ACES graduate encourages students to invest in self

May 15
Marla Todd, Associate Director of Advancement Communications

Throughout her career Dawn Jackson Blatner (Dietetics, ’97) has often observed young dietitians had limited experience exploring and fostering their own wellness and nutrition. Blatner sought to encourage more self-care skill building by sponsoring a vision board competition for dietetic students.

The contest required students to create a picture collage outlining how they would use $1000 to gain real-world health and happiness experience. Entries included representations of healthy grocery shopping sprees, cookbooks, kitchen gadgets, fitness equipment and clothing, and inspirational quotes. Some also referenced travel, fitness classes, spa treatments and cooking classes.

A panel of judges selected Nikki DeAngelis, a senior studying dietetics, as the winner of the poster competition. Nikki is excited to invest in her own health and wellness as she prepares for her career in dietetics.

The College of ACES and Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition appreciate Dawn Jackson Blatner’s investment in tomorrow’s dietetic leaders!

Justine Karduck, director of the didactic program in dietetics, congratulates Nikki DeAngelis on her winning entry.


Check It Off the “Bucket List”

May 14
Debra Korte, Teaching Associate, Agricultural Education

After finishing 12 weeks of student teaching, Agricultural Science Education seniors culminated their academic careers with a study abroad experience to Puerto Rico. Under the guidance of Dr. Erica Thieman, Mr. Gary Ochs, and Dr. Cecilia Suarez, 10 students participated in a week-long journey of agricultural farms, businesses, and cultural experiences in Puerto Rico. Through cooperation with Wanda Perez from the Farm Service Agency (FSA), a division of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the group toured five farming operations and a coffee processing facility along the southern coast and central mountainous regions. They also toured a university agricultural experiment station, a grain mill, and the College of Agriculture at the University of Puerto Rico in Mayaguez. Additionally, students visited an Indigenous Culture Center, beach, and closed out their week with a two-day stay in the rainforest.

For some participants, this was the first time they had ever seen the ocean, stood in a waterfall, hiked in a rainforest, or visited another culture outside of the lower 48 states.  Students returned from the trip with many photos, a much deeper knowledge of fruit and vegetable production, and lesson plans utilizing information from their experience for the agriscience classrooms they will be teaching in beginning Fall 2015.

Not only did the experience allow students to mark items off their “bucket list”, but they were also able to connect classroom content about global agriculture practices with firsthand experiences. Claire Geiger, one of the students who participated in the experience, said, “The trip to Puerto Rico was an amazing opportunity to see different agricultural practices in use. Being immersed in the culture also gave me a better understanding for the reasons they produce the variety of produce they do. During my time here at the University of Illinois, I've learned and researched practices like using nitrogen fixing cover crops and irrigation, but I haven't seen them used in the industry often. This trip provided me the chance to see both implemented in the production of plantains.  We also visited one of the University Research Farms trying different varieties of mangoes and how each variety is marketed to different consumer types based on their needs. What an experience!”

Definitely an experience of a lifetime for many. Bucket list item? Checked!


