I am attending a virtual conference this week. This makes for long days, because the ‘at home' work continues. I miss the old days when traveling to a conference meant you did not have to do double duty – the conference, and the usual meetings back home. Next week, I travel and continue to participate in a number of Zoom meetings. I am certain I am not alone in having difficulty finding a way out of what seems to be perpetual 10+ hour workdays. Always looking for the upside, I know I will not have too many meetings scheduled the last week of October due to jury duty. Time flies and my county clearly keeps close tabs on when my reprieve expires.
The Strategic Plan goal owners met this week. I believe we are making good progress, though there will always remain much to do, and then there is the homework. In particular, there are some interesting discussions underway with new partners and prospective donors. Then there are the efforts around DEI that continue to expand with learning opportunities and hiring practices, in particular. The new state funding will go a long way in expanding who and how we reach new audiences, through an expanded CE Advisor and CE Specialist footprint and new resources targeted at reaching our clientele in with modernized methods, while simultaneously offering advancement opportunities for some of our critical program staff. Finally, I am excited that we will take steps to right size our business support units with over 20 new hires. Again, improvement is never-ending, but we are clearly gaining ground.
This is a big week for a couple of our own. On Friday, the California Ag Leadership Foundation holds the ceremony to announce the 2021 Profiles in Leadership Award recipients. Introductions to this year's Leadership class will occur during the ceremony as well. Congratulations to Tracy and Betsy for their remarkable accomplishments!
I witnessed about 15 minutes of rain last week. Hoping to see more of it soon. In the meantime, in between presentation preparations this weekend, I need to take care of some weeds. While the rain won't help with weed control, the cooler temperatures sure make a difference.
I am thrilled to see the ANR portal back up and running. This signifies that we have transitioned to a new server. Thanks so much to Sree and team for their extraordinary effort this week to combat the bot attacks and get everything migrated over so that we can function again. Isn't it amazing how quickly things come to a halt when a server is down? As a society, we have certainly become dependent on virtual environments.
Glenda and I have been at a conference this week. The is the national conference for ag experiment station directors. Glenda is attending in person while I opted for the virtual route. No surprise, there have been a few technology glitches. But given the theme of the conference which focuses on transitioning to the new, post-COVID world, the glitches seem apropos. We heard from 3 university presidents about their approach to managing their institution through the pandemic. I can't say that I gained any keen insights to share, though it was evident that many campuses are back in-person to a greater extent than UC. I am a bit envious. The flip side is that we may have fewer COVID cases per capita.
What surprises me at these meetings each year are the familiar faces in new places. Several participants have moved to new locations. I suspect it is the nature of the positions, but also a good opportunity for an organization to have fresh ideas.
One of the sentiments I have heard repeatedly is the need to consider new partnerships in this post-COVID world. In particular, partnering with medical schools and health departments beyond nutrition programming has been a consistent message. In addition, the idea that we should be open to new types of partnerships with those we have known and perhaps worked with for some time. As uncomfortable as it may be at times, I feel that UC ANR is way ahead of the curve on this one. This doesn't mean that we transition away from existing partners; just be open to additional opportunities. The partnering message is particularly timely; I have a couple of meetings yet this week to talk about new partnerships.
It is time to start preparing for a couple of other conferences that will be here well before I am fully prepared. One is the national extension directors' conference. The other is a presentation I am giving in another state, for that state's annual extension conference. I am still a couple of weeks away from a final decision if that will be delivered from my garage or if I will transition back to traveling for such things.
In the meantime, I am going to enjoy the fall weather now that we have transitioned away from summer temperatures.
After a somber weekend recalling the tragic events of 20 years ago, the week has gone by quickly through meetings that spanned national committee budget approval, to discussion about allocation of ANR funding, to seeking new resources through grant brainstorming. The ambient temperature is improving as the week progresses, which is welcomed given that I will spend the weekend trimming 48 Queen Palm trees that are growing far too fast for my liking.
On Monday, I attended my second offsite meeting since the pandemic shut down. Glenda and I met in Modesto with several of the executive directors from commodity group partners. Of course, we talked about the position call process and recently released positions. The partners are eager to engage with Program Teams to develop positions that meet emerging needs.
Earlier on Monday, I had a meeting with a firm that is interested in partnering with UC ANR to develop metrics and a performance dashboard for a California city housing department. I think there is potential to strengthen efforts in that community. On Tuesday, a few of us met to discuss an interesting ecosystem project that seeks a long-term partnership with UC ANR. The project, while a bit out of our current program area, fits squarely into our mission and offers a novel approach to partnering with one or more of the campuses. I am interested to see how this advances.
Today, Wednesday, included a brief stint with the county directors. However, much of the day was spent working in ECOP committees to approve the fiscal year budget and further the work of the Program Action Teams. A day full of meetings tomorrow, directed primarily as touch-base standing meetings, leads into tree-trimming Friday.
A fun fact I learned this week: 4-H has its own American Idol tryouts coming up on September 24th! Tryouts will take place via Zoom. There are age restrictions, so this is not a career change opportunity for many, or most, of us. Regardless, I hope the weekend finds you singing!
It's an extra short week for me. I am having a ‘no meeting' Friday to take care of a few personal meetings and then catch up before the weekend hits. I look forward to cooler temperatures to make yard work a bit easier. I envy David's trip up north this week where the temps are more comfortable. I was surprised to hear from Lenya about the Monument Fire in Trinity County. As large as it is, I am surprised it hasn't made the news like the other fires have.
The week has entailed a series of 1-hr meetings, a few of which have ended early. Salary advancement conversations have been the purpose of several of the meetings. In addition, I met with National 4-H Council, Extension Foundation, and the Northeast Extension Directors. I am working on my workplan as incoming chair of ECOP, that national Cooperative Extension organization. We are strategizing how to build resources for the system as a whole. Hopefully, I won't spend the year meeting with people through virtual meetings, only. We can only speculate where the pandemic is headed. I continue to keep travel to a minimum, unless I can hop in the car to get somewhere.
One of the recent achievements for the national Cooperative Extension organization is funding from CDC to encourage vaccination. Ricardo, Marcel, Linda, and others have worked hard to develop TV spots targeting non-English speakers. Here's just one of 8 30-second TV spots: Variantes del Coronavirus / COVID-19 variants. Leyla has actively shared some of the other UC ANR activities with the CDC project manager around this topic. I learned today that another, much larger grant with NOAA focused on climate smart communities is right around the corner. Start formulating ideas and how we might partner with Sea Grant to prepare communities across California. We will continue to look for more novel partners and assess how we can work with other states to achieve project goals.
I hope everyone enjoys the weekend!
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!