Developing Leadership Skills

Oct 6
Lisa Burgoon, Director, Minor in Leadership Studies

Can any student be a leader or is leadership only available to a select few with special charisma and talents?  I am solidly in the camp that says all students have the potential to develop leadership skills and become leaders. I have seen students who initially lacked confidence in their ability to interact with others become strong and effective communicators, emerge as leaders in their organizations, and secure fantastic jobs upon graduation.  

I talked recently with Tim Callahan, junior in Agricultural Education concentrating in Agricultural Leadership Education, about the skills he is developing through course work and internships at Illinois. I have known Tim since his freshman year when he started out undeclared and quickly found his passion for leadership education and transferred to Agricultural Education after one semester. Tim was an undergraduate intern with me last spring and summer semesters helping me evaluate AGED 260 Introduction to Leadership studies and develop new content for an online component of the course. Here is a brief summary of our conversation.

When asked about specific leadership skills he has developed in his first two years at UI, Tim replied “perhaps one of the most important skills I’ve learned while at U of I is adaptability. Being able to satisfy job/internship requirements is important. However, it’s the unexpected or new opportunities that truly allow you to make an impact.” I experienced firsthand Tim’s use of adaptability when he created a learning module that integrated diversity education into the global cultural leadership topic in AGED 260. Tim had to assess his own knowledge and experiences with multiple dimensions of diversity before he could create a meaningful online learning experience for students in the course. This was something he had not spent a lot of time thinking about before I asked him to create this module. Tim reported feeling more confident in his ability to interact with others and communicate his ideas effectively now that he has completed two years at UI which include his AGED 260 internship and multiple part-time jobs on campus and in the community.

Tim came into the large lecture classroom in AGED 260 this fall to share the many leadership educational experiences available to students through the Illinois Leadership Center and the Minor in Leadership Studies. He was confident, articulate and engaging in front of 180 students as he shared the benefits of taking leadership courses and co-curricular leadership programs offered on our campus. “I feel more confident when it comes to winning others over and communicating my ideas. For that, I can thank my leadership classes, and the countless networking opportunities U of I has provided.”

Tim Callahan, junior in Agricultural Education concentrating in Agricultural Leadership Education

Greenhand Conference 2015

Oct 5
Shelby Cooper, Senior in Agricultural Science Education

Lead. Teach. Inspire. This is a common theme for agricultural education students at the University of Illinois, and it’s certainly not limited to classroom learning. On September 23rd, the University of Illinois Collegiate FFA and Agricultural Education Program hosted the annual Illinois Greenhand Conference on the College of ACES campus. Hundreds of high school students from the area attended three workshops built to introduce them to FFA principles and leadership, interact with Illinois State FFA Officers and ACES students, and begin a four-year journey as a member of the National FFA Organization.

Preparation for this event began last spring, with a committee of students and faculty booking rooms, building a theme, and designing a schedule. Efforts continued into the fall semester when pre-service teachers from AGED 421 helped to develop the content for the workshops. ACES students from all majors volunteered to facilitate these workshops, as well as lead student groups in icebreaker activities and reflection. A group of 75 college students gave their time and energy to this event to make it a success for more than 400 high school freshmen. The majority of these leaders have backgrounds in FFA and understand the importance of being involved with the organization early in a member’s FFA career.

Greenhands are first-year FFA members enrolled in an agriculture class at their high school. For many students, this was their first FFA event. The content for the workshops worked with the theme, “Catching Fire”. The students were split into groups and participated in three breakout sessions focusing on spark, fuel and oxygen. At the end of the conference, three Illinois State FFA Officers concluded the night with the importance each of these components hold to creating that fire for FFA.

The annual event continues to have a great turnout from students and teachers alike. We are proud to host active and engaged FFA members for Greenhand Conference every year, and to have willing and excited ACES students to encourage growth and learning. We hope to recognize those who attended Greenhand Conference at the College of ACES in four years when they return to continue their leadership in the agricultural industry. See you next year for Greenhand Conference 2016!

