Posts Tagged: Ruth Dahlquist-Willard
UC ANR Day at the Capitol was held on March 26, 2019, to update California legislators and legislative staff on UC ANR's research and outreach projects. Vice President Glenda Humiston and a UC ANR delegation discussed a wide variety of topics during the legislative visits, including wildfire and forest health, water quality, youth development, nutrition and climate adaptation.
Every year, representatives from each UC campus gather in Sacramento for UC Day at the Capitol to educate lawmakers about the importance of research and higher education and their contributions to California's economy and progress. Although UC ANR participates in the annual Ag Day at the Capitol, this was the first UC ANR Day at the Capitol.
ANR's Global Food Initiative fellow Maci Mueller set up appointments with the policymakers and coordinated the UC ANR delegation to explain the value of investment in UC ANR research and outreach.
The UC ANR delegation consisted of two teams led by Humiston and Wendy Powers, associate vice president. The teams included Faith Kearns, California Institute for Water Resources academic coordinator; Ruth Dahlquist-Willard, UC Cooperative Extension small farms advisor for Fresno and Tulare counties; Tracy Schohr, UC Cooperative Extension livestock and natural resource advisor for Plumas, Sierra and Butte counties; Alena Pacheco, 4-H community education specialist in Fresno County; Bailey Butler, Oroville 4-H member; and El Dorado County 4-H Ambassadors Emily Ferrell, Josie Rothman and Isabella Veffredo, who were accompanied by El Dorado County 4-H program representatives Vera Bullard and Denise Veffredo.
“As a team, we were able to connect with every member or staffer that we met,” Powers wrote in her ANR Adventures blog. “Sometimes it was around the 4-H program, and what the program has done for our impressive team members, sometimes it was around fire or water, and other staffers or members were particularly interested in moringa. Either way, the goal was to make a connection so that each visit left an impression.”
“UC ANR Day was a terrific opportunity for 4-H members to practice their communication skills and get involved in advocacy at the state level,” Mueller said.
Oroville 4-H member Bailey described for legislators and their staff how she worked from Nov. 8 when the Camp Fire broke out until after Christmas with UC Cooperative Extension advisor Tracy Schohr and UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine staff to care for 1,200 evacuated livestock and to train others to assist. Emily, a 4-H Ambassador in El Dorado County, said her 4-H experience with STEM activities and leadership training helped her get into the university of her choice – UC Santa Barbara.
Greeted warmly by each office, the teams shared examples of work being done by UC ANR in their districts, offered them assistance and thanked the legislators for their support. They left a copy of the UC ANR Snapshot, UC ANR map and overview, a 4-H fact sheet and UC at a Glance.
Legislators praised the 4-H members and UC ANR staff for the work they do for Californians.
“I look forward to making UC ANR Day at the Capitol an annual event,” Humiston said. “Telling people about the value of ANR's work is not only part of our mission, it is essential in educating others about all that we accomplish with the resources we have.”
A fact sheet showing the effects of shrinking public investment in the University of California and agricultural research can be downloaded at https://ucanr.edu/sites/Professional_Development/files/302896.pdf.
Sean Hogan, IGIS academic coordinator, talks drones with Assemblymember Devon Mathis.
Coyne named Master Gardener volunteer engagement coordinator
Marisa Coyne is now the academic coordinator - volunteer engagement for UC Master Gardener Program as of April 8. Coyne joined the Program after serving as a part-time community education specialist for the 4-H Youth Development Program with UCCE Marin County since September 2018.
“Marisa is filling a new full-time position and we are delighted to have her as part of the UC Master Gardener community,” said Missy Gable, director of the UC Master Gardener Program.
Coyne will strengthen and further the work of the Program by enhancing professional development opportunities, collaborating with UC ANR academics to ensure successful volunteer-academic partnerships, and sharing stories of UC Master Gardener volunteers' many accomplishments and successes. She is passionate about creating opportunities for community members to commit to lifelong stewardship of land and water in California.
