March 15-17 UF/IFAS Extension is holding its 4th Annual Florida Extension Business Professionals Conference. The purpose of the conference is to bring Extension support staff together from across the state to the UF campus in Gainesville for three days of training, networking, sharing experiences and strengthening bonds.
Eighty-six staff members from 37 county offices will be attending the conference this year. There will be professional development opportunities, panel discussions and speakers from IFAS Administration, UF partners and financial institutions.
There will also a visit to the UF/IFAS Animal Sciences Department, which is, I have to say, one of my favorite places on campus.
Last year’s conference was held virtually, so it’s especially exciting that we’re returning to a live, in-person event. That means the reuniting of old friends and acquaintances, face-to-face conversation, laughter and applause without the awkwardness of virtual meeting rooms. (Is anybody else sick of pressing the “clap” emoji?)
Administrative professionals are vital to Extension’s success. They apply for the grants, submit the budgets, order the equipment, process the Pcards, work with vendors, schedule events and do myriad other tasks that are vital to making UF/IFAS Extension run smoothly and fulfill its mission. They are often the first person in the office in the morning and the last to leave at night. They also volunteer with 4-H, plant sales and weekend events. They are the glue that holds each county office together.
And as much as much work as they do behind the scenes, they’re also out in front with the public. When someone calls or walks into one of Florida’s 67 county Extension offices or 12 Research and Education Centers, the first person they’re likely to be greeted by is an administrative professional at the front desk. In many cases, it’s the visitor’s first encounter not only with Extension, but with the University of Florida and the land-grant system. The warmth, humor and professionalism of our staff goes a long way towards making clients feel welcome and getting the answers they need to solve their problems.
The past two years have been especially challenging for Extension support staff, who have had to take on extra roles and adjust to the new normal of operating under pandemic conditions. Now they’re adjusting again to the new new normal of returning to in-person events, hybrid programs and unrestricted travel.
To all our professional staff, I want to thank you for all that you do on behalf of UF/IFAS Extension. I truly appreciate your leadership, work and commitment to serving the people of Florida.
It’s also my great pleasure to give a shout-out to Valkyrie Aldrnari, administrative specialist here in the Office of the Dean for Extension, on receiving a Superior Accomplishment Award from the University of Florida. Val does an amazing job in scheduling events and projects, managing travel and communications, coordinating interviews with faculty candidates, and helping to lead the dean for Extension office team. When Dr. Obreza took on the role of interim dean of Extension in 2021, Val took on the responsibilities of two administrative assistants. She made the interim period and my transition to dean seamless and reassuring. We are all indebted to her leadership and skill.