It's All About Your Strengths
It’s a myth that we can be anything we want to be if we just work hard. I’m sorry, but with my 5’ 2” frame and two left feet, there’s no way I’m going to be a great basketball player. No matter how hard I try. I find it interesting that we spend so much time as a society encouraging everyone that they can do whatever they want in life if they work hard enough. It’s just not true.
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t hope. We just need to turn our attention away from our weaknesses and focus on our strengths.
Last month, I attended “Strengths Based Leadership” at the 2014 National Agricultural Alumni and Development Association (NAADA)’s national conference and gained many great insights from speaker Richard J. Rateau from Penn State.
We took a new leadership version of Gallup’s StrengthsFinder program online and walked away with our top five strengths to help us move forward and improve our effectiveness as a leader.
Our speaker said we grow most in the areas we are already strong. He defined “strength” as knowledge + skills + talents. Knowledge is learned. Skills are teachable. Talents are naturally occurring traits. Essentially we can be anything our strengths allow us to be, he said.
In the book, “Strengths Based Leadership,” by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie, the authors say, “…Sure, many leaders can get by or are above average in several domains. But paradoxically, those who strive to be competent in all areas become the least effective leaders overall.”
Call me a leadership-junkie, but I enjoy books and speakers on this topic because let’s face it, we all lead at some point during our lifetime. And leadership isn’t for the faint of heart.
One of the things I enjoy most about working in the College of ACES is the support we receive to keep learning and develop as professionals in our field. I always look forward to summer and heading out to professional development conferences like NAADA where I can be challenged to grow and improve.
Enjoy the rest of your summer!
Ag and Bio Engineers and President Easter Participate in Global Challenges Forum
Montreal is located on an island at the junction of the Ottawa and St. Lawrence rivers and is Canada’s second largest city. This week, this metropolitan center hosted more than 1,500 agricultural engineers for the 2014 International Meeting of the American Association of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE). The ASABE’s mission is to expand awareness of industry trends, to promote and acknowledge innovations in design and technology, and to provide opportunities for professional development – all with a focus on the economic, political, and societal impacts facing the industry.
There’s a strong Illini footprint in this organization, and many attend this annual meeting. As the development officer assigned to the College’s agricultural and biological department, my role was to support their activities during the meeting and to visit donors and alumni in/around the city.
University of Illinois President Robert Easter was also in attendance. He provided the plenary presentation for the meeting’s “Global Engagement Forum” and moderated a panel of leading global experts. (He also moderated the inaugural global engagement program in 2013.) President Easter and the panel offered their perspectives on five global challenges facing humanity: food security, water security, energy security, climate change, and sustainability. They explored the obstacles, funding opportunities, and threats facing agricultural and biological engineers. Several identified the undeniable link between sustainability, water, and human prosperity. All agreed that international collaboration is key; that agricultural engineers can make an impact in finding global solutions, and that one of the greatest challenges is gaining leadership on issues affecting public policy.
The ASABE and its global partners are taking seriously the charge to move this initiative to a very high level. Dr. K. C. Ting, head of the department of agricultural and biological engineering, facilitated a SWOT analysis following the global panel discussion. The ultimate goal is to develop a blueprint for an ASABE White Paper. To see more visit, http://www.asabe.org/.
Just Returning From South Africa
I have long been a proponent of study abroad programs that provide our students with international experiences. There are few other types of learning opportunities that have the same intensive impact on students as spending time in another country and in another culture. Students who spend time abroad come home a different person, and the better for having had that experience.
I just returned last week from a 3-week tour around South Africa. It was a private tour not associated with the university. We had a wonderful time, seeing the many wild animals, magnificent countryside and the major cities in that country. I also wanted to use that trip as an opportunity to have a personal introduction to that country.
We have several study abroad programs affiliated with ACES and run by ACES faculty that involve spending time in South Africa. A large number of ACES students participate in those programs and the number of programs continues to grow. For example, one of our alumni from Animal Sciences is developing additional international opportunities in Africa that are available to students. Having the opportunity to tour South Africa gave me some personal insights that I can use to help our students chose appropriate international opportunities from that part of the world. Now I can say to them, “I’ve been there. This what its like and what you can expect there.” And of course, showing them my many photos of elephants, rhinos, giraffes and others.
I recently witnessed a conversation between two people discussing “farming season.” Having grown up on a diversified livestock and grain farm, and wanting to dispel the myth that farming is a job that only takes a few weeks in the spring and fall; this is likely a topic for a completely separate post on a different blog.
However, listening to the conversation, I started to think about the College of ACES and how some might view our work as something that happens during “student season” (August through May). Yes, indeed, campus is a very busy place when all the students are here, but summer doesn’t mean that the work, discovery, learning, or outreach goes on vacation!
Many ACES students are on campus this summer participating in research and internship experiences or enrolled in classes during the summer session I or II. Four days a week, students taking FSHN 240 – Quantity Foods are serving lunch in the Bevier Café.
