- Author: Saoimanu Sope
Prior to joining UC ANR, Bell focused on international development and spent 10 years working for the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences International Programs Office at UC Davis. Furthermore, Bell developed multiple courses and workshops; training thousands of students and scholars in areas ranging from field diagnostics to extension strategies in over 30 countries.
Trained as a soil scientist and agronomist, Bell has dedicated much of his career to knowledge management and building better extension systems. The positive and productive shift that Bell helped create within UC ANR is in large part due to his strategic ability to plan and execute.
“Part of being successful includes how we engage with each other and the efficient use of time,” he said. “I have worked with others to put better structure into various aspects of our work – defining criteria and target outcomes.”
Jim Farrar, UC Statewide IPM Program director, said that Bell has always had a positive attitude and a great talent for bringing people together to work for change. “He initiated the first regular meetings of the statewide program directors and organized the monthly meetings of the strategic initiative leaders. Because of Mark's efforts both of these groups work more collaboratively and have identified additional areas for coordination and cooperation,” stated Farrar.
Bell's top priority at UC ANR has been supporting the organization's goal to expand its positive impact and increase the number of people it reaches. To boost funding and potential partnerships, he worked with statewide program and institute directors and other colleagues to refine UC ANR's “ask” and raise the organization's profile.
He emphasized the use of online channels and the need for intentional approaches in using videos and multimedia tools to teach and connect with communities. He has also steadfastly championed the importance of modernizing our outdated website ecosystem as part of UC ANR's strategic goal to increase the number of Californians we reach. Another hallmark of Bell's leadership has been emphasizing impact over activity – a focus now highlighted for UC ANR's new employees.
Bell also has worked on building and retaining motivated teams. When discussing employee sustainability, Bell said: “The goal here is to build connections, build shared purpose, and build team and capacity so the work overall can be more effective. Further, the goal is to hire and retain people by improving the hiring protocols and by helping people start well and connect.”
Bell said that making a positive difference in the workplace has always been a top priority for him. And, as a result, UC ANR is stronger because of Bell's vision and dedication.
4-H Statewide Director Lynn Schmitt-McQuitty, attests to Bell's excellent leadership in the workplace. “Mark was such a positive force,” she said. “Always available to support, lend an ear, problem solve or lift your spirits. I was so fortunate to have a supervisor that supported me in my efforts while at the same time grounding me to make good decisions.”
Bell said, “I value and support the efforts of colleagues in forming focused, productive teams. Together we have improved efficiency and impact by better defining roles and responsibilities and by building a greater sense of unity and cohesion.”
Bell earned a Ph.D. in soil chemistry from the University of Queensland, Australia, a M.S. in soil chemistry from the University of Reading, UK and a B.Ag.Sc. in crops and pastures from the University of Queensland, Australia.
“Although the path forward is not yet 100% clear, I have the remarkable situation where I have considerable freedom to choose what comes next,” he said. “My intent is to explore needs and see how my interests and skills can help make a difference. To get that started, I have a trip lined up to Guyana in July and I will be doing work for some international development NGOs.”
He also expressed thanks and gratitude to colleagues “within and beyond UC ANR” for their collaboration and hard work to make a positive impact in the lives of others.
“I've appreciated the support and friendship of so many and I wish you all well for the future,” Bell said. “Until we meet again!”