We can make a difference
The Agricultural Education program was privileged to host the United States Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Krysta Harden earlier this week. Harden was gracious enough to devote a portion of time, while visiting Illinois, to see the U of I campus, tour the newly renovated agricultural education classroom, and most importantly, talk to students about the importance of “sharing their story” with future generations.
“You are the ones the next generation will be watching,” she said. “They will listen to you tell the story. When you are in the classroom, you’ll have their attention. You can waste that opportunity or use it.”
In addition to working directly with students in the classroom, she also encouraged them to have conversations with those outside of the agriculture industry about challenging and controversial topics. Instead of just talking about what needs to be done to educate people about important agriculture issues, she challenged students to engage in conversations with those who have different assumptions and potential misconceptions. She said to listen to them, address their concerns, and help provide a more structured framework of understanding for which they can build new knowledge.
“It’s our job to connect the dots and be thoughtful listeners,” Harden said. “You have the power to make a difference.”
It’s a great feeling to know that our industry recognizes the importance of agricultural education and the role it will have in training future generations for the joys and discomforts we find in agricultural life. The University of Illinois is helping me define and share my story, take leadership role in the agriculture industry, and challenge the future generation to meet the needs our world faces.
Illinois has a strong tradition for Homecoming. It has been consecutively held since it's inception in 1910, expect for 1918 when it was cancelled due to the influenza scare. Many traditions surround Homecoming including football, the parade, the alumni band playing at halftime, a royalty court and many reunions to reconnect with friends and campus. It is a time for alumni to reminisce, share their stories of being an Illini with each other and also their next generations! And it is a time for proudly wearing your orange and blue!
The College of ACES has over 33,000 alumni! This is a special time for us to recognize their contributions and passion that have for Illinois and our college! We are very fortunate to have many alumni engaged throughout the year with the college, our students, the alumni association and college events. We often hear the phrase, "We are an ACES Family" from our students and many alumni. Many colleges look to us and wonder how do you keep everyone so connected? I am reminded often how our connections continue to expand and run deep with our orange and blue ties. We are a family that cares about agriculture, the environment, food security, natural resources and each other!
I hope you take the time with 2014 Homecoming around the corner to stop and think about your connections to the College of ACES, the College of Agriculture or the School of Human Resources & Family Studies/Home Economics. Whatever college you graduated from, you are part of our ACES family today!
Learn more about the University of Illinois Homecoming history at the U of I History Traditions project.
To learn more about 2014 Homecoming activities visit homecoming.illinois.edu.
We hope to see you wearing your Orange and Blue - near or far! Share photos #ILLINOIShomecomingACES
Mark your calendar for Explore ACES!
Planning for the 10th year of Explore ACES is underway. Be sure to mark the weekend of March 13-14, 2015, on your calendars and share the date with students in your area who are beginning to think about college. The biggest recruiting weekend of the year, the doors of our college will be open to thousands of students from across the state to get a better feel for what an educational, involvement, and overall everyday life experience will be like in ACES.
In the meantime, 11 academic departments, 40 student organizations, and 15 dedicated steering committee members will be collaborating on how to best showcase all of the opportunities available in the areas of Agriculture, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences to prospective students and their families. We hope you will be able to join us next March as we challenge the next generation of Illini to imagine their future in the College of ACES.
For more information visit exploreaces.org.
Each and every day I am reminded of the phenomenal impact our donors have on the lives of people they may never know. One of these many stories involves Mrs. Arlys M. Streitmatter Conrad. Recently, the University of Illinois Foundation prepared a video to highlight the impact of Arlys’ gift. As I watched this video, it brought back a flood of warm memories of time spent with Arlys.
Arlys was quite a lady. I will remember her as one of the finest individuals I have had the privilege to know in my professional career. While Arlys lived in a high-rise condo overlooking Navy Pier in Chicago in the heart of a bustling metropolis, her heart never left the family farm she was raised on in central Illinois. She was passionate about agriculture, was a tough critic of the use of the English language in its most appropriate form, a staunch advocate for Illinois, and saw the possibilities of how she could make a difference to others through an investment in higher education.
Arlys’ commitment to her parents, her roots, and acknowledgement of the role Illinois played in shaping her life live on today through her generous support. Because of Arlys, numerous young people have received scholarships to attend the University of Illinois, have had the opportunity to travel the world, and experienced an education they never thought possible. Faculty in ACES are doing critical work to shape our world that would not have been done without Arlys’ financial support, and faculty and students in the humanities are able to further their scholarship.
