- Author: Wendy Powers
March madness is here. I have 79 merit and promotion packages to review, 54 annual discussions to have with direct reports, my own annual review materials to prepare, 3 conferences to attend, and my household taxes to prepare. I have made some progress on all fronts but have decided I would welcome a little boredom. Ten minutes each weekday would suffice; 30 minutes on weekends.
While one of the conferences is this week, I have participated at a minimal level. Instead, I have had a number of annual discussions this week, mostly with County Directors. I do enjoy the conversations. After not having visited any of our locations in the last 15 months, I am feeling disconnected, particularly with our new hires. The conversations, while not a substitute for a site visit, provide some level of connection with what's going on in the county offices.
During the conversations with County Directors and others, it is apparent that many of us are acutely aware of the approaching anniversary of our personal lock downs. Due to other commitments, I don't plan to participate in the interviews that Ricardo and his team are conducting this week, but I have given the questions some thought.
- Last March, when California announced it would shut down all non-essential businesses, how was your immediate day-to-day affected?
Beginning the week before the shut down and extending the first month following, I spent at least 2 hours per day, 7 days per week, with various groups to develop practices and procedures for conducting our work. A year later, I am down to 2 meetings per week (just reduced from 3 meetings per week) plus a third meeting every other week. Zoom replaced TSA checkpoints and both my commute and wardrobe were simplified. Priorities, both personal and professional, changed. All of this, despite not recognizing at the time that ‘normal' would not yet have resumed even a full year later. The 1918 pandemic warned us so. One key benefit of the lock down was initiation of a daily group text with my siblings, just to check in, that continues today.
- For parents with kids: What have been the biggest challenges of parenting during the pandemic? How have you and your kids coped?
Many throughout UC ANR are challenged by having kids schooling from home. Everyone has their own challenge, even those without children. For some that live alone, it's the isolation. Others are caring for grandchildren or parents. Many have suffered sudden, tragic loss. And while COVID may not have caused the loss, it is responsible for robbing one of a normal grieving process. Some have all of the above. Challenges are presented at work or at home, or both at home and at work. Each one of us has something.
- Looking back now, what has been the biggest surprise about how this past year has unfolded? What have you learned about yourself and your community?
I can't predict human behavior. The last year has brought out the best in some; that is evident from our programs. No doubt, the prolonged lock down makes it difficult to remain vigilant, even for the most introverted. While few, if any, have accomplished what they had planned, we have accomplished differently, yet no less importantly. True success isn't measured by speed of advancement, but by quality of impact.
I went into lock down assuming the collective ‘we' would unite around beating the death toll projections, committed to a quick economic recovery, and accepting of safety protocols. At a time when disparities were pronounced by the pandemic, I would have thought we would come together to eradicate social inequality. Racism is at the forefront of thought while stockpiling toilet paper remains off my radar. I think I have cooked dinner more consecutive nights over the last year than I had over the previous decade. I have made no improvements in my ability to do so. Nor have I made any improvements in my ability to cut hair.
I, as so many others, have a different sense of what's important and a new sense of strength. We adjust, and then adjust again. I choose to believe that on the other side, we will be stronger people, better people for this.
- Author: Wendy Powers
Can you believe that the pool season is half over? The daily strawberry harvest is all but done in my yard, and even zucchini season seems to be winding down. The only thing not slowing down is COVID cases. I'm sure I am not alone when I say that I miss visiting our county and REC locations, field days, and events though it wasn't often that I could make such trips.
Work has not slowed at all. By not leaving town for vacation, I am optimistic I can avoid the accumulation of emails, messages, and meetings that would typically pile up while on vacation. This week I was supposed to be in Kansas City for meetings. The sessions will occur by Zoom, and the schedule condensed. Like many of you have experienced, the rest of the day has filled with other Zoom conversations. I turned in one of my homework tasks – an update on my slides for the Administrative Orientation in August. I started with an easy task rather than the most time-sensitive assignments. I am awaiting more motivation to tackle those. The opportunities keep flowing, and so, too, does the work that goes into exploring them! That's a good thing. We may have more success connecting with new partners now than we've had before, out of need, or for some other reason. I had an email from someone today about finalizing an agreement to fund a couple of Academic Coordinator positions. Honestly, I had feared the agreement would be put on hold, but it will move forward regardless of the COVID economy!
I was encouraged to see a call to action regarding our budget by our stakeholders and partners. Repeatedly over the last several months, I have thought about the challenges brought on as a result of not having the ANR budget treated as a campus budget. It had brought back memories of the same struggle in Michigan when the trustees handled Extension and the Agriculture Experiment Station (AES) budgets, each a line item in the state budget, different from the rest of the higher education budget. Given that faculty would have split appointments that crossed budgets, there was always a disconnect if the higher ed budget (both UM and MSU) received increases when Extension and AES did not. Eventually, there was an agreement to treat AES and Extension the same as the remainder of higher education. Hopefully, that same arrangement can be reached for UC ANR, again. I say 'again' because applying the 'UCSF Corridor Model' to ANR was intended to rectify the disconnect. We shall continue to push for the use of that model in FY20/21 and beyond.
Last week the Peer Review Committee met for a long day of conversations by Zoom. Despite the length, I found the meeting very useful. I did end up with homework, the likes of which I hope will make future advancement decisions more straightforward. I learned that there are 95 merit and promotion cases scheduled for 2021. Of course, some individuals may defer or depart. Acceleration cases will offset, or perhaps exceed, the number of deferrals or departures. Regardless, many academics will prepare portfolios this fall and into early winter, and many will review cases next spring. I might need to check the prescription on my glasses sometime after January.