Last week flew by. Tu, David, and I spent a day at the South Coast REC talking about a new building project and envisioning a new educational center that could draw in the local community and serve as a central spot at the REC for researchers to convene and brainstorm. Then we spent the next day at Desert REC doing the same. The excitement of constructing a new facility was evident in both Jairo and Stacy. Let's all help them harness that enthusiasm to push through the hassles that come with construction. Both RECs are in need of the facilities and their programs will grow as a result.
The Orange County Farm Bureau (OCFB) has agreed to support a 5-year gift proposal at SCREC and UCCE Orange County in the amount of $690,000 paid out over a period of five-years (pledge), commencing in April 2023 and concluding in April 2027. A large portion of the funds are current-use funds to support the GROW program at SCREC. The balance of funds supports the Forever 4-H endowment in Orange County and the local 4-H program. Congratulations to Darren and team, Scott Brayton, and Mary Ciricillo for the work on securing this gift!
Anne Iaccopucci and Katherine Soule are busy these days preparing for a 4-H Academy on Youth Mental Health coming up May 10 - 12. Their colleagues from around the country have made special note of their contributions. Congratulations also go out to JoLynn for her garden project work with a local juvenile detention facility that became a feature story for My Motherlode. Way to go JoLynn!
I returned to the Oakland office last week, for the first time since February 2020. We moved up a floor – part of the fire drill fitness plan, I suspect. It was a great feeling to be back in that building. I was a bit surprised to see how many people on the street were still wearing masks. Better safe than sorry. I elected to avoid the BART and bear the traffic instead. It was a long drive home. It seems the roads are full again. I believe my trip to Davis on Friday was perhaps the heaviest traffic I have ever seen at 5 AM and then again at 5 PM. I don't know what to make of this.
Merit and promotion packages are almost complete with first review. Following, I go back and read supervisor comments, external reviewer comments, and internal reviewer comments from ad hoc reviewers and the Peer Review Committee. I always learn more about the work and impact of UC ANR as I read through the packages. The number of packages with strong impact statements continues to grow; particularly from some of our recent hires!
Word is out of my pending departure. A tremendously difficult decision to make as I don't feel that my work here is done. The change is a growth opportunity, one I couldn't pass by. In the meantime, there are many more ANR Adventures to be had.
It drizzled a bit this morning! What a welcomed occurrence, though I hope it is sunny for the visit to the Lindcove REC on Friday. Despite the rain, the thought of fire is never far away. Take a look at this new report from UC, including our very own Faith Kearns and the California Institute for Water Resources. Congratulations, Faith, on this effort! In particular, I like the policy focus of the report.
The South Coast REC crew have a few minutes of fame for their longstanding program success. The Voice of OC recently talked about just some of the farming activity that goes on at the REC. Take a look. Congratulations to Jason, Tammy, and the entire team that keep agriculture front and center despite urbanization of the area!
Earlier this week I had a chance to meet with the AAC-Personnel Committee. That group certainly stays busy. I enjoyed the conversation and the follow up discussions since that have largely centered on ensuring success for our expanding workforce.
The hiring continues! Since last post, I believe we have filled one or two additional CE Advisor positions (up to 4 now, I believe) plus a new CE Specialist position. This is all very exciting. Equally exciting is the list I received of National Association of County Agriculture Agents awardees. Newer UC ANR academics are among some of our awardees. Congratulations to Brooke Latack who received a national award for a featured story, Apurba Barman who placed as a national finalist for a fact sheet, Sonia Rios who received an early career achievement award and was a Western Region Finalist in the newsletter competition and the photo competition, Zheng Wang who was a Western Region Finalist for the event promotion competition and the website/online competition, and Michael Rethwisch who was a Western Region Finalist in the computer generated presentation with transcript competition and received one of the competitive spots to make a national presentation. Special thanks to Zheng Wang for service as the Western regional vice-chair of the Recognition and Awards Committee!
The deadline to submit position proposals is fast approaching. After I return from the Lindcove Citrus Tasting and tour with UCCE Tulare County, I will be checking email for CE Specialist position proposals from our campuses. Program Council met yesterday and has a process outlined to review and deliberate each submission. It has been hard work for those submitting proposals and will be hard work for Program Council and the Vice President to make decisions. But, work well worthwhile, considering this is what we have wanted for a long time. Imagine how exciting it will be to have more colleagues across the state!
On that note, time for a rest before the work resumes.
This week I am attending the virtual APLU (Association of Public and Land Grant Universities) meeting. This is one of those meetings that should always be virtual. For some reason, they spread the meeting over a 2-week period this year. Let's just say that didn't improve my opinion of the meeting. And to make things worse, every session has a unique Zoom ID and I don't have them in my calendar. I suspect participation may be down this year. I will miss Wednesday's sessions to attend jury duty. Who knew I would welcome a summons?
Other activities include preparing to repost a Vice Provost position, some prep work for next week's meetings, and planning for the December Program Council meeting. I know many continue to work hard on Advisor and Specialist position descriptions that are due in less than a month. Time sure does fly by! It seems impossible to think that next week is Thanksgiving already. This means that Giving Tuesday is right around the corner. Speaking with Scott today, it sounds like the giving has started early. It is always nice to hear such things.