Graduate students and faculty members are hosting junior high and high school students for enrichment and career exploration programs, such as RAP, 4-H summer academies, and more. Research continues in laboratories, including the South Farms. It’s growing season in research plots and orchards!
Faculty and staff are tending to a variety of administrative matters, including student orientation, awarding scholarships, prospective student tours, and all the business matters (budgets, year-end reports, newsletters, and e-mail communications, etc.) that keep this institution functional. My calendar includes several meetings with College of ACES alumni and donors who generously support students, researchers, and programs. These are year-round tasks required for a successful “student season.”
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention all the space upgrades that occur over the summer, as well. The smell of paint, the sound of nail guns, and the pile of recycling outside offices of professionals relocating work spaces are all norms at this time of year.
For indeed it is still a busy time on campus!
"Living to Serve" in Washington, D.C.
As a student enrolled in agricultural education in the College of ACES, I find myself loving the time I spend with students ranging in age from pre-kindergarten to high school. In my time studying agricultural science education, I’ve discovered that my true passion lies in the overlap between agriculture and youth. This summer I am living the dream in Washington, D.C., doing exactly what I love. Each week I spend over 100 hours as a facilitator for the National FFA Organization’s Washington Leadership Conference. The conference challenges students to become engaged citizens and committed, especially to the last line of the FFA Motto, “Living to Serve.”
Over five days, students explore citizenship, discover their strengths, passions and purpose, check out the power of ‘we’, take action and serve those in need in the District of Columbia. They do so under the dome of the U.S. Capitol, beneath the shadow of the Washington Monument, and within the watchful eyes of Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Thomas Jefferson. The final day of the week is spent packing over 55,000 meals for the District of Columbia Food Bank. These packaged meals are used the following week at the food bank.
While this conference definitely shifts students’ perceptions and changes lives, it has absolutely changed my life more and proved to me that I am where I need to be. I sit here in D.C., ready for yet another week of 340 students to come through, but I am anxious to get back to the place that made it all possible for me—the University of Illinois. The College of ACES and the agricultural education program have challenged and inspired me to continue to grow as a facilitator and an educator. I know that I wouldn’t be living my dream in our nation’s capital today without the help of the professors and faculty who have invested so much into me. Before long, I’ll find myself in their shoes through student teaching and beginning my career within the confines of agricultural education—helping youth learn, grow, and achieve, much like the educators I look up to have done for me.
2014 NACTA Conference
The College of ACES has returned from another spectacular North American Colleges & Teachers of Agriculture (NACTA) conference. The 60th Annual NACTA conference was hosted by Montana State University in Bozeman, Montana, on June 26-28. In typical ACES fashion, our faculty was extremely well represented and came home with numerous awards.
Five ACES faculty members and two graduate assistants were among those honored at the 2014 conference. It is my pleasure to congratulate the following outstanding members of the ACES family:
Sarah Scholl - NACTA Graduate Student Award Recipient
Daniel Weber - NACTA Graduate Student Award Recipient
Dawn Bohn - NACTA Teacher Fellow Award Recipient
Jan Brooks - NACTA Teacher Fellow Award Recipient
D. K. Lee - NACTA Teacher Fellow Award Recipient
Robert Schooley - NACTA Teacher Fellow Award Recipient
Paul Stoddard - NACTA Teacher Fellow Award Recipient
These professors, teaching associates, and graduate teaching assistants have gone above and beyond the call of duty to make a difference in the lives of their students and certainly make us proud in the College of ACES.
In addition, several ACES faculty members and graduate students presented their scholarship on teaching and learning at NACTA, including Professors Amy Fischer, Margarita Teran-Garcia, D. K. Lee, Soo Lee, Robert Schooley, and doctoral students Crystal Allen, Joseph Donovan, and Daniel Weber.
I look forward to another great year of excellence in instruction and student learning.
FSHN makes BIG announcement
During the University of Illinois reception at the Institute of Food Technologists meeting, the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition (FSHN) launched efforts to renovate the pilot processing plant facilities located in the agricultural engineering sciences building.
The current facility has remained essentially unchanged for over 25 years, despite rapid changes in technology, equipment, and safety standards. Renovations are essential to meeting student learning and training needs, and to facilitate student recruitment and job placement.
A few of the key improvements include:
- Food grade suite – high level GMP area
- Instructional suites – medium level GMP area
- Industrial test kitchen/teaching lab
- Food chemistry/analytical lab
- Sanitary climate control (HVAC)
- Improved availability of utilities
- Designated space for receiving/storage
- Designated space for gowning and equipment wash
The $3 million project will include $2.25 million for renovation of the facilities. The remainder will be allocated for equipment upgrades. FSHN, the College of ACES, and the university have committed to this project, but private support is needed to reach the $3 million goal.
To learn more about the pilot processing plant renovation project, visit www.pilotplant.aces.illinois.edu.
