President's Perspective - Winter 2018

By Carol Kwan on Friday, December 28, 2018

WCISA a member driven organization

Western Chapter ISA is a member driven organization dedicated to fostering a greater appreciation for trees by promoting research and education to advance the professional practice of arboriculture.” This is the mission statement of our Chapter, our guiding directive. As I’ve highlighted, our Chapter is “member driven”. But have you ever stopped to wonder how, exactly, do the members drive our organization? I know it never occurred to me before I was elected to the Board, so I thought I’d use this column to give our members a glimpse into how it works.

  Every year, around May/June, WCISA conducts a membership survey. This, in my opinion, is the best way for every member of our Chapter to provide feedback on the chapter’s performance and input on where it should focus for our future. The results of this survey are shared with the Board at our July meeting. And yes, your Board does read these documents – not just the summary results, but the many comments that our members submit. To me, the comments are the most interesting part. It’s obvious, from reading the comments, that our members are intelligent, capable, creative, and engaged with the organization – and in some cases, opinionated, and judgmental.

  If you’ve ever attended a regional conference and have completed the evaluation, you’ve also given feedback and input to the Board, as well as to our Regional Conferences Committee in charge of planning these events. The Board reviews the evaluation results of each Annual Conference as well, including comments.


  You may have also completed ISA’s comprehensive survey, which is sent out every 5 years. It’s an in-depth survey that looks at the trends in our industry as well as member needs. ISA compiles its survey results overall, but also by component (Chapters, affiliated associations like UAA, SCA, and SMA, etc.) and shares the results with each component. At our October 2018 WCISA Board meeting, we were honored to have Caitlyn Pollihan, ISA’s Executive Director, join us to present the results of ISA’s 2016 survey from a Western Chapter perspective. Our Board also asked numerous questions about ISA’s move to Atlanta and how that impacts current staff and future operations.

  While the Board has a great deal of feedback and input from our members to consider, our members aren’t always aware of what’s going on with our Board and Chapter, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to feature some of our members’ comments in this column and provide information about what’s happening behind the scenes.


“It takes too long to turn around CEU credits from seminars.”

There are several steps involved in processing the CEUs. The onsite volunteers/staff at the regional conference send the meeting documents, including the CEU list, to the Chapter office where they are verified and prepared to send to ISA Headquarters for recording in their system.  The turnaround time is approximately one week.  Heather Crippen is the staff person assigned to CEU processing. From time to time there are delays due to back-to-back programing or missing/illegible information (such as Certification ID, etc). Volunteers at training events are encouraged to send in their paperwork within a few days, but that doesn’t always happen. Remember, our volunteers are fellow members who have assigned work to do after training events when they return to work. Consequently, they may be unable to process the paperwork until later.

CEUs are forwarded to ISA’s Certification Department for Chapter training events on a weekly basis via email. That’s all of the CEUs that have come in over a 7-day period. Next, ISA reviews/confirms the CEUs and they get posted to your member account. ISA suggests it can take 6-8 weeks, however they typically post them in two weeks. Remember that ISA is processing CEUs for over 32,000 credential holders around the world. It processes 490,000 CEUs annually. That’s a lot of CEUs to review and approve! The CEUs are generally processed on a first-in-first-out basis, but if you need the CEUs from a seminar in order to recertify in a few days, you can let Heather know and she will inform ISA so that those CEUs can be processed on a rush basis. It’s best not to wait until the last minute to earn your CEUs. From a practical standpoint, if everyone were to ask for rush processing, it would significantly slow the process.

Sometimes there are problems with CEU processing, such as when someone forgets to sign in after the training, the certification number is wrong, the name/certification number is illegible, the sign-in sheets are misplaced, etc. If you attended a training event and there’s been sufficient processing time (say 10 weeks) but they’re still not showing up in your account, please call WCISA at (559) 784-8733 to ask about them. Our staff will be happy to research the issue and help resolve it.


“ We need easier ways to achieve CEUs. I don’t like traveling too far” 

“ Can you help members in isolated areas by offering credential workshops and seminars there, and offer more economical options to attend annual conferences?”

Since before 2013, when I became a Board member, the Board has emphasized making training more available in remote areas. There has been a multi-pronged approach:

Holding regional conferences in more locations. For example, we’ve held some in Arcata, CA, and Incline Village, NV. We also went from holding Hawaii regional conferences just in Honolulu to holding them statewide (Kauai, Oahu, Maui, and the Big Island).