Originally from Philadelphia, she has worked in rural, urban and peri-urban communities and in food, agriculture and wilderness spaces, providing interdisciplinary, inquiry-based, educational opportunities for learners of all ages. From the California coast to the Driftless Area of Wisconsin to the forests of Connecticut, she has designed and delivered outdoor experiences for thousands of learners, specialized in development of emerging leaders and in promoting inclusive organizational change. Her graduate work at UC Davis in the Community and Regional Development Program focused on issues of equity in sustainable agriculture education. She earned a M.S. in community development from UC Davis and a B.A. in communications from Temple University.
Coyne is located in the ANR building in Davis in workstation 102B and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (530) 750-1394.
Hollingsworth named UCCE nutrient management and soil quality advisor
Joy Hollingsworth joined UC Cooperative Extension as a nutrient management and soil quality advisor serving Fresno, Kings, Madera and Tulare counties on April 1. She had worked as a staff research associate at the Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center (KARE) since 2015.
As a staff research associate at KARE, Hollingsworth assisted in the management of drought and variety studies in the field, greenhouse and lab on both forage and grain sorghum. She organized trials, collected growth and development data, coordinated field activities with research station staff, supervised work crews at KARE and WSREC, and operated harvest equipment such as forage chopper and small plot combine. Prior to her work as an SRA at KARE, Hollingsworth was a junior specialist in the UC Davis Plant Science Department, conducting agronomic field trials for canola, camelina, sugarbeets and castor, including variety, salinity, irrigation and nitrogen trials located throughout California.
Hollingsworth earned a M.S. in plant science from Fresno State. Her thesis project was conducted at the UC West Side Research and Extension Center and compared overhead irrigation to subsurface drip in conservation tillage cotton. She earned a B.A. in communication from UC Davis.
Hollingsworth is based in Fresno and can be reached at (559) 241-7527 and email@example.com.
Nobua-Behrmann named UCCE urban forestry and natural resources advisor
Beatriz Nobua-Behrmann is now a UC Cooperative Extension urban forestry and natural resources advisor serving Orange and Los Angeles counties, effective March 25. Nobua-Behrmann first joined ANR in 2017 as a staff research associate in Orange County.
As a staff research associate for UCCE Orange County, Nobua-Behrmann provided management and direction to conduct a significant research and extension program focused on critical invasive pests, mainly insects, impacting urban landscapes and wildlands surrounding urbanized environments. The main focus of the program is to conduct surveys of infestations in regional parks and associated open spaces in order to develop management strategies that are efficacious and economically feasible. She also coordinated research and extension activities conducted by UC Riverside faculty and UCCE specialists on pest-related issues impacting these same environments.
She completed a doctorate and a B.S in biology from Universidad de Buenos Aires in Argentina and is fluent in Spanish.
Nobua-Behrmann is based at South Coast Research and Extension Center in Irvine and can be reached at (949) 301-9182, Ext. 1006 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tompkins named forestry and natural resources advisor
Ryan Tompkins joined UC Cooperative Extension as a forestry and natural resources advisor on March 18, serving Plumas, Sierra and Lassen counties. Prior to joining UCCE, Tompkins held forester positions for the past 16 years with the U.S. Forest Service, worked in the fire effects program with the National Park Service and served as associate faculty in the Environmental Studies Department at Feather River College teaching forest ecology and management.
Most recently, Tompkins served as the forest silviculturist and vegetation program manager at the Plumas National Forest, where he designed, planned and implemented landscape-scale forest restoration projects.
Tompkins earned master's and bachelor's degrees in forestry from UC Berkeley.
Based in Quincy, Tompkins can be reached at (530) 83-6125, email@example.com.
Nelson joins ANR as climate stewards initiative academic coordinator
Sarah-Mae Nelson joined ANR as the UC climate stewards initiative academic coordinator on Feb. 19. She is an educator, science communicator and climate change communication specialist who draws on her background and interest in interpretation at informal science education centers.
Prior to joining ANR, she worked for the Monterey Bay Aquarium from 2006 to 2017 in various roles, including guest experience interpreter, climate change interpretive specialist, and conservation interpreter and online community manager for ClimateInterpreter.org. A charter member of the National Network for Ocean and Climate Change and Interpretation, Nelson is part of the leadership team that trains new communicators in research-proven, climate change strategic framing communications. For her master's work, she established curriculum for an interdisciplinary Climate Change Studies minor at UC San Diego. In 2015, she was recognized by President Obama as a Champion of Change in Climate Education and Literacy.
