- Author: Wendy Powers
The meeting over the long weekend in San Diego is rarely my favorite meeting, but I managed to leave with some reading. I need to become more of a reader if I am to keep up with it.
A manuscript I hope to read talks about the changing role of higher education dealing with wicked problems. I have no excuse not to read it because it is available for download via Digital Commons. Our opening speaker, Richard Meyers, took us on a brief journey of his experiences both as the15th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for the U.S. Air Force and now as the 14th president of Kansas State University. He talked about the role of public universities and the similarities he has observed within his very distinct careers. One of the speakers later in the conference spoke about the need for public institutions to serve the critical role as an anchor and catalyst for community improvement. I suspect Justin Morrill had the same idea.
Throughout much of the conference, we talked about community engagement as a key to successfully effecting change to improve community challenges. We received an update on the efforts by Cooperative Extension to partner with the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation (RWJF) in policy, systems, and environmental change in communities across the country. I highly recommend a visit to the webpage to read the report. During the first phase of the project, three locations in Utah serve as pilot projects. We learned about the work taking place in Emery County, UT, led by youth, to drive suicide and addiction prevention programs. The activities are impressive. I can't wait to learn about outcomes. The conversation was about more than this project addressing community-scale condition change and the value of measuring change at both the individual level but also the community level. One example made use of zip code-driven data on community life expectancy. However, even at this scale, there are differences. For instance, in a 10-block area in one Northeastern city, the average life expectancy is 16 years less than the national average of 75 years. The conversation, as a whole, was worthy of thinking.
The RWJF announced the 2019 Culture of Health Prize winners. Among the five is the community of Gonzales, CA (Monterey County)! The community story demonstrates a commitment to continuous improvement to make tomorrow better than today.
One of our final speakers was not only dynamic but had a great message. His comments reflected that of an earlier speaker who repeated C.S. Lewis' words that "You can't go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” He, too, talked about the importance of higher education and public institutions and the need to make that experience accessible to all so that we really can make tomorrow better than today. To do so, requires each of us stepping beyond our comfort zone to be the change we seek. I appreciated his example that this means changing the paradigm from having 'weed out courses' in the first-year curriculum to 'opt-in' courses. Finally, he reminded us that our habits become our character. Our character becomes our destiny. I left with more reading, The Empowered University.
There will be no time for reading tomorrow. However, I have a chance to see some of our newer UC ANR members during the Administrative Orientation, so it will be a great day. Beyond that, I haven't looked at my calendar but, we will keep working to make each day a bit better.