Ag Ed trip to Puerto Rico

Well done good and faithful servant

May 8
Lucas Frye, Senior in Agricultural and Consumer Economics

Yesterday was my last official board meeting as the Student Trustee for the University of Illinois. Of much higher significance—it was President Easter’s final meeting before he steps down from the rank at May 17th’s graduation ceremony.  He was presented gifts from each campus including a Lincoln collection from UIS, two Falcons named in his honor from UIC, and a piece of Mumford Marble from UIUC along with the bronze medallion of the University seal, but no token of appreciation could quite encapsulate the Illini community’s full gratitude for his service the past 40 years; service that has taken him from working with pigs to President.   
I can’t help but think about all of the lives he has impacted and relationships built in between. Over the past year, I have come to observe that everyone has a President, Dr. or Bob Easter story: From an Indianapolis-area alum that was an ROTC leader on campus the day a young Bob Easter came to Illinois looking to report, to former animal science students with stories from South Farms, and the numerous faculty and staff who have worked with him throughout the years.
A few of my own include sitting somewhat lost at my first BOT Healthcare meeting last July and President Easter would lean over, out of his own good measure, and side-moderate some of the background context for me throughout the discussions; or having taken time out of his busy early-morning schedule to meet for coffee; and even following up having read a book (Labor’s Millennium—a historical perspective of Jonathan Baldwin Turner’s vision for the university up through the end of the John Milton Gregory’s term as first President) within a few days of giving it to him. Simply put, I have found that, regardless of which title he carried throughout his career, he made time for everyone.
Meeting with numerous administration and faculty, over the course of the last six months, there has been a consistent remorseful tone when the topic of President Easter’s retirement is broached. Although we are gaining a terrific leader in President-designate Killeen, we have to let go the humble, genuine-visionary that has been a staple in the University leadership landscape for so many years.  
Coming off back-to-back scandal-laced administrations, President Easter wasn’t the leader that we deserved, but the one that we needed. His continued loyalty and service, in answering the call(s) when we needed leadership the most, cannot be matched.  I have to admit, I disagreed with the Daily Illini’s heading “Accidental President” on their feature story of President Easter recently. Although it was his words, I do not think his designation as the 19th President was an accident at all. There was a greater reason. His three years in office has left the University of Illinois in a much better place as it approaches its 150th anniversary. And for that, I think all that is left to be said by colleagues, alumni, students, legislatures and friends of Illinois in between is—well done good and faithful servant.


Lucas Frye, President Easter, Ed McMillan

The Scientist In All of Us

May 7
Manuel Colón, NRES Student Recruitment Coordinator

Have you ever heard of Citizen Science? It’s an amazing scientific research method that has been growing in popularity with advances in technology. Essentially, scientist are able to crowd-source some of their research data through the general public. Not only is it a novel way for academic researchers to share out their workload, but it’s a great way to inspire the scientist in all of us! When I was thirteen years old, I participated in a summer program at my local park called the Junior Earth Team (JET). And part of the work we did with JET was to go around other local green spaces and conduct Biodiversity Urban Surveys. The surveys were then logged and sent off to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources for data collection and archival purposes. That experience has always stuck with me when I think of the immense potential each and every one of has to contribute to advancing great science in just our backyard. So, I’m going to highlight three really cool Citizen Science projects below, but encourage you to check out some others in your local area.

Alliance for the Great Lakes
Through the Adopt-a-Beach program, citizens are able to find beach cleanup opportunities in their area or schedule a cleanup event on their own.  Officially launched in 2003, Adopt-a-Beach is located in all eight Great Lakes states – Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin – and has had over 15,000 participants. During a cleanup event, teams remove the litter and enter their results and finding to an online system to share with local beach authorities, educate the the public, and improve beaches.

Chicago Wildlife Watch
The Urban Wildlife Institute at Lincoln Park Zoo has been collecting camera trap photos on a variety of animals in different parts of Chicago for quite some time now. With more than 1 million photos, they just couldn’t possibly shuffle through all the data themselves. Citizens can navigate to their website, view the motion-activated photos, and identify what animals (if any) are in the shot. The data is then collected and analyzed to see patterns in these spaces across time (day or night) and the urban wildlife that use those spaces.


Midwest Invasive Species Network

In conjunction with the Applied Spatial Ecology and Technical Services Laboratory at Michigan State, there is now a mobile apple that allows you to capture invasive species field observation data. Available on both the iTunes App store and Google Play store, citizens can play an important role in the early detection and rapid response to new invasive threats in their area.

Giving Thanks

Apr 30
Kendra Courson, Director for Special Events

On April 29 the college held an investiture ceremony for Dr. Bruce J. Sherrick, establishing him as the first holder of the Marjorie Fugate Fruin and Jerry E. Fruin Professorship of Land Economics. The ceremony was attended by colleagues and family of Dr. Sherrick, by friends and family of the Fruins, and by campus and college administrators. A dinner honoring the Fruins was enjoyed afterward.

As noted by Dean Robert Hauser, endowed professorships are among the university's most valued type of funding, and they reward faculty excellence in an incomparable manner. The Fruins' generous endowment supports--for as long as the university remains--the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics, enhancing research, teaching, and outreach in agricultural finance, risk management, and land economics.

We thank the Fruins for their commitment, with a gift that will live and enliven their alma mater forever.

Provost Ilesanmi Adesida presents the investiture medallion to Dr. Bruce J. Sherrick.  

Dr. Sherrick's acceptance speech during his investiture ceremony.