New Student Registration = Almost Over
The longest day of summer has passed, meaning so has the majority of our fall registration for the new incoming freshman. It has been a great 4 weeks of meeting the new incoming students. So many eager young adults ready to embark on the next phase of their life! One part of new student registration I don’t quite understand is the fact we ask these students to walk around all day in the hot, humid (I’m talking drink the air humid) Illinois summer and then take their student ID picture. This ID follows you around for the next 4+ years on campus. Meaning, you will always have a memento of that hot, sweaty, humid, wonderful day- the day you started your academic journey at Illinois!
With the new incoming freshman, we also have new incoming Parkland Pathway students. We are a little nicer to them during registration since we try to make sure it happens in the cooler month of May and it is hosted mostly indoors at Parkland. We have a lot of great volunteers of the program, including current and former participants (plus a veteran mom who has had 3 children go through the program!) for the new incoming class to gather and glean as much information possible. It is a lot of information thrown at the families and students at once, and it is hard to see convey all of the logistics of the program in one short day. So if you ever have any questions about the program and its benefits, please do not hesitate to ask me.
ACES’ Home in Chicagoland
In January of 2012, the College of ACES created a new center to expand its outreach and education to high school students throughout the Chicago area about the more than 100 career options connected to our college. However, over the last year and a half, this purpose has expanded to include educating administrators, high school counselors, and even science teachers about the strong connection between the agricultural industry and urban communities.
The Illinois Center for Urban Agricultural Education has developed and partnered in various initiatives, including “Get Ready for Career and College Exploration” brunches, special career seminars at high schools, professional development days for teachers, campus field trips, and career shadowing/seminar days with corporate partners such as Pepsico. As the center continues to expand its outreach efforts, our success will rely heavily on partnerships with other ACES alums, business partners, and community organizations in the Chicago area.
Despite the number of selective-enrollment high schools and growing number of Advanced Placement courses, today’s high school students are still not aware of the many career opportunities available, especially in the food, fiber, and environmental sciences. The more we can expose students to hands-on experiences in our field and connect them early to individuals actively involved in our industry, the greater our prospects for ensuring we have a great pipeline of talent to meet current and future needs in the agricultural industry.
As RAP, the Research Apprentice Program, celebrates its 25th anniversary, this is an excellent time to reconnect many of the alums from our summer programs with the College of ACES. Our alums are the best examples of the level of career success and personal fulfillment which can be achieved through our innovative industry. Our upcoming anniversary event on Saturday, August 2, will provide the opportunity to reengage with old friends, build new connections, and share in conversations to create a strong RAP for the future.
What’s the best thing about internships? Being able to apply the things I have learned in the classroom. I grew up just west of Sandwich, in the small town of Somonauk, Illinois. I was not raised on a farm, but grew up in the middle of a field that we cash-rent to a local farmer. I was a 4-H member for 11 years and watched friends show their livestock. My sister and I have shown rabbits and sheep for the past few years, and I occasionally helped hold the grand champion chickens at the 4-H livestock auction. We also took photos during the summer in the fields surrounding my house when the corn quickly grew over my five-foot frame. Despite all of this, I never knew much about agriculture until I went to college.
At school I live in 4-H House, a very ‘farm oriented’ sorority. Within my first few weeks, I realized that EVERYONE had showed some type of livestock and everyone lived in the middle of a corn field and I couldn’t help but think how cool that was. At that point, I was hooked. I got involved with the Collegiate Farm Bureau and the Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow Club, amongst many others, and immersed myself in the industry. I loved it! I became obsessed with attending conferences and seminars, and I loved social media. Every conference I attended I tweeted facts and quotes from well-known agricultural communicators like Holly Spangler and Katie Pratt. Everyone seemed SO passionate!
It was those events that made me realize how much I loved agriculture and how badly I wanted to be a part of this industry. Several conferences and seminars later, I am constantly trying to educate myself. My father laughs at me when I start rambling off facts and information I’ve learned. I get so interested in things like Monsanto’s seed chipper, or asparagus being part of the sunflower family or cattle being habitual animals.
This summer I am the Cook County Farm Bureau Ag in the Classroom Intern—I love it! Last week I had the chance to take part in our first Summer Ag Institute (SAI) for the summer. We had 20 teachers from Cook County take part in tours from the Volkening Heritage Farm to Davidson’s Pasteurized Eggs to Smits Greenhouse and more. Personally, my favorite stop was with the Chicago High School for Ag Sciences.
During the SAI I learned many more facts and found myself once again thirsting for more information. It was a chance for me to take those fun facts and the knowledge I have gained these past few years and apply my communication skills when talking to the teachers. It was great watching them take notes, ask intriguing and hard questions, and more than anything, just learn. I wasn’t the teacher by any means this week, but even as another student of this industry, it has been so REWARDING to watch them absorb all of the information they learn on these tours. They were continuously asking questions about how to incorporate this information into lesson plans and where to find more information. They were taking the information they learn to heart and are beginning to understand the importance of our industry, and the love and passion that all of us in agriculture have for it.
It is moments and opportunities like these that make me love agriculture and the things we do as an industry.