- Author: Pamela Kan-Rice
Liliana Vega is the new UC Cooperative Extension 4-H youth development advisor serving San Diego and Los Angeles counties as of Aug. 1.
Her research and outreach focus on positive youth development through a JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion) lens, STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math), youth leadership, outdoor education, and college and career readiness/workforce development programs focused on reaching BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) youth and families.
Vega holds a bachelor's degree in multi-ethnic and Mexican American studies from Boise State University and a master's degree in adult/organizational learning and leadership from the University of Idaho.
With over 15 years of experience as a 4-H professional – previously serving San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties for the last five years and in Idaho's Ada and Canyon counties before that – Vega feels prepared for her new role as an advisor in San Diego and Orange counties.
In 2021, Vega was part of the team that won a Diversity & Inclusion Award from the National Association of Extension 4-H Youth Development Professionals for increasing the number of Latino youths participating in the California 4-H program by more than 250% over three years.
“I'm excited to forge new partnerships in San Diego and Orange counties and collaboratively work to provide access to experiential learning, increase youth-adult partnerships, and help youth gain the support they need to grow and thrive as individuals,” she said.
Vega has extensive experience in forming community partnerships to deliver quality youth development programs, with a focus on increasing access for minority, low-income and underserved audiences. Her expertise is in culturally adapting programs for the Latinx community.
Currently, Vega serves on the National 4-H LGBTQ+ and Immigrant/Refugee Youth and Community Champion Groups. She also chairs the 4-H Statewide JEDI Advisory Committee, California 4-H True Leaders in Equity Youth Taskforce, and UC Agriculture and Natural Resources' Career/College Readiness and Workforce Development Workgroup.
Vega is based at the UCCE office in San Diego and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
James “Jay” Sayre joined UC Cooperative Extension and the UC Davis Department of Agriculture and Resource Economics as a CE Specialist on July 1.
His role focuses on the economics of food supply chains across the state of California. Sayre aims to study policies to promote greater competition in food supply chains to benefit smaller-scale producers, understand the role of international trade in agriculture and its effects on Californian consumers, and assess how supply chains can best respond to a changing climate.
Sayre is excited about combining economic theory and modeling approaches with understanding the needs of stakeholders in California to benefit food supply chains within California.
Sayre earned a doctorate in Agricultural and Resource Economics this spring down the road at UC Berkeley. His dissertation research spanned several disciplines, with chapters seeking to understand how agricultural supply chains lead regions to specialize in certain crops, the consequences of phytosanitary and other non-tariff barriers to trade, as well as developing methodology to accurately assess crop yields across large regions using satellite imagery and other sources of publicly available data. He earned a bachelor's degree in economics and mathematics from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.
The Colorado native is looking forward to addressing a variety of issues in the near future relevant to California stakeholders. An ongoing project looks to develop fine-scale projections of future agricultural productivity for most of the major crops California produces, including crops that have historically not had such measures available, like perennials such as almonds, avocados and other fruits.
He hopes such information will be relevant not only for growers seeking to understand whether their land will be relatively more suitable in the future for different crops, but also agricultural intermediaries and policy makers looking to understand where production of certain crops may shift in the future.
Before joining Cooperative Extension and UC Davis, Sayre worked in Mexico, seeking to better understand the cross-border nature of supply chains that operate in both California and Mexico. He is proficient in Spanish and aims to increase the accessibility of extension to Spanish speakers.
Sayre is based in the Department of Agriculture and Resource Economics at UC Davis and can be reached at email@example.com.
Justin Valliere joined UC ANR on July 1 as an assistant professor of Cooperative Extension in invasive weed and restoration ecology at UC Davis.
Valliere's research aims to evaluate how human-caused environmental change and invasive plant species impact native ecosystems, and how we can reverse this degradation through ecological restoration. The overarching goal of his research and outreach is to develop real-world solutions for land management in the face of global change.
“CE already is such an effective system for supporting agriculture, but it's also an important model for natural resource management and restoration,” Valliere told Trina Kleist, writer for UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences. “There is a real need for help advising folks throughout the state about managing and restoring natural lands, and I'm excited to help bolster that.”
As a teen, the Massachusetts native participated in the local 4-H program. His passion was pressing plants. Though a lot of them were weeds from Europe, he didn't yet know the difference, and if the judges at the county fair did, they didn't mind. His collections won blue ribbons.