Jerry E. Fruin, Marjorie Fugate Fruin, Claire Sherrick, Dr. Sherrick, Kris Sherrick, Dean Robert J. Hauser and Provost Adesida.


I Pay It Forward nearing the finish line

Apr 23
Marla Todd, Associate Director of Advancement Communications

Karina Barrios, sophomore in Agricultural and Biological Engineering, shares her thoughts on the final days of the I Pay It Forward campaign.

As a student at the University of Illinois, SAC member, and a runner, the excitement for the Illinois Marathon and I Pay It Forward Students Helping Students Campaign this weekend has inspired me to talk about two things I love: running and philanthropy. While the campus community is running the race to the marathon finish line, SAC is working towards their goal of successfully completing the I Pay It Forward Campaign in the next week.

Running teaches us to keep moving forward, one step at a time! Sometimes we need a little help from others to keep us motivated, especially in those last few miles. The same could be said for the I Pay It Forward campaign. This is about providing a little help to other ACES students when they especially need it!

The I Pay It Forward Team needs help to finish this “race” strong! SAC is on their way towards reaching their goal of 1500 donors in the month of April, but are still far from the finish line. To learn more about I Pay It Forward Students Helping Students Campaign, visit the Facebook Page. If you are interested in contributing, you can do so online. In addition, people are encouraged to attend a guaranteed fun time at the “Save the Date” Auction on Thursday, April 30.

Although the completion of the Illinois Marathon may seem like an impossible task, the feeling of satisfaction at the end is worth it all! I hope that you are encouraged to take that extra step to be a part of I Pay It Forward.

I Pay It Forward

Student teachers finishing their test of the real world

Apr 23
Jennifer Boberg, Senior in Agricultural Education

In the past three months, I have seen my fellow student teachers grow into amazing men and women and more importantly, teachers. We have all learned how to be amazing teachers over the course of the past three months from outstanding veterans teachers who have a passion for teaching. Now many of us are searching for agricultural teaching positions of our own (often competing against each other) and we will likely be scattered across the state once again. 

This is the time to reflect on our experiences over the past three months and four years. We have worked tirelessly to achieve the goal that we are about to reach. I’m sure each of us had very different student teaching experiences as we found home in a variety of agricultural programs, but I’m sure we all learned a lot—especially what it really takes to be an agricultural teacher and FFA advisor. We all spent countless nights, reflecting on how we could have done better that day, worrying about the lessons we were going to teach the next day, and just praying that we would make an impact in the three short months we had with our students. I don’t know about the others, but I fell in love with my students in those three months.

On the last day of my student teaching, my students threw a lunch party for me. At the party, one of my students gave me several gifts: duct tape with sheep, safety glasses (for the prepared agriculture teacher), an owl necklace (which I’ve barely taken off since), facial masks (for relaxation), an “I believe in the future of agriculture” painting, and a book full of notes from my students. While all these little gifts were very thoughtful, the one I will cherish for many years to come is the book of notes from my students. Each one of them wrote something to me and mentioned things I had long forgotten. I realized in that moment that I had made an impact on my students in just three short months. If I can do that in just three months with students, I am excited to discover what I can do in an entire year or four years with a student.

After school on my last day, I stayed and spoke with my cooperating teacher. I told him how honored I was to have received such an awesome gift from my students. And he said to me, “That’s what it’s all about, Boberg.” I will forever love those students as my first students. Because of them, I feel more prepared to be a teacher on my own. They threw a lot in my direction—some were unmotivated, others were unwilling to see me as the teacher. But no matter what they threw at me, I took it all in stride and I truly believe I reached each and every one of them. Earlier this week, one of the students I struggled with told my cooperating teacher that he missed me. It feels good. It is nice to know that I can make an impact. Sure, I was there to teach agriculture, but more importantly, I was there to lend a hand, encourage, and inspire kids to work harder and challenge themselves every day.

Teaching agriculture is really just bonus to being able to work with students and see that light bulb click on and their eyes light up. I learned many important teaching lessons during my student teaching experience; however, the greatest lesson I learned is teaching is more than instructing students in a subject, it’s really about being a role model and someone your students can count on.


