Up in her shared office in the Social Sciences and Humanities Building, Kim Brobeck keeps fully focused on her work for the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics. There, she is both a busy staff researcher to associate professor Doug Larson and an administrative assistant.
But Brobeck sometimes wants to look more broadly at UC Davis' educational goals. Then, she turns to her affiliation with the University Farm Circle, a decades-old women's social organization founded to support UC Davis campus and student endeavors.
The farm circle helps staff and faculty boost UC Davis' educational programs as a whole, rather than keeping employees caught up in their own job duties for the campus, said Brobeck, who serves as the club's publications editor.
"I think that staff get busy in their own little departments," she said. "You want to take a larger view. As the university prospers, we prosper. Support groups help that."
The farm circle's members raise funds for UC Davis student scholarships and emergency loans through the group's $76,500 campus endowment and participate in about 20 activities from bowling to wine tasting. For faculty and staff, as well as the general public, the farm circle maintains a sabbatical housing list that matches up community members with a need for short-term housing in the Davis area with others leaving town.
The group is not wanting for members - the farm circle counts more than 460 right now - but it is looking to diversify, said Valerie Greenough, the circle's treasurer. "We are trying to get to the university population," she said. "If there is any population that turns over in Davis, it's the university's."
Greenough, Brobeck and others in club would like to see more UC Davis faculty and staff join the group, which got its start in 1913. In those days, there was no evening transportation from sleepy Davis over the Yolo Causeway to Sacramento, and the new University Farm's first faculty wives were in need of a social outlet, Greenough said.
In recent years, the group has grown to include not only faculty wives but also large numbers of homemakers and re-tirees with no formal campus ties. Fewer members are UC Davis employees.
Campus accountant Edi Joy, however, joined right up when she and her husband, Ken, a computer science professor, came to UC Davis in 1980.
"Most of us who are employed on campus have an interest in the students we serve, said Joy, who works for the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources. "Our dues go directly to the financial assistance of students who excel both academically and in service to their community."
Brobeck said she, too, has enjoyed both the friendship and mission of the circle, though she wishes more small-group activities were scheduled outside of traditional work hours.
That could change if the group receives more working members from UC Davis, Brobeck said. She chairs an evening movie interest section. Members of the group gather regularly to go to films in Davis or at the Tower and Crest theaters in Sacramento. A wine tasting group also meets at night at members' homes.
Each year the farm circle appoints one staff member to coordinate activities between the group and campus. New member Sumiko Hong, an administrative assistant in the Office of Government and Community Relations, has that responsibility this year. "(The club) provides a good way for people affiliated with the university to get to know and talk to each other," said Hong, who graduated from UC Davis in 1993.
UC Davis employees and other local women interested in University Farm Circle are invited to attend the group's Fall Tea kick-off from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Oct. 4 at the chancellor's residence. Newcomers can learn more about the group's activities at the event and sign up for interest sections.
At the tea, the farm circle will also award five $1,000 Marion Freeborn Scholarships. The scholarships, named for the wife of UC Davis' first chancellor, Stanley Freeborn, is awarded to students for their academic achievements, leadership, community service and personal presentations to farm circle members.
Farm Circle dues are $20 per academic year. For more information about the group, see www.universityfarmcircle.org.