- Author: Deanne Meyer
Spring forward, fall back
Program Council met this last week. We had another installment on the great work being done in the fire space throughout UC. Keep in mind our focus was on fire prevention both in areas with structures and wildlands. I scoured quite a few websites prior to the meeting. There are some incredible programs across UC that can be collaborators with UC ANR. The Fire Foundry is has “amazing partnerships” to “increase access to sustainable wage careers in the fire services for women and people of color currently underrepresented in the sector”. There are opportunities for the individuals in this program to work in Cooperative Extension in their careers. Berkeley also has the Fire Research Laboratory, the Center for Fire Research and Outreach at Berkeley Forests, Forest Research and Outreach, Wildland Fire Research and of course UC ANR fire website. This is just a flash in the impactful work being done across UC in fire research.
Kudos to Jing Yu, Director of Financial Services and Interim Controller, Jennifer Bunge, Executive Director of Resource Planning and Management, Tu Tran, Associate Vice President of Finance and Katherine Webb-Martinez, Program Planning and Evaluation and everyone who worked the last many months on our NIFA Audit. Financial review occurred on four grants from 2014 to 2018 from a variety of federal funding streams including Hatch Research, Smith Lever capacity awards, AFRI and Crop Protection and Pest Management. Non-federal matching funds associated with the Hatch and Smith Lever capacity awards were reviewed. Every academic plays a part in documenting how funds are spent through effort reporting and through annual contributions to Project Board. Your input is used for our USDA and other reporting needs. A total of 31,000 ledger entries were reviewed and 45 samples were selected for further testing. Findings were presented at our Compliance Review Virtual meeting. Among the USDA NIFA team we met with the Deputy Director, Office of Grants and Financial Management, National Program Leaders, and numerous others associated with financial management. The NIFA staff were very impressed with how our programs are organized and aligned with our condition changes and public values statements. It was an exciting interaction. Thank you to everyone who participated with the audit process. It takes a village!
Speaking of Project Board, many ANR academics participated in Project Board training this last week spearheaded by Kit Alviz and Chris Hanson. Project Board is how we collect programmatic information to compile annual impact stories, county and campus reports and ad hoc queries. It's also used to complete UC ANR's contributions to the UC annual accountability report, sustainability report, Office of the President budget reports and other ad hoc requests. This information is used for our USDA Federal reporting needs.
Trees are changing colors and dropping leaves. Flowers are at the end of their season. We just fell back out of daylight savings time. And our cycle continues.
I suspect the fair occurs this week in some counties in California, and many more across the U.S. I've never been much of a fair person, particularly the games and rides aspect of the event. Regardless, the week has been a rollercoaster, for me. For those in the fire zones, it has no doubt felt like a rollercoaster ride as well. I know several of our offices are evacuated, not to mention our employees and their friends and families. My heart goes out to everyone impacted. I am amazed that, despite evacuation of her own family, Susie kept others top of mind in making sure information got out to those who need it.
Program Council met this week and developed a number of recommendations to advance to the Vice President. I suspect the VP will act on some of those soon. Program Council was a busy meeting this week; a lot of information for our 3 newest members to take in. Two of those members attended for the first time. We ended up delaying the presentation about the Master Gardener program until our October meeting, the agenda for which is already filling fast.
The Vice Chancellors for Research (VCRs) met this week and I was able to share the recently released position call process with them. The timing was good in that earlier in the day we had a discussion with the Office of Science and Technology Policy on ARPA-H, a federal effort to expedite transformative, high-risk, high-reward health research. I do hope some of the VCRs reach out for more information. The position call process is an opportunity to better connect UC ANR with the broader UC and build new partnerships to support traditional program areas in ways that haven't been present before. For example, during the ARPA-H conversation, there was discussion about use of wearable technology to improve health outcomes through improved diagnoses and monitoring. Immediately, I thought of my research days using electronic nose technology. At the same time, I was thinking about the Nutrition CE Specialist position just released for UC Davis that will use wearable technology as a strategy to improve nutrition-related health outcomes. Imagine if the academics partnered, and brought in CE Advisors to develop the audience-specific, culturally-relevant implementation strategies to achieve the desired outcomes!
The Extension Committee on Organization and Policy (ECOP) has been active with meetings this week as well. ECOP reflects the national Extension system and has a number of committees that align with UC ANR program areas (climate change, 4-H, health, urban extension). Each of the committees have been busy increasing partnerships and funding for program delivery, making program advancements particularly to enhance DEI, and coordinating efforts across states.
While I am not excited that Labor Day is next week, because it symbolizes the end of the summer ‘slowdown', I need Monday to catch up on things. I have to admit that I am ready for the ambient temperature to stabilize a bit. Stay safe everyone and enjoy the long weekend!
I was on a call this morning and a fellow participant mentioned that they were in SLO last week. The participant commented how nice it was to be in beautiful California, away from all the rain in the Midwest and East Coast. I laughed out loud. Everything is a matter of perspective. The destruction from the Dixie and Caldor Fires is incomprehensible to most. Despite the destruction, the Plumas Fair raised over $500,000 through the livestock auction and raised additional donations to support fire relief efforts. Tracy shared that it was an “amazing day, and life changing for many youth that were impacted the hardest by the Dixie Fire”. Thanks to everyone who participated and donated!
