear understanding of why UC ANR is important in communities across California. The tour stops that included a visit to Alex's work, a stop where it was easy to see the impact of Cheryl's herbicide demonstration, and a stop to see how Darren's agriculture program seamlessly transferred to addressing urban needs. Each stop was rich with examples of how it's the partnerships that make everything happen so much better than any member of the partnership could do it alone. As tourists, we could have visited with the researchers and partners all day. Then it was on to lunch where we were treated by local talent to an incredible meal and beverages made with ingredients from the REC. Following, Bea and Niamh, with their partners, delighted us with strong visuals of what they encounter in their work. For Bea, that's the ‘creepy crawly' and for Niamh, they are the furry things. Thanks to everyone at South Coast REC for the hospitality! I know the entire team was involved in making it happen.
At the end of the week I headed to D.C. for a meeting. One of the topics was identification of grand challenges. Relevant to UC ANR, one challenge identified was' the Extension system of the future'. That's a topic we need to think about as we approach the 2025 and imagine the next iteration of our vision. A second topic, ‘the food system of the future', is one that I know the Sustainable Food Systems Strategic Initiative is already making plans to brainstorm about in the near future. I will be interested to see how these topics develop, both in UC ANR and across the U.S.
In the meantime, because I am on vacation this week, I am not giving much thought to either topic though I am on the lookout for a few furry things and trying to avoid most things that are creepy crawlies. I'm enjoying reconnecting with a group of friends I haven't seen in some time and spending extended time with those I do get a chance to see every now and then. Given that UC ANR is full of world travelers, I'm sure many of you have been where I am. A few of you found my summer test easy. Let's see how you do this time. Here are a few hints:
- I am not in the U.S. or in a U.S. territory
- English is the primary language and the USD is the most popular currency
- I am not cut out for these warm temperatures
- Water and history were two of the primary drivers for choosing the location, in addition to weather for those in the group who are deep in snow this time of year
- We are in the Central Time Zone
- There is no Visa requirement for U.S. citizens but there is an exit tariff
- I don't expect to see a capybara but a Jabiru stork is possible
I hope the clues were helpful!
I hope everyone enjoyed the warm weather over the 3-day weekend. I spent a fair bit of time outside getting the gardens ready for spring. All my plants need now is rain.
Please welcome Carolyn Whitesell who started this week as a Human-Wildlife Conflict CE Advisor, based in Half Moon Bay, with programmatic responsibilities in San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, and Sonoma Counties. I have no doubt Niamh and Roger look forward to having another colleague. Based on the news I heard this weekend regarding a mountain lion in San Mateo County, I'm sure the County is glad to have Carolyn on board.
Today was full of meetings, in part because the week is short a day and, in part, because I begin traveling with few days left available in March to schedule anything. During a call of Vice Chancellors for Research, we talked about the coronavirus and how campuses are handling risk and travel challenges. I was quite surprised to learn how few faculty have been caught in China. While there are a dozen or so students, only 3 non-student employees are impacted, thus far. Hopefully, none of the U.S. cases are impacting UC employees. We are a long way from talking about this in the past tense.
Wednesday the ANR Governing Council meets. We are taking a field trip to the South Coast REC. The meeting is a bit shorter than the typical meeting, to allow for travel, but still full of good information for the members. The agenda focuses entirely on UC ANR programs at South Coast, including urban forestry, water conservation, production agriculture, urban wildlife, and the important role UC ANR plays in urban areas. I'll be interested to hear the impressions of our Governing Council members.
Later this week, I am off on a different type of field trip for a quick board meeting in D.C. before heading back. While only a quick trip, I have big plans to get much work done onboard the plane. We'll see how that plays out.
Mentally, I am exhausted. The week started with a couple of excellent meetings on the Berkeley campus. Then came a full day at the UC ANR Governing Council where we had a lively and productive conversation about UC ANR's public value statements, our partnerships, and our statewide programs. I was pleased with the level of interest in our work by those members of the Council who perhaps don't know us as well as our traditional campus partners. I found the suggestions and insights very helpful. I believe there is much potential to build solid partnerships with new campus partners while strengthening existing partnerships such that everyone feels a win. Things won't happen overnight, but the conversation has to start somewhere. I believe that conversation is off to a good start.
I'm hearing good things about the outcome of Giving Tuesday! I know final numbers are not tallied but I understand we exceeded an aggressive goal of $125,000 by over $5,000 and increased our number of donors! How exciting! The outcome is particularly strong considering we had added a second day of giving back in June. There's so much good work going on in UC ANR, it makes sense that people want to give! Congratulations to everyone who had any role in Giving Tuesday – from IT who made the Donate buttons happen, to everyone who sent encouraging emails, to every donor. We couldn't have done it without you!
Today the Program Council met and reviewed the CE Specialist and CE Advisor needs. There were moments during the meeting where I thought we couldn't possibly finish on time, but we did. While the thinking that had to go on was grueling, we were all fueled by the anticipation of building our colleague numbers. I don't envy the decisions the Vice President has to make; there were no unnecessary positions in the bunch. However, I am elated that there are positions to be announced in the very near future.
Mental exhaustion aside, the week has been uplifting and filled with motivation to do more. I can't wait to see what tomorrow brings!