My mind is racing. At this point, I do not think the thoughts are even coherent.
One question circling is ‘how does one provide information in a way that 1) makes the point to maintain attention, 2) avoids extraneous detail without being considered as ‘hiding' something, 3) can be understood by the many, many different people who absorb information differently, and 4) will be read or heard when time is so precious?
Yesterday I reminded myself that I took calculus twice in high school. The information was the same both times – at least I think so. I cannot be sure because apparently, I did not comprehend much the first time. Mr. Gilbert awarded me with the ‘lowest grade award.' At the time, I declared double digits as overrated. I attributed the change that took place from one year to the next to ‘brain maturation.' After all, I was only 16. Honestly, attendance may have played a role. However, there was also an element of comprehension.
Some say that you need to repeat things seven times before the average person fully comprehends. Who has time to say things seven times to each type of learner? Moreover, what learner will listen to it seven times? Not to mention that the message is far more complex than ‘Just do it!' or ‘Got milk?' I am open to suggestions.
The second question running through my head is ‘who are we, as a Division'? I look at our core values and the elements of the UC ANR Promise, and I have to think that the collective ‘we' are committed to the success of our communities and colleagues. We are a group that helps each other, supports each other, and recognizes that one's success is dependent upon the success of many, many others. We are creative; we are forward-thinking, we are capable of saying ‘no' when it needs to be said, and asking ‘how' even if we can't comprehend why. This is what makes us UC ANR.
I found a pre-Strategic Plan document that talked about guiding principles and core values and compared it to the more recent efforts. Each is quite similar, suggesting that no matter what organizational or structural change occurs, the values remain the same. The values must remain the same if that is who we are. So as we look at changes in UC ANR, what committees review our work, who reports to whom, how we do business, etc. I, personally, take great comfort in the fact that there exists an uninterruptable commitment to improving the lives of Californians and doing it together and not at the expense of each other. I'll take that as enough for now.
Time to prep for Program Council.
It's time for more fun facts:
- Almonds represent approximately 29% of ag receipts in Stanislaus County and dairy brings in 18%
- Mechanical thinning of stone fruit translates to an estimated $1400/acre profit
- Nutria, a rodent pest, is a force to be reckoned with in California. Its orange teeth distinguish it from other rodent relatives. It reminded me of the capybara that were seen everywhere during a visit to the Pantanal. Capybara have been spotted in California.
- Stanislaus County has recently provided support for both a 1.0 FTE Master Gardener Coordinator and a 1.0 FTE 4-H Community Educator
- A local school district provides the land where almond variety trials are conducted
- The UC ANR team in Stanislaus County is beginning to discuss metrics and indicators of progress, as part of their reporting back to the County
These are all things I learned during a recent visit with this relatively new team, many of whom have been with UC ANR less than 2 years. While this may have some suddenly calculating how old they were when these newcomers were born, the upside is that 1) the offices are almost all occupied, and 2) there are new skills and energy contributing to the team environment. I'm excited for this office team. They have great relations with clientele, the county, and each other – provided Roger remembers to bring cake on his birthday.
Today, a group of us talked about communication needs for the division with the intent of these needs/goals translating into a position vacancy announcement for a Director of Communications (I may have the title incorrect). As Scott Brayton pointed out, we are all communicators, each with different primary audiences. Yet, we all need to be part of the effort to enhance communication to a broader audience – whether that is increasing reach to clientele, improve understanding of who we are to others in UC, or conveying the public value of UC ANR work to influencers and supporters. Crafting the message and getting it out there offers a continuous improvement challenge for us all.
Communication, the message itself and how the message is shared, is especially challenging when the topic is controversial or evokes strong emotions. The need for our messages to be balanced and science-based can't be understated. Fortunately, we have a number of people who do a great job at this! Take a look at the blog that Laura Snell hosts. Her 2 summer interns provide the content, under her mentorship. And if that's not a great example of how Laura's work addresses all sides of a topic, take a look at the new video that she and her team produced, working with the US Forest Service. A great example of the important communication coming from Modoc County!