Thank you Arlys, for making a difference. You did not make a gift – instead, you transform lives every day and your legacy lives on in the hearts and minds of the faculty and students who benefit.
Brooks gives "Floating Leaf" photograph to new Ag Comm suite
Richard E. Brooks, a fine art photographer, designer, and marketing consultant in Chicago, was recently on campus to present his first ag photography scholarship and to give one of his prized photographic works to Dr. Lulu Rodriguez, director of the Agricultural Communications Program. “Floating Leaf” was taken by Brooks in Allerton Park in Monticello, Illinois in 1967. It will reside in the Ag Comm Program’s new suite on the second floor of Bevier Hall.
A native of Jerseyville, Illinois, Brooks graduated in 1967 with an Agricultural Communications degree from the University of Illinois College of Agriculture (now ACES).
“’Floating Leaf’ has been published several times and is always a favorite at gallery exhibitions,” said Brooks. “It is my distinct honor to donate my "Floating Leaf" photograph to the program's décor.”
The image was featured in a coffee table book for former University of Illinois President John E. Corbally in 1977. The image was treated with a tight crop and appeared on the front and back of both the hard cover sleeve and the book itself. It was repeated as a duotone for each chapter page.
Please stop by to see the print in the Ag Comm Program’s suite. Say hello to the faculty while you are there.
FARM Illinois and the Vision for Illinois Agriculture
Statewide strategies for Illinois’ all-important food and agriculture industry continue to unfold with the recent initiation of FARM Illinois: A Partnership for Competitiveness and Sustainable Growth in Food, Agriculture, and Agribusiness. FARM Illinois is bringing together Illinois’ top agricultural, business, and economic leaders to develop and advocate for the implementation of a comprehensive and integrated strategic plan for Illinois and the Chicago region to ensure that Illinois is meeting the 21st Century challenge of global food security.
Sponsored by the Searle Funds at the Chicago Community Trust, in partnership with the Illinois Farm Bureau and the Vision for Illinois Agriculture, FARM Illinois is led by Dr. Robert Easter, President of the University of Illinois, and overseen by a high-level Leadership Council comprised of more than 25 experts and distinguished leaders with renowned experience in agriculture, international markets, global food security, sustainability, conservation, community development, and related issues. At the first Leadership Council meeting on September 29, Dr. Robert Thompson, professor emeritus of the University of Illinois, laid out the case for strategic action to achieve global food security, with Illinois playing a crucial role.
FARM Illinois is an outgrowth of the Illinois Food and Agriculture Summit that was held a year ago by the Vision for Illinois Agriculture at the UIC campus. The Vision for Illinois Agriculture began in 2008 to develop a plan for growth in the food and agriculture sector of Illinois, outlining goals and significant steps to address human and capital resources, business environment, community vitality, innovation, and collaboration needs in Illinois. While tackling those issues, it became clear that civic and business communities throughout the state, especially in our major metropolitan areas, have common interests with the food and agriculture community. The current initiative was born out of that idea and championed by the U of I Board Chairman, Chris Kennedy, and participants in the original Vision for Illinois Agriculture.
4-H created lasting international bonds
For many years, 4-H sponsored international exchanges that brought young people to our shores and sent young Americans abroad, in many cases launching careers and certainly creating lasting friendships. One such exchange invited young agricultural professionals from Poland in the mid-1970s to work and live with American farm families. Earlier this month, Krzysztof and Urszula Stępowski, traveled from Warsaw, Poland, to relive the experiences that Krzysztof, we called him Kris, shared with our family for a year and half in Newark, Illinois. Kris also worked for the local FS cooperative, now GROWMARK / Grainco. It had been 37 years since Kris came to Illinois, but he and Urszula reveled in the memories of the Prairie State. As a side note, my uncle arranged for a Polish judge to marry them in Chicago when Urszula came to visit, just so they could say they were not married under the communist regime in Poland. That probably was not in the 4-H program guidelines, but it was life changing for them. We kept in touch with Kris throughout the period of martial law, the Solidarity movement, the collapse of the Soviet empire, and the reemergence of Poland as a full-fledged member of the European Union. Our lives intersected while I was on the 4-H Young Agricultural Specialists Exchange Program in Russia and on later occasions during our respective careers, both catalyzed by our international experiences with 4-H. Many 4-H alumni can relate similar stories of their international 4-H experiences, mainly under the banner of IFYE, and the lasting relationships are invaluable. Incidentally, my American colleagues from the 4-H YASEP program have met faithfully every five years for the past 37 years. We are looking forward to our 40th reunion! #thats4H
Because of 4-H
I’m not exaggerating when I admit that I got a little misty-eyed when I heard my son, Hunter, recite the 4-H pledge at the beginning of his 4-H Cloverbuds meeting last night. It gets to me every time. There’s just something about my fourth-generation 4-Her…knowing he has unlimited opportunities before him to make a difference through a program that has made such a difference in our family.