She earned an M.S. in climate science and policy from Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego, and a B.S. in marine biology from UC Santa Cruz.
Nelson is based in Half Moon Bay and can be reached at (408) 482-4633 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gross named UCCE aquaculture specialist
Jackson Gross joined UCCE on Aug. 14, as an aquaculture specialist. His current research program aims to be at the forefront of environmental and production sustainability and ecological integrity. To achieve this vision, his research is focused into three distinct, yet overlapping applied research themes: aquaculture, invasion biology and environmental/ecological toxicology. This research usually addresses data gaps and provides scientific solutions, determined through rigorous experimentation, meeting the immediate biological and engineering needs of the aquaculture industry and natural resource community. His research is historically a mix of laboratory and field experimentation. However, there are many times where the research is not exclusively one or the other, but instead, a blend where controlled laboratory experimentation is brought into the field. Other areas of interest include aquaponic production systems.
Prior to joining UCCE, Gross worked at a private engineering firm evaluating the effects of anthropogenic activity on aquatic resources.
Gross earned a Ph.D. in animal sciences (endocrine and reproductive physiology minor) at University of Wisconsin - Madison. He completed a M.S. in public health (toxicology emphasis) and a B.S. in biology (zoology emphasis) from San Diego State University.
Gross is based in the Department of Animal Science at UC Davis and can be reached at 2117 Meyer Hall, (530) 752-2978 and email@example.com.
NAS elects Ronald and Zilberman as members
The National Academy of Sciences announced April 30 the election of 100 new members and 25 foreign associates in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research. Forty percent of the newly elected members are women—the most ever elected in any one year to date.
Pamela Ronald, professor and geneticist in the UC Davis Department of Plant Pathology and Genome Center, and David Zilberman, a UC Cooperative Extension specialist and professor of agricultural and resources economics at UC Berkeley, are among the new members.
Ronald researches genes that control disease resistance and tolerance to environmental stress in rice, one of the world's most important crops. She is known for engineering flood-tolerant rice, for which she and her colleagues received the USDA 2008 National Research Discovery Award.
Zilberman is one of the most cited scholars in agricultural, environmental and resource economics. During the 1980s, his work served as the basis for several projects on the adoption of modern irrigation technology and computers in California agriculture. These studies demonstrated that farmers adopt new technologies when it makes economic sense and that extreme events, such as droughts or high prices, can trigger changes in farming practices. During the early 1990s, his research on pesticide economics and policy made the case against policies that called to ban pesticides, and advocated instead for policies that take advantage of the vast economic benefits that pesticides generate while using incentives to protect against environmental side effects. In January, Zilberman was awarded the 2019 Wolf Prize in Agriculture in recognition of his work developing economic models for fundamental problems in agriculture, economics and policy.
Dahlquist-Willard and Pathak honored by CalCAN
Two UC Cooperative Extension scientists were recognized for their contributions to the field of agriculture and climate change at the California Climate & Agriculture Summit at UC Davis on March 5, 2019.
Ruth Dahlquist-Willard, UC Cooperative Extension small farms advisor in Fresno and Tulare counties.
Dahlquist-Willard helps keep small-scale, diversified farmers in business by providing support with marketing, regulatory compliance, processing of value-added products, water and energy efficiency, and integrated pest management. She has been a driving force behind increasing access by Hmong farmers in the Fresno area to California's State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program (SWEEP). Dahlquist-Willard has promoted the program, provided thousands of hours of one-on-one, culturally relevant support to farmers on grant applications, and assisted with project design and installation. The farmers she has supported are now benefiting from water, energy and financial savings.
"There are large environmental problems to solve in the Central Valley, and it's time for a different conversation around farming there," Dahlquist-Willard said. "I feel that there needs to be a conversation in the middle to solve problems rather than a conflict-based approach."
Tapan Pathak, UC Cooperative Extension specialist for climate adaptation in agriculture, based at UC Merced.
Pathak is the chair of the UC Cooperative Extension Climate Change Adaptation Workgroup, which brings together scientists across the UC system to collaborate on research and extension projects related to climate change adaptation in California agriculture. Pathak is the lead author on an important and timely paper that was published in 2018 in the journal Agronomy. It synthesizes the impacts of climate change on California agriculture and offers directions for future research and implementation.