Jennifer Boberg

Gift from 1st Farm Credit establishes Youth Livestock Ambassadors

Apr 22
Marla Todd, Associate Director of Advancement Communications

Messages and conversations about livestock production and animal management abound in the media, social networks, and even at the family dinner table. Although they may not be taking on the Food Babe or Dr. Oz directly, twenty-one Illinois 4-H members have accepted the challenge to advocate for the livestock industry on behalf of 4-H. A gift from 1st Farm Credit Services to the Illinois 4-H Foundation is making this crusade possible.

As passionate and knowledgeable individuals, it will be their purpose to share accurate information with youth, consumers, and other producers across the state. Dan Jennings, University of Illinois Extension animal science educator, will provide guidance to the youth team. This effort will further expand the outreach aspect of the University of Illinois College of ACES through this group of youth experts. Jennings anticipates that the team will reach in to metro areas with exhibits and programs, as well as organize a conference event for younger youth later in the year.

The funds provided by 1st Farm Credit will help launch the effort by supporting a leadership development and training program for the youth, as well as the development of marketing materials for their use. The investment will multiply through these young people to impact the livestock industry. Like a ripple effect, the funds to support the youth Livestock Ambassador Team will reach out to the individuals with whom they interact not only today but in the years to come. Perhaps one day, these youth will be the professionals myth busting the likes of Dr. Oz and Food Babe with information based in sound science!

Thank you to 1st Farm Credit for their partnership and to the 21 Illinois 4-H youth for accepting this mission! 1st Farm Credit funding is provided via a donor advised fund with the IAA Foundation. 


Meeting the challenges of the dairy industry

Apr 21
Walt Hurley, Professor of Animal Sciences

Sitting in a classroom, soaking up great knowledge and wisdom from an instructor is something our students do a great deal. Applying that knowledge to real-life situations in order to address serious challenges and problems, and then sharing their findings with the experts, presents our students with unique learning opportunities, as well as testing their ability to think critically and make knowledgeable presentations. Recently several Animal Sciences students did just that when they participated in the North American Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge contest in Syracuse, New York. They were competing against 31 other teams from around the country in the demanding two-day event. The team members were Alyssa Brodsky, Claire Nkhikhssi, Samantha Ropp, and Erik Sheppelman, with Courtney Schumacher as an alternate, and coached by Animal Sciences professor Dr. Phil Cardoso, and assisted by graduate student Katie Haerr. Neither Claire nor Alyssa had any previous dairy experience before starting in their animal sciences program. The event challenges the students to analyze and evaluate all facets of a modern working dairy farm and make a comprehensive presentation of their findings and recommendations to a panel of expert judges. No pressure there!

And, how did the team do?  They placed second!  CONGRATULATIONS to the team members and to their coaches.

Dairy students in animal sciences

Certainly looking forward

Apr 15
Shelby Cooper, Junior in Agricultural Science Education

I like to look ahead. I keep dates and assignments in my calendar year-round, and I love having something to look forward to. This summer I’m looking forward to a great job with National Association of Agricultural Educators (NAAE) and traveling with Agriculture Future of America. After that, the next big thing is student teaching in the spring of 2016, and along with that comes a lot of uncertainty.

Every teacher goes through student teaching, the process of preparing lesson plans and assessments, organizing content for a semester of various ag classes, and developing materials to teach science and leadership to classes of high school students. For me, I feel the professors in Agricultural Education have done a great job of preparing my class of students thus far in curriculum, analysis, and reflection. However, there’s only so much they can do. At a certain point, it’s up to us to take on an agriculture program of our own.

That’s where a lot of my uncertainty comes in. Not having come from an agricultural background, it’s true there’s a great deal that I don’t know within the agriculture industry. In terms of teaching, I’ve never taught a semester-long class before, much less 4-6 classes in various agriscience topics. Will I be able to balance my time? Will I be a credible role model for students? Will I ever learn how to weld or judge a dairy cow??

Even with all of the uncertainty that comes with student teaching, I am comforted by my fellow classmates going through the same process. We share the desire to teach, and to teach not only content, but to also inspire purpose and passion for the future of agriculture. I know that when I leave campus to student teach, I will be prepared for the position of ‘Ms. Cooper’ and all the responsibility that comes along with it. The industry relies on educators to prepare the next generation of great minds in innovation and agricultural technology. It’s going to be my job to make connections from agriculture to applicable events in daily life, and create meaningful experiences for high school students. I’m looking forward to it; that, I am certain of.