There's much going on at the RECs this time of year. Ashraf and team are busy preparing for the Citrus Tasting at Lindcove. To add to the planning this year, the President's Advisory Commission (PAC) are holding their winter meeting during the tasting. Karmjot and her team will be sharing some of their efforts with the PAC. It's a busy time for Hopland as well. Take a look at all that John and team have been doing. It's great to see local coverage of the efforts! The projects at Hopland REC continue to grow.
Later this week, I have a chance to meet with some of our newer hires that opt to participate in office hours. And, the monthly Town Hall is Thursday, which is always a chance to hear what's on the minds of people across UC ANR. I have a number of meetings related to national Extension commitments as well. The schedule feels a bit lighter this week because there is no travel to schedule around.
I have procrastinated on the weeds for a couple of months now, but likely must get into the yard this weekend. The rain has been great and while perhaps insufficient for addressing the drought, my weeds flourish. Perhaps if I ever get ahead of the weeds, I will expand my hobbies. Somehow I doubt I will have the same level of artistic talent displayed by others who teach themselves to draw when they can't sleep.
The long weekend is only a week away. I need it now. This week the meetings seem to go forever. Did you know that if we lived on Venus, the ‘day' would be equivalent to almost 117 Earth days? Earth clearly has its advantages. I can't even imagine a day of Zoom meetings on Venus!
This week I am on a review panel for a joint effort between CDC and the national Cooperative Extension system. We are reviewing proposals for funding to increase vaccination rates. Proposals were due last Friday. As a result we are reading, reviewing, and ranking all this week. No room for changing our evaluations.
Scheduled around panel meetings have been a number of other meetings including a design-a-thon led by Darren to envision a Hub for Urban Living. A number of people from around the country registered; I am curious how many participated. The breakout sessions I attended were primarily, almost exclusively, California-based participants. The conversations were fascinating. I am eager to think through next steps to keep the conversation and momentum going.
I had a chance to attend a portion of the Asian Pacific Heritage month webinar. I liked the format as it was fast paced and full of information. If you haven't had a chance to attend yet, consider next week's session (Tuesday at 3 PM). The session will focus on bystander intervention training. We all need to do our part to end Asian hate and associated violent acts!
I had an interesting call inviting UC ANR to participate in a 5-state project to promote community health. The effort will link us more closely to UC Health. An exciting opportunity that could lead to all sorts of new adventures! Today I participated in a call to envision how Cooperative Extension could increase efforts around workforce development for youth and adults, by functioning as conveners, facilitators, and educators. Those of us on the call were charged with bringing our visions to a meeting on Monday to move forward funding conversations. Time to get the dream board out this weekend and put some ideas on paper. Fortunately, this connects back to some of the conversation about the Hub for Urban Living.
I am down to 60 or so merit/promotion decisions left to finalize. But, before I get back to dossiers or dream about funding sources for new programming, I had better get back to those vaccination proposals. Occasionally, I could use a day on Venus to get things done.
Before heading into the long weekend, I participated in a national discussion about reimagining higher education. One presenter described our current point in time a period as the convergence of three factors: troubled universities, advancements in digital technology, and recognition of what's possible. He described the third factor (recognition of what's possible) using the example of courses all across the world converting to remote delivery in a period of just 7 days, proving that while not ideal we can actually deliver college curriculum using remote techniques. Participants shared their strategies to move forward with undergraduate education using fully online programs, augmented residential programs that have some students on campus who take some credits in person and some online, or a hybrid model where lectures are online and labs/recitations/studios are in person. Presenters shared predictions that online degrees will expand rapidly, citing the rapid expansion of degree offerings by SNHU and a newly released MBA program by Boston University that is completely online.
The conversation focused on undergraduate education, but the topic applies to Cooperative Extension. Common to both is that factoring long term strategy (how you allocate resources) into solutions for current challenges leads to better short term decisions. One speaker proposed that institutions start small experiments as a marathon race, and be ready to scale quickly those pilots that return a positive result. We have initiated pilot projects in UC ANR, too, hoping to identify strategies that demonstrate promise. Our last meeting with the ANR Governing Council led to discussion about conducting a variety of pilot projects with different UC campuses as a mechanism to identify ways to strengthen partnerships with campuses and improve campus understanding of UC ANR's work.
Today 45 of us participated in a REC planning meeting, focused on developing a strategic framework for the REC system to compliment the individual REC strategic plans. Over 40% of the participants were external to UC ANR, sharing their thoughts about topics including ways to expand the virtual presence of the REC system. Time passed quickly and before we knew it, our brainstorming time was over. I will be interested to see how the insights from our UC campus, CSU, ARS, and other partners contribute to the final product.
As we work through our current budget reality, we are preparing for the future and not simply responding to the present. We don't have it figured out yet, but are taking the long view. Be sure to tune into Thursday's Town Hall webinar to hear more about our budget situation.