"We need more facilitated dialog with policy researchers and scientists on the science of climate change, and the implications of not taking action," Pathak said. "Given the scale of California agriculture and the pressure of climate change impacts, we need even more substantial funding for incentives for farmers and for research and tools, and we must integrate growers from the beginning of the process."
The summit, organized by CalCAN, brought together some of the state's foremost experts in agriculture — including farmers, agriculture professionals, researchers, advocates and policymakers — to grapple with the challenges of climate change and share knowledge about the opportunities facing the industry.
Mitloehner wins Borlaug CAST Communication Award
The Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) named UC Davis animal scientist Frank Mitloehner the 2019 Borlaug CAST Communication Award recipient. Mitloehner, a professor and UC Cooperative Extension air quality specialist in the Department of Animal Science, is the 10th recipient of this award.
“I'm honored to be selected by CAST, an organization I've long admired, and to be in the company of so many recipients who have inspired me during my career,” Mitloehner said. “Being recognized with the Borlaug CAST Communication Award is not only a high honor, it's an affirmation of the importance of sharing research and academic pursuits well beyond labs, classrooms and universities.”
CAST bestows the award annually to a nominated expert in the agricultural, environmental or food sectors. The nominee must show remarkable communication skills through various types of media with the purpose of advancing science in the public policy sector.
Mitloehner's nominators state he reaches beyond academia to inform experts and various members of the public around the globe about animal agriculture's influence on greenhouse gas emissions. His goal is to change societal views about the influence of animals on our climate through various channels of communication.
“His involvement as a communicator and scientist at the national and global levels has put him and his message in a strategic position to share and influence policy,” said one of Mitloehner's nominators.
Numerous like-minded agencies and institutions have reached out for his guidance on timely and relevant issues regarding animal agriculture's impacts on air quality, including chairing a committee for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
Since he joined UC Davis in 2002, Mitloehner has amassed more than 800 presentations focused on animal agriculture through various speaking events such as conferences and professional meetings. He has contributed to national news stories published by CNN, PBS, Newsweek, The Washington Post and other media outlets.
Mitloehner does not shy away from social media either. He began tweeting with the handle @GHGGuru in April 2018 and his Twitter account has more than 7,000 followers. In late 2018, Mitloehner launched GHG Guru Blog, a personal website with the goal of delivering the “latest, most accurate research” focused on the intersection between animal agriculture and the climate.
“Science for science's sake has no role in making our world more sustainable,” Mitloehner said. “Sharing what we know — and backing it up with facts — leads to discussions and solutions,” Mitloehner said.
The Borlaug CAST Communication Award is sponsored by the CropLife Foundation. CAST announced the 2019 BCCA recipient at the USDA Whitten Patio in Washington, D.C., on April 16.
The award will be presented held during a side event at the World Food Prize Symposium on Oct. 16. – UC Davis
Fung and Staskawicz elected Royal Society members
The Royal Society of London, the oldest scientific academy in continuous existence, announced their newest fellows and foreign members April 16, among them two UC Berkeley College of Natural Resources faculty.
The newly-elected CNR foreign members are climate scientist Inez Fung and plant biologist Brian Staskawicz. Fung and Staskawicz are among 51 new fellows, 10 new foreign members and one new honorary member.
“Over the course of the Royal Society's vast history, it is our fellowship that has remained a constant thread and the substance from which our purpose has been realized: to use science for the benefit of humanity,” said society president Venki Ramakrishnan. “This year's newly elected Fellows and Foreign Members of the Royal Society embody this, being drawn from diverse fields of enquiry – epidemiology, geometry, climatology — at once disparate, but also aligned in their pursuit and contributions of knowledge about the world in which we live. It is with great honor that I welcome them as Fellows of the Royal Society.”
The learned society dates from 1660 and today is the U.K.'s national science academy and a fellowship of some 1,600 of the world's most eminent scientists.
Fung, a professor of earth and planetary science and of environmental science, policy and management, models the processes that maintain and alter the composition of the atmosphere and, hence, the climate.