Speaking of Modoc County, the big topic for a group of us heading back from Alturas a few weeks ago was the price of a drink + hot dog at Costco. I stand corrected; Anne Megaro was correct in telling us that the cost was $1.50. That definitely fits my expense budget for the upcoming long weekend. I hope everyone makes the most of the ‘last weekend of summer'!
With all the fire activity and displaced personnel last fall, I would never have guessed we would already be back in that same place. But with the Carr fire and now the River fire, Shasta, Mendocino, and Lake County UCCE offices have had to close and personnel evacuated. Shasta and Mendocino offices are now open. Portions of the Hopland REC have burned but no one has been injured in any location. Fire has kept clear of UCCE Riverside and San Bernardino offices, so far. Let's keep our fingers crossed it stays that way and keep everyone in our thoughts.
Once again, I learned a ton of new things last week during our Modoc County visit, from both our clientele and partners who hosted us and from the Advisors who updated us on their work. Fire was one of the topics. Much like the conversations we've had in the Central Sierra and in Humboldt County, prescribed fire is a critical piece of the toolkit that has been missing in California. This surprises me, given how important I recall it being when I was in Florida. Perhaps this will be changing in the near future. It can't happen fast enough.
Another thing I would never have guessed – that Modoc County is home to wild rice production, plum wine, and a sturgeon farm that produces high-end caviar! Whoever would have expected that, driving through the area? But that's what we saw during our visit last week. It gave me some ideas for holiday gifts from California. I believe I also saw more Monarch butterflies in the air than I did when I visited Pacific Grove during the winter break. And Blue Lake was beautiful. I can see why the locals find it a great place for recreation. But don't let the secret out or the place may become overrun with tourists! One place I definitely want to go back to see is Devil's Garden, home to wild horses. The smoke was too thick to see the plateau and the schedule was already packed full so a follow up trip will be needed. We did have a chance to meet the two summer interns who are working on a project with Laura that involves a horse inventory. The interns are learning many things this summer and are involved in many projects with partners and other researchers. No wonder Laura had applicants from across the U.S. Next year I suspect she will be inundated with applicants!
I'm in Detroit this week for the ASABE annual meeting. I haven't attended since joining UC ANR. Now that I no longer have a lab or an Extension program, it's a bit odd to be here. But then again, I am able to hear presentations from the UC ANR Specialists and Advisors that are presenting. This morning's sessions focused on water. I see Ali Pourezza has been tweeting about the keynote speaker (Margaret Catley-Carlson). What struck me about her remarks in a water security panel that followed her keynote was that, when asked what she would do with $1 million, she responded she would invest it in social media communications about the severity of the global water problems and proposed solutions, including reduced food waste. One of the other panelists, who had attended the recent Water and Agriculture Policy forum co-hosted by Israel and UC, indicated he would spend his $1 million on policy. Given it's an engineering meeting, I would not have guessed the panelists would not have all spent their money on developing solutions. Personally, I would lean more towards the ‘communication' purchase, particularly given the extent of the population that is completely unaware of the problem or their role in it, especially food waste contributions. That's just another reason why communication is so important!
One of the things that emerged during a visit to the Central Sierra MCP last week was that the group didn't often have a chance to get together and learn about what each other is doing. Distance between offices is part of the challenge. The other factor is that everyone is so busy with their own work and rarely has time to stand still. As a result, taking the time to educate myself, Mark L., and Mark B. about their programs turned out to be a great opportunity to learn about each other's programs.
During an early June visit to the Sutter/Yuba office, we learned how that group had creatively bridged the internal communication gap within the office by starting a monthly stone soup lunch. The result was the development of efforts that crossed program areas and enhanced the team's ability to meet clientele needs. And, in fact, the Advisors in the Central Sierra MCP mentioned that perhaps they at least ought to make it a priority to talk or get together more regularly.
Across UC ANR there are efforts underway to seek improved methods of communication so that we all better understand what's going on and, more importantly, find ways to glean efficiencies in our own efforts by learning from others and building on what others have done.
