- Author: Pamela Kan-Rice
UC ANR employees, associates begin crafting 2040 Strategic Vision
For the first time since 2018, UC ANR employees gathered for a statewide conference. More than 800 academics, staff, UC President's Advisory Commission members, volunteers and community members came together in Fresno from April 24 to 27 to share knowledge and network with colleagues.
In her opening remarks, Vice President Glenda Humiston welcomed new employees and introduced Brent Hales, the new associate vice president for research and cooperative extension, who starts July 1. She noted that 55% of the employees registered for the conference were hired in the past five years, a sign of the recent hiring blitz made possible by increased state funding. Humiston also gave a Larry Bettiga, UC Cooperative Extension viticulture advisor, a shout-out for his 45 years of service.
She also called attention to some of UC ANR's accomplishments before noting issues need that research and extension expertise: new technologies; crops and tools; fragile food and nutrition systems; climate change impacts; economic disconnects; and disaster response.
The theme was “UC ANR 2040: Growing Our Future Together, Aligning Strengths for California's Success” and brainstorming began to draft our new strategic vision. To get the group thinking about the challenges facing California, Humiston showed a powerful video, produced by senior videographer Ethan Ireland, depicting climate change, homelessness, COVID-19, empty store shelves, farm labor and crop disease – while showing glimpses of how UC ANR can help develop solutions.
Keynote speakers State Sen. John Laird, California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross and UC Regent, astronaut and winemaker Jose Hernandez complimented and inspired UC ANR employees.
“We have this great gift – this transformative engine called University of California,” said Ross on Monday. “All those research findings on campuses that are translated by all of you in Cooperative Extension.” She credited UC ANR for helping to make California the nation's leading agricultural producer.
Sen. Laird: ‘Tell the story'
On Tuesday, Laird addressed the conference audience via Zoom. The state senator who led the effort to augment UC Cooperative Extension funding said he was proud of the achievement. “The desire was to bring it back to where it had been 20 years ago before there were gradual reductions due to inflation and not increasing the budget,” Laird said, “because it is really important to our agricultural industry, but particularly in the time of climate [change].”
He urged UC ANR members to make the public aware of the impacts of applying scientific findings, saying, “It is important, not just that we did that, but for you to tell the story. For you to let everybody know – for not just internal documents, but for reading across the state – here's the difference it makes.”
“Science is at the key, you're at the center, we have worked hard to give you the tools and I really hope you use this conference and your work to be able to bring those answers to people that may not otherwise have them in California.”
UC President Michael Drake; Jaron Brandon, Tuolumne County supervisor; Walt Duflock, Western Growers vice president of innovation; Paula Daniels, co-founder, chief of What's Next and chair of the board of the Center for Good Food Purchasing; and Sharon Nance, retired USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service assistant state conservationist; shared their perspectives on opportunities for UC research and extension during a panel discussion moderated by Ross.
Conference inspires, fosters collegiality
Drake recalled a quote attributed to tennis legend Arthur Ashe: “Start where you are, use what you have and do what you can.” The University of California is a community of about 500,000 students and employees, “in all parts of the state, doing a variety of things,” he said. “For each of us, we need to start where you are, use what you have and do what you can to move forward in this sphere that you occupy.”
On Wednesday, Regent Hernandez shared his own history of tenacity and perseverance, noting that NASA rejected his applications 11 times before accepting him into its astronaut program.
On Wednesday evening, UC ANR Staff Assembly and its chair Scott Brayton sponsored an evening at a Fresno Grizzlies baseball game, where Vice President Humiston threw the first pitch and colleagues competed in games between innings.
During the closing session, Humiston thanked Kathy Eftekhari and Kathryn Stein for coordinating the programming and Sherry Cooper and the rest of the Program Support Unit for handling all the meals and logistics. She also thanked all of the presenters and the many UC ANR colleagues who hosted and led the informative workshops, tours and poster sessions.
Humiston also showed a video created by Ricardo Vela. The video clip featured five UC ANR employees introducing themselves in English and again in their native languages. She noted that many more languages are spoken by UC ANR colleagues, just one example of the diverse mix of people who are UC ANR.
Winners of the Bad Branding Bonanza during the conference were Emily Delk and Maria Ridoutt-Orozco. There will be another opportunity to win a $100 gift card by emailing an example of bad or outdated UC ANR branding to email@example.com by May 15.
Post your favorite photos from the conference on the UC ANR Employees Group page.