Staskawicz, a professor of plant and microbial biology and a co-director of the Innovative Genomics Institute, studies plants' innate immunity with the goal of engineering disease resistance in agricultural crops.
California is constantly being challenged by pest invasions, obesity, labor shortages, water scarcity, food insecurity, climate change and more. To accelerate the development and adoption of technologies that address these challenges and advance food, agriculture and natural resources in California, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources and AgStart will receive a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) to cultivate the Verde Innovation Network for Entrepreneurship (the VINE).
Like a grapevine, the VINE will connect existing clusters of innovation across California and link entrepreneurs with mentors, advisors, collaborators, events, competitions, education and other services to turn good ideas into products and services people can use.
“We want to make sure every Californian has the support system to take a novel idea and commercialize a new product or start a new business,” said VP Glenda Humiston. “They don't have to be a university inventor, they could be a farmer or a young person.”
AgStart itself was established with an EDA i6 Challenge grant to assist agriculture and food technology entrepreneurs in the Sacramento Valley region. Since 2012, AgStart has supported more than 58 entrepreneurs and their companies.
“In 2016, of the 16 entrepreneurial companies that AgStart assisted, eight resided outside our region, and leveraged AgStart's program to make connections into our Sacramento Valley region,” said John Selep, president of AgTech Innovation Alliance, AgStart's sponsor.
“The VINE will expand this AgStart model of connecting entrepreneurs to the resources they need to be successful, to enable entrepreneurs residing anywhere in California to connect to the clusters of resources, contacts, mentors and potential partners that have emerged across the state,” said Selep.
“There are many wonderful regional innovation hubs in food, agriculture and natural resources so we plan to bring value by amplifying their efforts, connecting regions and organizations into a more cohesive ecosystem, and bringing value-added resources that ultimately benefit all Californians through the innovations affecting our economic prosperity, food supply and environment,” Youtsey said.
UC Cooperative Extension specialists and advisors, who work in every county, can provide insight into real-world conditions that entrepreneurs should consider in the development stage. UC ANR's nine research and extension centers can provide locations to field-test products and demonstrate their effectiveness. For example, start-up Blue River is testing its technology by flying a drone over sorghum crops to collect data at the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Parlier.
For the last two years, UC ANR has hosted the Apps for Ag hackathon and has introduced the winners to mentors, tech industry advisors, farmers, funders and legal experts who can advise entrepreneurs on business structure.
The VINE, which is working with UC Davis Innovation Institute for Food and Health and Valley Vision, is being structured to complement other efforts to establish food, agriculture, and natural resources incubation and innovation resources in cluster locations around the state, such as the BlueTechValley Regional Innovation Cluster, the Western Growers Innovation & Technology Center, UC Merced's VentureLab and others.
Youtsey and Selep are seeking more VINE partners with expertise across the business spectrum.
“If our vision is successful, the VINE will make California the most fertile region in the world for entrepreneurs in ag and food technology to establish themselves, to prosper and grow,” Selep said.
Slattery rejoins UCCE in Butte County
Chelsey Slattery rejoined UC Cooperative Extension on Sept. 18, 2017, as an area nutrition, family, and consumer sciences advisor in Butte County.
From 2013 to 2016, Slattery was a UCCE community education specialist, supervising the UC CalFresh Nutrition Education Program in Colusa, Sutter and Yuba counties.
From July 2016 to September 2017, Slattery was a program manager at UC Davis Center for Nutrition Schools, where she oversaw a statewide, multi-component, evidence-based, and research-tested nutrition education program. She facilitated training in coordination with the UC CalFresh State Office and UC CalFresh counties throughout the state of California.
Concurrently, Slattery has been working as a per-diem nutrition specialist since 2015 at Shady Creek Outdoor Education Foundation, where she provides oversight and guidance for the Fit Quest program, bringing comprehensive children's wellness programs to Northern California schools.
Slattery earned an M.S. in organizational leadership from the School of Business Management at National University. She completed a B.S. in exercise physiology/exercise science from CSU Chico.