You may wonder why we haven’t brought a regional conference to your remote location yet. Here are the criteria:

We need a local volunteer (or two) to find a venue, arrange for catering, and coordinate the regional conference at the site. Remember, we are member driven. Without a local volunteer, regional conferences in remote locations don’t happen.

There must be enough people interested in attending a regional conference on that topic in that location to make financial sense. While we may occasionally take a loss on a training event, even non-profits can go bankrupt if that happens too often. It’s easiest to break even on regional conferences in remote locations when the same conference is given in multiple locations, so that expenses can be shared. The larger locations typically carry more of the expenses, making it easier for remote locations to have their regional conferences break even.

There should be easy transportation to/from the venue. This usually isn’t a problem as long as the event isn’t somewhere subject to snow-blocked mountain passes (in the middle of winter) or mud slides (during rainy seasons). It’s more often a consideration in cities with heavy traffic congestion.

If you’re interested in being a local volunteer to hold a regional conference in your area, please contact Rose Epperson at

Using remote access technology to ‘live stream’ (transmit) a larger regional conference to more remote venues with interactive capabilities. So far, we’ve only been successful in doing this in Nevada. Regional conferences held in Las Vegas also have people attending in Reno, Carson City, Ely, and Elko. We’ve researched how this is done and in Nevada, it’s through the Extension Service. Apparently, Nevada’s Extension Service is more progressive than those in our other states because we haven’t been able to do this elsewhere yet. I’ve confirmed that Hawaii’s Extension Service has the capability, but the conference rooms where the service is available aren’t big enough to accommodate the number of people that attend our regional conferences. That may be a problem in other areas as well.

Offering training opportunities through our website. So far, this has been linking to webinars and podcasts from other organizations instead of developing our own programing, but we have considered recording and broadcasting some of our regional conferences on a delayed basis (perhaps a year later) as well as creating our own content, so this may expand in the future. To find the current offerings, go to, click on the dropdown menu in the upper left corner, click on Certifications and then Alternative CEU Resources. There’s also an option at the bottom of the page where you can submit info about other online CEU opportunities so that we can add it to our web page.

Last but not least, there are CEU articles in Western Arborist, and it’s now possible to complete your CEU quiz online. This should be going live on the website soon. If you don’t see it, you can request the link by emailing


“Hawaii needs more training and seminar opportunities, like some sort of groundsmen training, but more of anything! They are too few and far between, specifically on Maui.”

There’s an old proverb, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink”. This comment reminds me of that proverb.

Maui has had a regional conference annually for the last 5 years. One of our local partners, Maui Green & Beautiful (MG&B), has held other training events on Maui at least annually. TCIA held a chipper workshop on Maui in the past few years. The point that I’m trying to make is that members must take responsibility for finding out what training opportunities are out there. WCISA makes it relatively easy to do. My favorite way is to browse through the 5-Minute Update email, which comes out twice a month. Postcards with regional conference information and registration options are mailed to members in that geographic area. Upcoming events are also included in our Western Arborist magazine, if they were scheduled by the editorial deadline. If you’re tech savvy, you can follow WCISA on social media: Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Announcements are posted in social media about all of our training opportunities. YouTube videos with information about our regional conferences are also posted online with links from our social media sites. The website is updated regularly, including training events, and you can register online for WCISA events. If online registration isn’t available, then it’s either free, another organization’s event, or there’s a reason that online registration isn’t an option (rare). Since we upgraded it in early 2018, the website has a cool new tool under Upcoming Events where you can zoom in on a map to your region and see nearby locations where events will be held, then click on the one that you’re interested in and click the link for information and registration for that meeting.


“I would like to see more educational outreach promoting proper tree care practices to landscape maintenance providers in Southern California. I see landscape maintenance workers doing inappropriate things like building mulch volcanoes, and damaging trunk flares with string trimmers. It would be helpful to have ISA postcards showing the proper way to do it that could be left on a doorstep to educate people.”  

Good idea, but I’m not sure how it fits with our mission, since we’re focused more on our own members, and in most cases they know basic maintenance practices. This might be something that The Britton Fund (TBF) would be interested in pursuing. Grant funds have been used to produce a series of technical sheets about proper tree maintenance practices in the past.