I hope he will learn how to invest in others through his experience in 4-H. Growing up, I watched my grandparents and parents lead 4-H clubs. I think they are collectively up to 75 years of leadership and counting. That commitment to youth and developing young leaders is what 4-H is all about. To invest that much time into the next generation is inspiring to me and something I hope Hunter will value, too.
My grandpa, sheep show superintendent, walks by while I'm showing at the Washington County Fair.
I hope he uncovers his passions through 4-H. With all of the opportunities 4-H offers today, the options are endless! My husband and I both grew up showing livestock and began judging livestock through 4-H. That led our paths to cross at college where we judged on the same team for four years. Today Dan judges livestock shows all across the country because of the doors 4-H initially opened for him. And I had the privilege of going to work for the National Swine Registry for 10 years and developed the National Junior Swine Association based on my 4-H experiences.
My husband, Dan, showing an Angus heifer in 4-H at the Mercer County Fair.
Dan judging the Angus heifers at the National Junior Angus Show 25 years later.
Most importantly, I hope Hunter develops great friendships and has fun. 4-H brings people together and teaches kids how to meet people, work in teams, network, and engage with people of all ages. I traveled across the country because of 4-H. I learned how to win humbly and I learned how to lose graciously because of 4-H. I have friends all over the country because of 4-H. And I hope someday Hunter gets to enjoy life more fully like I do because of 4-H.
This week is National 4-H week. It’s a great time to visit and “like” Illinois 4-H on social media, https://www.facebook.com/Illinois4H and https://twitter.com/Illinois4H. You can tag your own 4-H pictures and memories with “#thats4H” to share them with the broader 4-H community.
Hunter and his friend, Lucille, show off the 4-H flag at their first Cloverbuds meeting of the year.
Food assistance critical for millions
While food insecurity in America is by no means a new problem, it has been made worse by the Great Recession. And, despite the end of the Great Recession, food insecurity rates remain high. Currently, about 49 million people in the United States are living in food insecure households. In a forthcoming article in Applied Economics Policy and Perspectives, I provided an overview of Map the Meal Gap, a tool that is used to establish food insecurity rates at the local level for Feeding America, the umbrella organization for food banks in the United States.
In this article, myself and co-authors Elaine Waxman and Emily Engelhard, both from Feeding America, describe the methods underlying these estimates, followed by answers to the following: What are the state-level determinants of food insecurity? What is the distribution of food insecurity across counties in the United States? How do the county-level food insecurity estimates generated in Map the Meal Gap compare with other sources?
To go along with this paper, Waxman, Amy Satoh, and myself created a post on the London School of Economics, USAPP– American Politics and Policy Blog. Along with reviewing Map the Meal Gap, we discussed ways that policies can and are being used to reduce food insecurity in the United States.
Learning by Doing
This August the ACES Office of Research Summer Internship Program completed its 7th year. So far, 70 undergraduates have gained the experience of taking a research project from concept to completion addressing real problems in Illinois and beyond. Originally just taking place at the Dixon Springs Agricultural Center, the program has expanded to three additional sites over the last three summers, including the Orr Agricultural Research and Demonstration Center, University of Illinois Extension in Chicago, and St. Charles Horticulture Research Center. Starting in the spring semester, the interns work closely with their faculty advisors on campus, mentors at the research sites, and stakeholders in the surrounding communities to design their experiments and prepare for the 11-week internship.
This summer 14 interns not only gained a one-of-a-kind experience, but also in just a short time were able to make a contribution to the communities each site serves. Those impacts wouldn’t be possible without the time and input from the faculty advisors, mentors, and stakeholders that are the foundation of the program. The students were able to share their results in various venues including on-site for mid-term presentations and field days, as well as on-campus for the final presentation. Neal Merchen, Associate Dean for Research, told the interns that there is no better way to learn than by doing. The experience is a unique way for them to become well-rounded, develop skills outside of book learning, and make a contribution to some of the College’s off-campus activities.
You can find more details about the research conducted over the summer in our newsletter and about the program in general on our website. We will have information sessions about the program on Oct. 8th and 15th and applications for next summer will be due Oct. 31st.