Based in Oroville, Slattery can be reached at (530) 538-7201 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
California Naturalist wins ANROSP outstanding team award
The California Naturalist Program was named the 2017 Outstanding Team by the Alliance of Natural Resource Outreach and Service Programs (ANROSP). Sabrina Drill, associate director of California Naturalist and UC Cooperative Extension advisor, and Marisa Rodriguez, community education specialist with California Naturalist in Southern California, accepted the award on Sept. 21 at the annual ANROSP conference held at the World Forestry Center in Portland, Ore.
Led by director Adina Merenlender, a UC Cooperative Extension specialist at UC Berkeley, the CalNat staff includes Greg Ira, academic coordinator; Brook Gamble, community education specialist; Drill and Rodriguez.
Teamwork is fundamental to the program structure. Since 2012, California Naturalist has certified more than 1,800 Naturalists, who have logged over 100,000 volunteer hours.
The team credits its success to the support and efforts across UC ANR and an extended team of course partners, instructors, statewide partners, educators, scientists, conservation practitioners, and many others who have contributed to the continued adaptive development of the program.
Grant to be inducted into Ag Hall of Fame
On Oct. 19, Joseph Grant, UC Cooperative Extension advisor emeritus, will be among the people inducted into the San Joaquin County Agricultural Hall of Fame at the 33rd Annual Agricultural Hall of Fame Banquet.
For most of his career, Grant, who retired in 2016, worked as a UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor and is known for his research on walnuts, cherries, apples, olives and other tree crops.
“It's kind of awesome. I mean when you look at the other people that have been inducted into the Hall of Fame, I don't consider myself in that class of people so it's humbling,” Grant said about his induction to the Lodi News-Sentinel.
In addition to Grant, the San Joaquin County Agricultural Hall of Fame will honor Henry “Skip” Foppiano, Jack and Pati Hamm and Hank Van Exel, and give a posthumous honor to winemaker Robert Gerald Mondavi.
According to the Hall of Fame, it “honors those individuals who have contributed to agriculture and to their community in significant ways.”
The banquet will be held at the Robert J. Cabral Ag Center in Stockton. Tickets are $45 and can be purchased by calling the Greater Stockton Chamber of Commerce at (209) 547-2770 or by visiting http://stocktonchamber.org/ag-hall-of-fame.
USDA-ARS bestows B.Y. Morrison Medal on Zalom
Frank Zalom, UC Davis distinguished professor of entomology and integrated pest management (IPM) specialist, has been named the recipient of the 2017 B.Y. Morrison Medal by U.S. Department of Agriculture/Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS).
Zalom is the first entomologist to receive the coveted award established in 1968, according to Kim Kaplan of the USDA-ARS Office of Communications.
Zalom was singled out for his outstanding work in IPM related to sustainable horticulture production, specifically for “his outstanding leadership and public service in IPM for horticultural crops at the regional, state, national and international levels; his stellar accomplishments in horticultural crops sustainability and pest management and his work ethic, service, courage and integrity, all driven by his insatiable curiosity and passion to solve problems in the horticultural crops landscape,” Kaplan said.
Zalom received the award, co-sponsored by USDA-ARS and the American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS), on Sept. 21 at the ASHS conference in Waikoloa, Hawaii. He presented the Morrison Memorial Lecture on “Significance of Integrated Pest Management to Sustainable Horticultural Production – Observations and Experiences.”
Read more at //ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=25218. -- Kathy Keatley Garvey
The UC ANR Staff Assembly Council will hold a Staff Assembly Ambassadors meeting at the ANR Building in Davis on Oct. 10. The engagement will provide an opportunity for ambassadors to visit and network with colleagues and review Staff Assembly priorities. Additionally, they will discuss opportunities for staff to become more involved in addressing staff concerns and furthering organizational goals.
UC ANR Tote Bags
In an effort to help spread the word about UC ANR Staff Assembly, all Staff Assembly members will receive a We Are UC ANR Staff Assembly tote bag. Members of the UC Staff Assembly include all ANR staff, whether employed by the county or the university, represented by a union or not represented. UC ANR Staff Assembly Ambassadors are the points of contact for distributing the bags at each office.
CUCSA Fall 2017 Meeting
UC San Diego was the site of the CUCSA (Council of University of California Staff Assemblies) Fall 2017 Meeting Sept. 6-8. The meeting included a team building exercise, work group action planning, post retirement health benefit discussions and a review of UC Employee Engagement Survey results. UC ANR junior delegate LeChé McGill and senior delegate Jeannette Warnert represented UC ANR staff at the meeting.