Greenhand Conference 2015

End of summer

Sep 30
Richard Vogen, Director, Planning and Research Development
Last week, the autumnal equinox marked the change of season from summer to fall. But aside from some of the distracting background noises of budget woes and controversies, this has been a pretty fabulous start to the fall semester. What a beautiful September it has been, and I wish it would stay this way. Students are outside in droves, the air is warm and balmy, the grass is still lush and green, and we even got to see the super moon in full eclipse. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, from day to day, the changes of fall are coming though. On the drive into Champaign-Urbana, farmers are rapidly mowing through harvest fields, and soon the vistas will be clear of tall corn stalks. On campus, the outdoor swimming season has finally come to an end, too bad, because it’s still warm enough. And as the air becomes a little brisker, and the leaves begin to fall, fewer souls will be enjoying the fresh air. But enjoy this present moment—the University of Illinois is an inviting spot on the planet during this extraordinary time of the year.
End of summer

The importance of internships

Sep 22
Sara Tondini, Animal Sciences junior

Internships are a great way for students to apply the knowledge they receive in class to hands-on experience. They prepare students for real life situations and can open up many doors. I just completed an 11-week internship over the summer with the ACES Office of Research where I was able to work full-time on a University of Illinois beef cattle farm and conduct my own research project. This was a great experience, and I want to share the highlights of my internship with you!

This summer I gained knowledge, worked hard, faced challenges, and made great friends. I learned how to work cattle through the chutes, vaccinate, fly tag, artificially inseminate, and ultrasound. A little part of my day, every day, was spent with the cattle, which I enjoyed. Along with animal handling, I also learned how to fix and build fences, maintain the pastures, and drive a tractor. I was challenged, daily, to use critical thinking and problem-solving skills when working on the farm and these are attributes that I find applicable to my everyday life. The research aspects were my favorite parts of this internship.

Working in the lab and seeing the statistical results of a project that I worked on for months, and then being able to share those results and practical applications with the public, was very satisfying. Before this summer, I wanted a career that would allow me to work with beef cattle, and this internship reaffirmed my career path. Seeing the ins and outs of a beef cattle research farm made me more knowledgeable about all the work it takes to keep a farm running, and I can now see myself being an important part of this industry.

I highly recommend students participate in at least one internship during their college career to gain hands-on experience in their field and expand their networking prospects. I am very grateful for this opportunity and glad that the College of ACES provides experiences like these for their students!

Working with cattle at Orr Beef Research Center.

Performing Acid-Insoluble Ash Analysis on composites.

Blogging about blogs

Sep 18
Manuel Colón, NRES Student Recruitment Coordinator

To me, blogs are like Pringles; once you pop, you can’t stop! That is, if you are avid reader of Voice of ACES, you’re likely reading plenty of other blogs out on the web too. So, I wanted to share with you a few other blogs that I think are pretty informative, entertaining, and just generally a nice way to pass time.

NRES Career Information Blog
NRES used to offer a bi-weekly Career Bulletin, which has been recently phased out in favor of the blog format. Instead of having students wait two weeks for up-to-date information on volunteer opportunities, internships, and job postings, we want to provide them with these opportunities real-time updating as soon as we get the information. The blog is public and anyone can subscribe by following the “Subscribe” button located at the bottom of the page. From a quick skim of what’s on their right now; I see information about current employment vacancies, a Forest Service webinar, and upcoming career fairs. There are different categories that you can search through to shuffle through only the information you want to see; grad school, jobs, video, research, volunteer, etc. It’s a great resource to see the current availabilities in our field and also start getting an idea of the skills and experiences that are in-demand for our industry.

University of Illinois Office of Undergraduate Admission
Casting the net a little wider, I really appreciate the content that comes from our Office of Undergraduate Admission’s blog. Similar to the Voice of ACES, they have a diverse cast of bloggers that really contribute to the breadth and scope of information being shared. They range from current students here on campus, admissions counselors, and even Sassy the Squirrel! In my official role as an Undergraduate Recruiter, the blog provides some great information and advice in terms of application deadlines, personal statements, and other pertinent information for prospective students. However, I think the most powerful content comes from the students and their experiences. There are several posts right now about “campus secrets”, finding roommates, and what it’s like to just be a student. All around, a great bog!

Smile Politely
Technically, Smile Politely is an “online magazine” – but what is a blog, really, anyway? I often get asked about what the life and culture is like living in Champaign-Urbana and Smile Politely is a great resource to view all of the great local music, art, culture, sports, and food activity going on in town. You can browse events and article based on the previously mentioned categories and there are even countless sub-categories within those. The contributors to Smile Politely are also a diverse cast of characters from undergraduate students to “fifty-somethings” which provides great content variety of a wide-range of interests. Anytime I start thinking to myself of how I’m bored and nothing is going on in town, I frequently turn to Smile Politely to see just how much is really going on and I’m missing out on!