WCISA’s Spanish Committee is currently working on getting safety information out to Spanish-speaking workers in our industry, focusing on Palm Safety first. Perhaps the pamphlet that’s being drafted could touch on not over-pruning palms as well. That would be something small that could be left on a doorstep or under a windshield wiper. We’ll pass your suggestion to our Spanish Committee as well.


“Update the WCISA ‘Species Classification & Group Assignment” regional supplement booklet.”

We’re working on it. Jim Clark is chairing our new Regional Plant Appraisal Ad Hoc committee. He met with the Board at our July 2018 meeting in Sacramento to get approval of his proposed Work Plan. It will take time and effort from across the region, but with Jim at the helm, I’m confident that it will be prepared properly and as expeditiously as possible.


“As a new member and student at UCLA, I’m not sure how I can continue to move forward towards becoming an arborist. More information and training classes are needed to guide beginners.”

“Expand opportunities for young people to enter the industry and advance their skills.”

The comments listed above were just two of those received regarding information and training opportunities for young people and others new to our industry. Other comments related to outreach at high schools and universities to make young people aware of the career opportunities available in our industry. And yes, these are also priorities set by the Board.

In our 2016-2020 Strategic Plan, under Membership, Objective 2.  Continue outreach to all potential members in the industry. One of the goals is to: Create an outreach plan to target students and young individuals or millennials. Under Education and Training, Objective 2: To continue increasing our delivery of Regional Conferences. The three bullets listed under this objective point include:

Skills training conferences (four per year);

Increase student attendance

Bilingual training.

Under Credentialing, Objective 2: Provide training programs for all levels of credential. There are more, but yes, the Board is aware of the need and this is a priority for our organization.

Recruiting young people to the tree care industry and providing training opportunities for young members is the responsibility of our Student Committee, which works in conjunction with the Regional Conferences Committee for the training events. Some of the things we’ve done so far is host Future Farmers of America (FFA) high school students at two of our Annual Conferences for a day as a field trip. We’ve also awarded some full Annual Conference scholarships for university students, through the Britton Fund. In addition, we’ve had students volunteer at our Annual and Regional Conferences allowing them to attend for free while gaining exposure to our industry. There’s still so much more that can be done, though.

So far, outreach to students has been limited because we typically need a connection to the university or high school program, an “in” if you will. That’s how we’ve had some success. Cold calls tend to get lost or ignored at schools and universities. If you work for or have a connection to a high school or university and would like to help WCISA make connections with a faculty person there who is interested in making students aware of opportunities in arboriculture, please send the info to Rose Epperson,, and Rita Franco,

“Basically, the Chapter should be renamed the California Chapter. Inclusion of other states covered by this chapter is lacking.”

Let’s look at this objectively, shall we? As of October 2018, 79.0% of our members were from California, 9.2% from Arizona, 4.5% from Hawaii and 3.7% from Nevada. There’s another 3.6% from “Other” – mostly across the U.S. with some international locations thrown in, for those of you doing the math and wondering what happened to 100%.

There’s at least one regional conference held in each chapter state each year. That’s part of our Strategic Plan. Occasionally we may miss one state one year, but that’s unusual. For example, there won’t be a regional conference in Hawaii in 2019 because the Annual Conference will be there that year instead.

For WCISA to hold events in locations where we don’t have staff (basically outside of Northern California, Southern California, and Central Valley), we need local volunteers to help plan and coordinate those events and to run the event on site. Even in the more remote areas of California, like Arcata, we need local volunteers to make things happen. Sometimes the volunteers are local non-profits with connections to WCISA, like Arizona Community Tree Council, Nevada Shade Tree Council, Southern Nevada Arborist Group, and the four nonprofits that we partner with in Hawaii.

I realize that I don’t have research to back me up on this, but I suspect that California has the most environmental groups per capita in the United States. It’s also my opinion that California has a “get involved” culture, leading to many volunteers from California. In addition, roughly 4/5ths of our membership is in California, plus that’s where our business offices are. As such, I don’t think it’s surprising that most of our events and activities are in California. We’ve also been fortunate to build long-term relationships with organizations that regularly provide sponsorships and grants for activities in California, like CALFIRE and U.S. Forest Service Region 5 (California and Hawaii). More funding equals more events.

If you truly believe that your area is under served, there is something that you can do about it. Get involved! Volunteer! Organize with other interested members in your area and volunteer your services and expertise. WCISA is a member driven organization. There is no “they”, only “we”. You can make things happen!

Mahalo nui loa,

Carol Kwan