On the subject of potential changes to post-retirement health benefits, CUCSA chair Lina Layiktez provided the summary below and links for more information.
Proposed change to post-retirement health benefits
The proposed action item for the July 2017 Regents meeting was to remove the 70 percent floor on the UC contribution to retiree health benefits and place a cap of 3 percent on year-over-year increases to UC costs. This is a policy change to offset the accounting rule changes required in "GASB 75." GASB 75 requires that the full actuarial value of other postemployment benefits (OPEB) be included on the systemwide balance sheet. This means that UC will have a perceived “new” liability of $21 billion, which would affect the system's overall credit rating. A hit to the UC's credit rating has obvious impacts to financing for the university.
The “new” GASB 75 requirement definition is subject to interpretation, since it was already a liability that was disclosed in previous year's financials. The value of this liability under current assumptions/retiree rules is approximately $21 billion. The current assumptions are being driven by the number of retirees in the system plus the number of potential retirees (active staff and faculty) and how much it would cost the system in health-care costs should the current employees retire today.
What does this all mean?
By removing the floor and capping UC's costs, the university effectively transfers rising health-care premiums to retirees. The assumed rate of health-care cost increase is 7 percent. Over the course of 20 years this would flip the proportion that UC pays to ~30 percent and the retiree to ~70 percent. The 70 percent floor was designed to provide some stability to retiree health-care costs.
What do we see happening?
Many UC employees choose to retire after calculating their retirement income. This is necessary because, except for Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA), there is no way for retirees to increase their income from the university. So when out-of-pocket health-care costs go up for retirees, this eats into their living expenses. There are already retirees and survivors of retirees who have to choose between health-care costs and food. To suddenly remove the 70% floor exacerbates this problem.
What can you do?
The campus staff assemblies are collecting feedback locally and sharing this up to the Council of UC Staff Assemblies (CUCSA), who will be coordinating a response to the UC President and/or Board of Regents. We are also working on a list of questions that include queries, such as what OPEB would look like if it grandparented current employees and implemented the changes to future retirees? What does this mean for retention of employees with 10 to 20 years of service?
The most powerful and helpful thing for us now is to hear about your personal concerns and how this impacts you. Would no OPEB mean you are less likely to retire from the UC system and take a job elsewhere for more money now? Will you have to postpone your retirement if, in retirement, you will have to pay a greater portion of your OPEB than you had planned for under the current plan?
Share your questions and stories with us on the UC ANR Staff Assembly website.
Fortunately, the July agenda was revised and this item was moved to the November meeting agenda. Moving the item to November will allow for more consultation and discussion. It is unknown what approach the UC Office of the President (OP) will take to solicit feedback and engage in discussion. But as that information becomes available, we will make sure to share it broadly. We are hopeful that CUCSA (and therefore a voice of staff) will be included in the discussions and that OP will convene a task force representing all parties that will be affected by the proposed changes. Stay tuned.
Click here for the original July Regents Meeting Agenda Item (F7), which was then revised to remove the discussion on the 70 percent floor.
The immediate past chair of the systemwide Academic Senate, Jim Chalfant, has already written a letter to the UC President on this issue. You can read it online here: http://senate.universityofcalifornia.edu/_files/reports/JC-JN-Retiree-Health.pdf.
We can work collectively to inform and educate staff on this important matter. We are stronger together and the more voices that participate, the louder the message will be to those making the decisions that affect all of us.
UC ANR human resources director John Fox also said one important point that isn't addressed in the CUCSA summary is Medicare coverage. “When a UC retiree enrolls in Medicare, the monthly medical premium costs are significantly reduced (both for the retiree and for UC). Much of the future liability that UC is trying to control (and the risk of high monthly costs for the retirees) is during the time between retirement from UC and the start of Medicare eligibility (typically age 65).”
If you would like to share your stories or post a comment on this proposed change, please fill out the form on the UC ANR Staff Assembly website. We will share comments and stories from UC ANR with CUCSA leadership, who will compile it with information from other campuses to share with the UC President and UC Regents.