Prior to joining UC Davis, Valliere was an assistant professor of biology at CSU Dominguez Hills, a research fellow at the University of Western Australia, and a postdoctoral fellow at the La Kretz Center for California Conservation Science at UCLA.
Valliere earned his Ph.D. in plant biology from UC Riverside, and a bachelor's degree in biology from Green Mountain College in Poultney, Vermont.
In June, a UCOP writer asked Valliere, “What is it like to be an LGBTQ scientist, studying our natural world?” He replied, “I don't know that there is a direct connection there, but plants are super queer! … Plants are a great example of how the world doesn't fit into that heteronormative binary in terms of sex and gender fluidity.”
Valliere is based in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alexandra “Ali” Estvan Hill joined UC ANR and UC Berkeley's Department of Agricultural and Resources Economics on July 1 as an assistant professor of Cooperative Extension specializing in the economics of diversity and equity.
From 2019 until she joined UC, Hill worked as an assistant professor of agricultural economics at Colorado State University. Her research centers around the U.S. agricultural workforce and seeks to demonstrate how a variety of factors impact worker well-being, quantified in terms of income or health impacts – and to make a business case for employers, in terms of implications for production or profits, to institute policies and practices that promote worker well-being.
Hired farmworkers contribute greatly to the racial, ethnic, cultural and socioeconomic diversity of U.S. agriculture; however, they are frequently not treated equitably and face a multitude of economic, physical, legal and emotional hardships in their personal and professional lives. Hill's research seeks to begin dismantling these inequities by finding avenues through which employers can increase worker well-being while maintaining or increasing profits.
Hill brings extensive experience working with individual agricultural businesses to accomplish these objectives through enhancing firm data collection and analysis to provide an array of effective, efficient and actionable insights.
She is building an extension program centered around advancing diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging in the agri-food system by enhancing the well-being of agricultural employees and other disadvantaged members of rural and urban agricultural communities.
She earned her Ph.D. in agricultural and resource economics from UC Davis and master's degree in agricultural and applied economics and bachelor's degree in agricultural and consumer economics from University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
Bailey Smith-Helman joined UCCE Santa Cruz County on July 3 as a community education specialist with the UC ANR Climate Smart Agriculture Program.
Smith-Helman, who relocated from Washington, D.C., is excited to get back in the field and support Santa Cruz County growers with climate-smart agriculture practices and California Department of Food and Agriculture financial incentive programs.
CDFA programs provide financial incentives to eligible farmers and ranchers implementing new practices that maximize water efficiency, build soil health, and improve manure management. She is ready to assist interested growers with grant applications, project planning and implementation.
After graduating from Northwestern University with a bachelor's degree in political science and environmental policy, Smith-Helman, who speaks Spanish fluently, moved to Paraguay to serve as an agriculture volunteer with the Peace Corps. In Paraguay, she worked closely with agricultural educators and local producers to develop education plans and lessons to engage high school students in agricultural coursework.
After returning to the U.S., Smith-Helman worked for USDA Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, where she gained experience in agriculture policy analysis and program management.
Smith-Helman is based in Watsonville and can be reached at email@example.com.
Eric Schueler joined UC ANR on Aug. 1 as manager of real estate and facility development.
He will conduct analysis in support of real estate-related decision-making efforts; participate in the selection, evaluation, acquisition, management and disposition of real property and building space; participate in development of budgets and resource allocations; and manage compliance with lease agreements and lessor/lessee relationships.
During his 10-plus years with the University of California, Schueler has kept up-to-date on its internal policies and governing laws that impact real estate transactions, and has been involved with the acquisition, disposition, and long-term ground leases for the development of programmatic and auxillary programs. He brings a wealth of experience in negotiating contracts, underwriting acquisitions, marketing surplus properties, and developing essential programmatic uses via joint venture endeavors.
Through his work in the private sector, Schueler developed office complexes and industrial parks for regional and national development firms, which afforded him the experience of being involved with development projects from inception to completion and working closely with local professionals, municipalities, investors, company leadership, local communities, third-party consultants and end-users.
Schueler holds a bachelor's degree in economics and real estate from the University of Wisconsin and a Master of Business Administration in finance from Louisiana State University.
Schueler is based at UC Office of the President in Oakland and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.