Even a few hours away, on the California coast, the view is so different from the devastation and hazardous air quality experienced throughout the state that we might forget the suffering of all those evacuated or otherwise impacted. In spite of the fires, I hope many are able to spend some time on the coast these last weeks of summer break. Based on the photos that Mark shared, the draw of many locations is heightened during this dry, dark time that has begun far too early in the year.
David Bunn is on the road already, and what a road warrior he is! I believe he planned to visit 5 county offices and 3 RECs this week alone. He, too, was in SLO, plus Orange, LA, Imperial, and Ventura this week. Maybe San Diego, too. The week after next, he's headed the opposite direction, hoping to visit Modoc, Siskyou, and Humboldt plus perhaps others. David is eager to learn and hear the perspective of our leaders around the state.
This week I have been in a 2-part meeting with the Western Center for Metropolitan Extension and Research. The Center membership now represents every time zone in the continental US. While broader than the West, the expanded participation offers better alignment with the demographics of metro and urban areas of California. I have appreciated the insightful conversations, thus far, about advancing our work in urban and metro areas. One area that remains unresolved is terminology; specifically the use of ‘urban' or ‘metropolitan'. However, there is agreement that while the program area topics are the same as in rural areas, delivery mode, partners, and solutions are different. The goal of the meeting is to envision the work of the Center going forward, given increasing needs and partnership opportunities. Participation is a bit low for the meeting, but, overall, the conversations have been productive.
My weekend to-do list has become quite lengthy. To make it worse, I thought Monday was a holiday. The weeds will have to wait another week.
The Second Street parking lot is reasonably full these days. But the building is so large, it still seems like a ghost town. However, in walking around the hallowed halls, I met Dora in person for the first time, ran into Terri and Pam for the first time since the pandemic, and met Mike Hsu who started on Monday. Mike is part of the Strategic Communications team. David Bunn was in as well, also starting this week. Please send a warm welcome to both Mike and David when you get a chance.
I've spent the week in the Davis building to improve my internet connection given the number of meetings this week where I had a presentation. On Monday, there was a meeting with academics to kick off the merit and promotion process for the upcoming year. Yes, we just wrapped up last year's cycle. Both the Peer Review Committee and the AAC Personnel Committee work hard keeping up with everything.
Governing Council met on Tuesday. Budget was on their mind; both Cooperative Extension funds and Agriculture Experiment Station funds. We had constructive discussions about both, including a position call process to put the new state funds into operation. Now that we have the Council's input, be on the lookout for more information about that upcoming process.
Administrative Orientation for new personnel was held on Tuesday and Wednesday. Someday we will have those in person again, but for now, probably best to keep gatherings to a minimum while we get COVID under better control. Containment seems a bit out of reach these days, but I will remain optimistic. Regardless of the Zoom meeting, it was nice to meet some of the newest members of UC ANR!
A colleague from the East Coast shared with me a post about the fundraising at the Plumas-Sierra 4-H Livestock Auction. Buyers gave over $250,000 to youth, many of whom have been directly impacted by the Dixie Fire. Talk about community! The warm weather isn't helping to get fires under control. I know many have been evacuated. I am hopeful we won't suffer any additional home losses!
We are wrapping up interviews for the Kearney/West Side REC director position. With many more positions gearing up, it will be nice to wind one down. Ideally, all interviews would move to in-person; let's hope at least aspects of the interview can move to that mode soon. Personally, I am hoping to make a few trips in September and October. We'll see how the travel materializes and remain hopeful it becomes a safe option.
I am heading out on vacation tomorrow. That means I spent much of the week trying to check things off the list that aren't due until early August. No doubt, I will still be behind when I return the week after next, but we all need some down time!
I had the chance to participate in a UC Wildfire Symposium this week. Our CE Advisor and Specialists knocked it out of the park with their presentations addressing Strategies for the Wildlands Urban Interface. Congratulations to Lenya, Max, and Van for a job well done! The 600+ participants remained online despite cutting it close with the schedule. Clearly, they were interested in the discussion.
On Monday, we met with the DEI Advisory Council. The Council is eager to get to work advising UC ANR how best to advance the inclusivity of our culture. A few of us continued the conversation about that work the next day while we planned how to undertake the task of efficiently hiring a large number of academics while attracting top candidates. A challenge, but, a welcomed one.
The week has gone by quickly. Before I knew it on Tuesday, it was past 5 PM. The summer feels the same. I can tell the days are getting shorter because I am getting fewer strawberries each day. Three dogs contribute to the reduced yield, but isn't new. I'm not sure how many field days or in person meetings were held this summer. Hopefully we were able to host a few following reopening in mid-June. I haven't made it to any, but it looks like Mark was in attendance at a field day today. If we can keep COVID from getting out of hand, perhaps I can get a couple of outings on the calendar when I return.
I still have a few loose ends to wrap up before I disconnect. Here's hoping the fires and COVID stay far away and the heat dissipates in the next week.