Fortunately, those of us in the northern part of the state have seen rain recently, quieting concerns about wildfires in our areas. However, if you have tuned into the national news lately, you've heard about the concern over fire and climate change impacting the future of California's redwoods, some of the world's oldest living things. This concern isn't new to many of us. Hopefully, awareness has been raised for many, many more, thanks to people like Lenya. Lenya was recently quoted in the New York Times. It is always great to see UC ANR names in prominent publications!
This is a crazy week – the storm before the calm, I hope. Everyone is rushing to get things done before a 10- to 14-day break. Yesterday I spent half the day working with a small team to develop a strategic directions document and annual work plan for the Western Extension directors. There is more work to do next week to complete that effort. The REC directors spent today working on development of strategies to achieve the goals for the REC system. It was a good meeting with lively discussion and solid plans outlined. At the same time, it made for a bit of an exhausting day. It doesn't help that Wednesdays begin at 7 AM each week for me and that 7 AM meeting always has a full agenda for the 6 of us that meet.
Friday holds an interesting mix of meetings, some of which may translate into new exciting opportunities. I will be sure to share more as things develop. I look forward to the virtual winter celebration tomorrow. It will be different from ‘normal' years with a benefit that we can celebrate with people both near and far. The planning committee came up with clever ideas for breakout activities. I hope to see many of you there!
This has been a relatively slow week for me. However, Thursday and Friday are packed with meetings so I suspect the week as a whole will end up ‘about average'. Last week featured discussions about the ANR strategic plan and the REC strategic framework with partners. The plan and framework were the focus of discussions at the ANR Governing Council meeting on Thursday and ranged from how we build relationships with new AES faculty to how we get to know more about shared interests on our non-AES campuses, and vice versa. I left with clear ideas about a process to engage the non-AES campuses in research, less clear on a path for extension and outreach collaboration. I am confident that collective insights will get us there and am grateful that many across UC ANR continue to pursue prospects. I know Frank and Keith are looking at opportunities in their counties and one of the Governing Council members reached out to brainstorm ideas about ANR working more closely with CITRIS in the telehealth space. Such efforts might couple nicely with CDC priorities and partnerships.
The partnering conversations continue this week as we begin to take on the work of the REC strategic framework, including planning for upcoming meetings with REC directors. In addition, I had an interesting and promising conversation today with what I hope is a new partner in supporting an academic position and that could readily expand into broader partnering across the UC system.
I get excited about partnering. Not only is it the foundation of Cooperative Extension, I see it as a way for an individual to do less, with more. At first, it might sound like I have that backwards, but I assure you, I don't. The benefit of a good partnership, in my opinion, is that I don't have to carry the entire workload (do less), yet, collectively, our pooled resources and assets offer all partners more with which to work, resulting in greater impact.
Friday is the first virtual tour of UC ANR for legislators and their staff. Anne and Kathy have worked tirelessly to pull the tour together. Based on the dry run last week the numerous hosts for tour stops have worked hard as well. It will be nice to share the self-guided tour with everyone. There is so much to talk about when it comes to the great work going on all across UC ANR. While the virtual tour is just a taste of that work, the self-guided tour can be expanded to tell more of the story, expanding on the breadth of partnerships we have.
I hope everyone is enjoying some rain (or snow)!
Weeds must love heat because they are constantly ahead of me in our garden beds. This made for a gardening weekend. And it looks like our last Japanese maple bush is not going to be around next year. A couple of hydrangeas are failing as well. The sago palms and blue agave are thriving. Perhaps they are in the weed family.
I made good progress on my project this weekend despite the garden time, pool time, and homework I needed to complete. As much as I complain about homework, I found myself adding 21 days of it to my calendar last week. During the Vice Chancellors for Research (VCR) meeting last week, the VCR from San Diego shared the 21-day Anti-Racism Challenge that UCSD is completing. The group of VCRs were quite interested in this activity and making a commitment to the challenge. The result is a well-spent hour or more each weekday, beginning last Friday, through September 4. The challenge will wind down right around the same time that pool season winds down. I know others in UC ANR are undertaking a similar challenge. There are several challenges available. Take a look by conducting a web search. The activities are informative on many levels. Some are TED talks, and I am a big fan of TED talks.
Many meetings again this week, of a varied sort. Tomorrow is a UC ANR strategic plan webinar focused on development of partnerships as a key strategy to address resource constraints. Partnerships are the foundation of Cooperative Extension and all aspects of UC ANR work. While continuing that tradition, the plan will emphasize development of novel partnerships so that we accomplish more without doing more or identify new resources that allow us to do more with more. One comment that we hear often is that people don't see themselves in the plan. I interpret that to mean that they either don't see how they can contribute to the success of the plan, or that they don't see their specific work (i.e. program area) called out as part of the plan. Real success of the plan has everyone contributing in some way and everyone contributes differently. The plan doesn't address what we do, from the standpoint of programmatic areas, but what we will do in order to continue or expand the programmatic work. If the comment means something other than my interpretation, I need more information to fully understand. Perhaps the meeting this week will shed some light for me.
