Hello all, and welcome to a brand new year!
I’ve been Dean of UF/IFAS Extension now for a little over two months. When I first started, I received a piece of advice from SVP Scott Angle: “Above all, just have fun!” he told me. The past two months have been busy and challenging, but they have most definitely been fun.
I’ve been on a whirlwind tour of the state, visiting Extension offices and RECs, meeting our faculty and staff and getting to know our stakeholders. Seeing the diversity of people and environments in Florida has been amazing. Every day, it seems I’ve had a mind-expanding wealth of new experiences.
There was the day we cut the ribbon on a brand new Extension office in Alachua County, then drove up to Tallahassee for A Taste of Florida, where I met with state legislators. Another day I got to meet farmers in Suwannee County at the This Farm Cares luncheon. There was the day I met 4-H youth volunteers at Camp Cloverleaf in Lake Placid, then got in the van and drove back to Gainesville to meet with outstanding UF/IFAS faculty and supporters at the Dinner of Distinction.
During each visit, there are three things I like to ask people about: Tell me the good stuff that’s going on. What are the opportunities? Tell me about the challenges.
I’m learning a lot during my visits. I’m seeing the amazing work we’re accomplishing together and I’m listening to the concerns of our faculty and our stakeholders. I’m overwhelmed by the expertise of our faculty, their spirit of innovation, and their passion for serving the people of Florida.
It’s been a pleasure to get to meet and interact with our stakeholders. Seeing the level of support we receive from everyone, from the Florida Farm Bureau to growers’ associations to state and local partners, has been gratifying and frankly refreshing. Everyone is so eager to elevate Extension and the work we do.
During a visit to Immokalee, I got to see the Culinary Accelerator—it’s really an amazing facility for nurturing food entrepreneurs. I heard from Reshma Tannassee, who came to the U.S. from Guyana in 1999 and whose family pepper farm had suffered damage in Hurricane Irma. The Accelerator program helped her build on her small hot sauce business, and now she was graduating to start a new product line and hiring a staff of 20 or more people. To hear her talk with such energy and enthusiasm about how Extension has supported her in building a successful business—it gave me goosebumps. When we combine our scientific knowledge and experience with innovation, understanding and compassion, Extension truly has the power to change lives.
And it’s only been two months! I’m going to continue to travel the state, meeting with faculty and stakeholders, supporting our work, listening to your success stories and your concerns. We’ll continue using our Extension Connections webinars as a way to keep you up to date on Extension news and showcase our programs. And I’ve started this blog as a journal to feature the people, programs and issues that we want to examine, celebrate and elevate.
I look forward to posting here regularly in the future, and I want to hear your comments and anything you have to say.