Sassy the Squirrel


Sep 17
Kendra Courson, Director for Special Events

Salute to Ag Day has always been a special event for alumni, family and friends to reconnect and salute agriculture in the state of Illinois as well as the College of ACES. Saturday’s event was another example of connections for many people.

The Burrus Hybrids and Illinois AgriNews Farm Family of the Year was the Lamoreux Family of Carroll County. This family had several generations of College of ACES alumns present to accept the award. From folks who have farmed the family land for many decades to two newborn baby girls attending what looked to be their very first tailgate, over 20 family members were on hand to celebrate this wonderful recognition together.

Melissa Fairbanks of Lakeland, Florida, attended Salute to Ag Day with her parents, Bob and Janet Dailey of Rochester Hills, Michigan. This was a family reunion weekend as Melissa’s sister, Megan Dailey, is an Assistant Professor in Animal Sciences. This was Melissa’s first Salute to Ag Day and a memorable one to say the least. She took part in the annual auction and was the highest bidder of the Illinois State Fair prize-winning cheddar cheese block. Once the cheese arrives in Florida, Melissa plans to share with her family and, of course, have a wine and cheese party with close friends!

I could go on and on about the connections that Salute to Ag Day fosters each and every year but there are too many to choose from. I am always beyond delighted and surprised that a tailgate event of over 600 people could end up being something very personal and far reaching.

A special thanks to the generous sponsors who support this event, including the Illinois Corn Growers Association, the Illinois Corn Marketing Board, the Illinois Farm Bureau, the Illinois Soybean Association, and Premier Cooperative, Inc.

Salute to Ag Day

Don't take it for granted

Sep 16
Rick Atterberry, ACES Media Communications Specialist

The view from my office window on the South Farms is that of the Round Barns. Sometimes I take it for granted. They’re just buildings right? Historic buildings, but just buildings.

I am reminded though, when meeting with the public at events like the Farm Progress Show, that they, like the worn steps in Mumford Hall, are symbolic of the heart of this college. My favorite part of such events is talking with people who have a connection to the College of ACES…alumni, parents, grandparents, former staff and others. Some visitors ask about long retired professors, about programs, about buildings, and share their favorite stories.

Others ask about how their daughters and sons or grandchildren can possibly gain admittance to one of the premier universities in the world when they hail from high schools without advanced or AP classes. I enjoy being able to point to the Academic Programs table and tell them not to discount the possibility out of hand without checking in there. It is humbling to talk to people who understand the value of a College of ACES education and want that for their progeny.

And when prospective students or parents suggest the size of the University of Illinois is almost as large as the population of some counties, it means a lot to be able to confidently say that the university can be as large or small as the student wants to make it…that ACES is a family and there will be a place for the student to thrive.

Then I think once more of the generations who’ve had the same chance to see the Round Barns and vow not to take my view for granted.


Round Barns

A day we won't forget

Sep 14
Leslie Sweet Myrick, Office of International Programs Media Communications Specialist

Last Thursday was a glorious day for the College of ACES, International Food Security at Illinois (IFSI), and the ACES Office of International Programs as we were deeply honored to host the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.

Students, faculty, staff, and other community members turned out in full force to listen to this distinguished guest – nearly 400 people attended and many more watched the livestream – and he in turn projected respect for each person in the room and admiration for the great work on food security being done here.

He warned us early on, “When I speak of what we’re doing [at USDA], you will be mentally checking off a list of the extraordinary work you are simultaneously doing” and recalling his morning tour of the energy farm, he said, “There’s not a citizen in this country who wouldn’t be impressed by what I walked through today.”

Vilsack’s speech was certainly informative, and I will elaborate on that in a longer article later, but it also was funny.  

After hitting multiple times in serious tones on the great issue of food waste in this country, he got a big laugh by grimacing over a memory of his wife’s leftover chicken salad and how the USDA FoodKeeper app calmed his fears about it being too old to eat.

Surprisingly to me, the lecture then turned conversational, inspirational, and even emotional.