On Friday, the team working on a strategic framework for the RECs will meet for several hours. In between now and Friday is Administrative Orientation, an ECOP meeting for the executive committee, a meeting with a portion of the Peer Review Committee, and various meetings with different units. My COVID workspace reached 93 degrees on Friday before the day ended. Perhaps this week will cool down some. If not, I will be ready for this weekend's gardening activities.
You might think that Tu Tran is smiling because this week is his birthday and he's expecting a big surprise party. Nope. He's smiling because he and Greg Gibbs were part of a ceremony to celebrate a UC ANR Presidential Endowed Researcher at the Lindcove REC, made possible by a generous donation from the Citrus Research Board and matched by the President's office. Great work everyone! I'm looking forward to identifying the first holder of the endowment.
That's not all that Beth Grafton-Cardwell has to smile about. Her webinar-based training was called out by Western Farm Press and then re-run in UCOP's Daily News Clips yesterday. Thanks to Jeannette for sharing this information with the media! This group is doing things differently to meet clientele needs. According to Jim Farrar, this is the first of three pest management webinars available to clientele for continuing education credits required by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation. Beth Grafton Cardwell is conducting two of the trainings (citrus thrips in October and Fuller rose beetle in December). Ben Faber is conducting the third, avocado diseases, to be offered in November.
In addition to the 46 position proposals, I've done a little bit of reading this week. Adina Merenlender shared an article about ‘boundary organizations', such as Extension, and how to evaluate the work of these organizations (Pitt et al., 2018 in Conservation Biology). From the paper: "... boundary organizations face the challenging task of demonstrating their value to diverse stakeholders...Although no off-the-shelf solution is available for a given boundary organization, we identified 4 principles that will support effective evaluation for boundary organizations:engage diverse stakeholders, support learning and reflection, assess contribution to change, and align evaluation with assumption and values." These all sound familiar, with at least two of the 4 principles, core to what I think we regularly consider indicators for UC ANR. That's something to smile about.
The other reading I've done was a document someone left on my desk that provided 4 strategies to avoid overworking high performing employees: 1) Refrain from asking high performers to help on small efforts, 2) Let high performers occasionally pick their projects, 3) Create high-performing pairs of employees at similar levels, and 4) Keep track of additional demands on their time and consider micromanaging what high performers are allowed to say ‘yes' to. Given no context I don't know what to read into the anonymous gesture although I do wonder if the sender questioned whether or not they should enter my office, uninvited, versus leaving the document in Joan's box with my name on it.
Here's hoping that next time someone leaves me lottery tickets or a dark chocolate mint truffle (smile)!
Time got away from us at Senior Leadership Team meeting the other day so topics I thought we might have time to discuss will need to be addressed in small group discussions. Based on the calendar, it looks like that might take some time.
A group of us spent the day at Hopland REC brainstorming the attributes of the venue and dreaming of possibilities for both research and community engagement. While the weather was less than glorious yesterday, today was much better. Deb Driskill was our resident photographer, snapping pictures along the way from Sacramento.
The focus of the conversation was financial feasibility of maintaining over 5,000 acres of landscape that inspired the likes of Ansel Adams. Despite the beauty, the financial reality of keeping roads passable and plots and livestock safe from predators is harsh. But what the facility has to offer, from oak woodlands to vernal pools to bright green pastures, for research, citizen science, and education, financial stability is not impossible but, rather, requires some deep, collective, and creative thinking. While unique, there are other examples out there to stimulate such thought and certainly within and across UC the brainpower needed to pose feasible solutions.
This whole topic had me thinking about the field of systems dynamics, pioneered by Jay Forrester at MIT. An early application of the causal loop concept was for the airline industry. Imagine the series of actions and reactions that take place as a result of extreme weather conditions (frozen plane bathrooms, de-icing delays, reliance on different guidance mechanisms due to visibility, icy runways) and the ripple effect that has on moving flight crews around the country not to mention passengers and baggage. While weather has obvious effects on all airlines, despite appearances that United delays in and out of Chicago is impacted to a greater extent than American, even a mechanical problem on a single aircraft signals disruptions and delays throughout the system because all airlines share the same airspace and runways and, in small airports, baggage crews. Systems dynamics considers these broad consequences and offers an opportunity to see the bigger picture on an international, all airline scale.
No doubt I drew the connection between systems dynamics and opportunities at the RECs, in part, because my flight to Ontario is delayed due to weather. But there are other reasons, too. We have to engage people we don't normally work with in order to really see the whole picture – and all the possibilities that picture brings – rather than looking at just a few of the individual parts.