The R&E Council had a call today and communication was a topic of conversation. This includes conveying information across the division and developing a common message. We have some homework to do to determine what works now (best practices) and what can be developed to enhance current communications (what haven't we tried?). We've implemented some things, like the Connected newsletter and the new Leadership CT group for all unit directors.
Tomorrow and Wednesday the Program Council meets. Communication is one of the topics for this month's meeting. Mark Bell led a team that developed a document describing the benefits of working across the Researcher – Specialist – Advisor continuum. I share the document with new CE Specialists, CE Advisors, and AES faculty early in their careers through a welcome email. The intent of my communication is to help new hires get to know UC ANR and how all of the pieces connect (Ag Experiment Station, Cooperative Extension, the RECs, Statewide Programs, UC ANR academics and staff, researchers, etc.).
So it seems that the topic of communication is all around us. Of course that then has me thinking about the two-sided nature of communications. That is, someone has to listen/receive the information.
Some good news – UC Merced is now, in addition to UCB and UCD, providing access to library materials for UCCE! If you missed the communication about this, take a look: https://www.library.ucdavis.edu/guide/ce2018/.
You should see my weekend ‘to-do' list. I haven't even thought about adding in anything related to personal obligations, tasks or preparations! I've never been one for homework but I need to buckle down this weekend and get my homework done. Now that we live in an electronic age, there's no using ‘the dog ate it' excuse.
Today I am off to visit Merced and Mariposa County UCCE offices! I'm looking forward to seeing Scott and Russell as well as their teams and learning more about their programs. I drove down to Merced last night after a full day at VP Council. We spent quite a bit of time talking about to communicate better across the division so that we are all better equipped to tell our story and feel more connected as a division. It's a challenge when you consider how diverse and dispersed UC ANR is across California. At the same time, there is such a large leadership group in UC ANR (senior leaders, unit directors, county directors, REC directors, SWP leaders, SI leaders, Institute leaders, supervisors, others I likely missed) that if we all owned a piece of it, we can connect across and throughout the division.
Connection was a theme for the week it seems. On Wednesday the President's Advisory Commission on Agriculture and Natural Resources met in Emeryville and we talked about connecting with stakeholders and decision makers across the state. We can do that through special projects (The VINE), through advocacy efforts, through direct programming to clientele, and many other ways. It comes down to messaging. Of course there's the listening aspect, too.
Tuesday Senior Leadership Team (SLT) met for a couple hours and discussed measuring our success in achieving 2025 Strategic Vision through implementation of the strategic plan. Part of my homework is before daybreak today is to finish my review of metrics for my goals and convey the plan for measuring (what, how, timestep). Overall it was a big week of presenting for John Fox as his goals were a focus of both VP Council and SLT. Hence the thread throughout the week of connecting people.
Congratulations to Jennifer Sowerwine for her FFAR award! She clearly connected with a group pull together a competitive partnership. Read more about her project to strengthen urban agriculture systems.
Next week there's the last minute rush before people are gone for some R&R. I need to finalize some appointments and get some announcements out about the appointments and an endowed chair opportunity. Then there's some responses to send out that are overdue and a couple of exciting opportunities to pursue on behalf of UC ANR including tying up some loose ends on a few. Overall a Nice list though it doesn't quite feel that way right now.
I need to stop going to the Davis office so early in the morning. It is very cold in the office until the heat comes on sometime after 7 AM. Despite winter, the leaf blowers are still running right outside my window beginning at 7 AM on Tuesdays. Beats listening to a plow and the noise is predictable. You'd think by now I would know enough to schedule around it!
As I drove past Turlock yesterday I was just sort of passing familiar places. Places I have seen for decades when I would come to California to work in the area of air quality and dairy management. Then it sort of struck me that this is now ‘home'. Still a bit surreal, thrilling, and strange all at the same time. At the end of the day, home isn't really about geography but belonging and connections. As a result, I will re-prioritize that to-do list a bit. Have a good weekend./span>