Our office had been given a heads up that he loves Q&A and this was true. His assistant looked a bit annoyed, but not surprised, that he stayed at the podium well past his hour timeframe to take all the questions. He answered every question, even those that hit controversial topics, in a conversational tone and said that he is never afraid to say, “Yes, let’s talk about that.” and that unfortunately “Too often we don’t have conversations, we have debates.”

I expected to enjoy the lecture; I expected to learn a lot; I didn’t necessarily expect to be wiping away a tear towards the end when he admitted, even though he was adopted from an orphanage as a plump boy, that he had never known hunger. He then urged us all to think of the millions that do know hunger. He then spoke directly to the students in the room and said they have the opportunity and the responsibility to become the first generation to ensure food security in the U.S. and abroad.

By taking so many questions from student and others, he made his lecture a conversation. And I don’t doubt many a student was inspired today as a result; I know I was.


Field day fun with ag family and friends

Sep 14
Amber Adams, Crop Sciences Marketing

August is a busy time for many of us. Campus is buzzing with the arrival of new and familiar faces. The Department of Crop Sciences faculty and staff are diligently preparing for field days and the arrival of over 1,500 members of our closest ag family and friends. Many of which come from the Midwest; however, several hundred people traveled from Brazil and Argentina to learn about the latest research conducted by crop sciences faculty and researchers. There’s nothing we enjoy more than sharing our passion for agriculture with others during Agronomy Day and International Agronomy Day.

One of my favorite moments occurred at International Agronomy Day when I witnessed crop sciences department head, Dr. Germán Bollero (an Argentina native), conversing with fellow Argentinians in Spanish. The look of joy and relief when guests heard their native tongue in a foreign country was incredible to witness. Many of them stayed behind to talk to Dr. Bollero and ask him questions about their agricultural practices. Dr. Bollero’s simple act of kindness is one of the many I witness working in the College of ACES.

Agronomy Day and International Agronomy Day wouldn’t be possible without the support of sponsors and members of the ag community who traveled near and far to learn about the recent industry trends and research. Best of luck with harvest this fall and we hope to see you again soon!  

International Agronomy Day

An honor to be a part of WYXY Classic

Sep 10
Nicole Chance, Sophomore in Agricultural Communications

This summer I had the opportunity to intern for Gale Cunningham as a part of the WYXY Classic 99.1 broadcast team. For those of you that do not know Gale, you need to! Gale’s passion for the agriculture industry is a passion that is almost too hard to put into words.

His unceasing dedication to FFA and 4-H clubs is just the beginning of the many contributions he has made to the youth in both Illinois and Indiana.  Gale does not work as a radio personality, but he works as a passionate advocate for the agriculture industry. This became apparent to me when I began to observe the way Gale interviews 4-Her’s as well as other professionals within agriculture. Gale cares about each and every one of the people he interviews and his goal is to provide content that will allow listeners to be excited and encouraged about the industry they represent.

There were multiple responsibilities that Gale, Taylor Hardy, and I had throughout the summer. Some of those tasks included the fair tour where we went to different county fairs throughout the summer and interviewed 4-Hers as well as members of Extension and the fair board. We also provided hourly market reports throughout the week as well as analysis.

While I think most of the interns would say in years past that their favorite part was going to the county fairs, my favorite part was staying back in the studio doing the hourly market reports and analysis.  This was so intriguing to me. Reading and evaluating the markets made me realize how vital of a component different commodities are in the marketplace.

While also reading and analyzing the numbers from the Chicago Board of Trade, I saw how quickly commodities can shift. I can remember a specific day when the bean market shot up a whopping 60 cents after the monthly June USDA report came out. June was a bad month for east central Illinois as well as west central Indiana with tons of rain that just seemed to never stop. Those numbers on that report reflected those conditions and what happened in the marketplace at that specific time.

It was that day that I began to realize how important Gale’s job really is. It is his responsibility to inform a key region in production agriculture exactly what is happening. This could be sparks or declines in the market, issues in Washington such as the Clean Water Act, and even the grand champion barrow at the county fair. This is Gale’s job on a daily basis.

I am so appreciative that I had the opportunity to intern with Gale and WYXY Classic this summer. Through this experience I have gained a deep respect and admiration for a man who is not just another radio personality, but the heart and soul of the Region’s Ag Force.

Nicole and Gail Cunningham with WYXY Classic