Orange tote bags and the future

Dec 8
Stephanie Henry, ACES Media Specialist
During these last few years of working in ACES, I have passed countless groups of prospective students and their parents on campus sidewalks taking part in an official college visit. A tour guide, in a harrowing feat of backwards tightrope walking, leads the high schoolers and their families from building to building, announcing destinations such as, “to the right is the undergrad library,” or “just ahead are the Morrow Plots!”

How do I know they’re prospective students here on a college visit? It’s the bright orange tote bags slung over their shoulders. If you spend your days on campus as a student, or as a member of the faculty or staff of U of I, you’ve seen the orange tote bags, filled with info pamphlets and other goodies.

Recently, on a rainy Monday afternoon, I walked next to my son, a junior in high school, along the familiar campus sidewalks but my eyes were fixed on the orange tote bag slung over his shoulder. It was our turn for our very first college visit. I pass these campus tour groups all the time.  And I’ve often wondered what the parents are thinking about as they make their way from the south quad to the library to the main quad.  Are they excited that their child’s next chapter in life is about to begin? Feeling the pangs of sadness at the thought of their child moving away? Overwhelmed by how big the campus can seem at first?

It was so weird to me to be in the center of something—this group of parents and high school students, and all our orange tote bags moving across campus—that I have seen from a distance, but was now experiencing myself.  I couldn’t believe this day had come.

I watched my son take in all the information that was presented to us that day, information about what the admissions office looks for in applicants, what the demands of certain programs are, how to find opportunities to get involved with clubs or groups on campus, and how U of I prepares students well for their careers.  I watched his face and I knew that he was thinking about his future.  He was picturing himself in the scenes he was seeing all around him.

Parents, if this is your stage of life, too, we will get through this. We made it through kindergarten, junior high, learning to drive, right? We’ve got this too.

Tour U of I

Last Day of Classes

Dec 7
Brianna Gregg, ACES Coordinator of Transfer Recruitment

As I morphed from student to employee at Illinois, my feelings about the last day of classes before finals changed. While as a student I was excited for the last day of courses, finishing that final paper or studying with my friends for final exams, now I am a little sad because many of the students will be gone for close to 5 weeks and campus will be E M P T Y.

This does have some perks. 

·         Driving around campus is MUCH quicker

·         There ISN’T a line at Panera and there IS a place to sit

·         Projects that have been put off due to time are slowly getting done


·         No students to have conversations with about their research and experiences

·         No classes to further learning (unless you are taking one online - there is still time!!!)

·         The hallways and sidewalks look like campus went through rapture

·         Bevier Café closes meaning no cookies for me or Santa

So as you enjoy your time away from campus, wherever that is, please know that you are missed and we are counting down the days until you return!

Give yourself the nicest gift this year

Dec 1
Sara Tondini, Animal Sciences junior

The end of the year brings me mixed feelings: joy at all the memories I've made, hope for what next year brings, and major anxiety at all there is left to do!!!! I've always enjoyed being busy. As much as I complain about my task list for the week, I find lots of happiness in making that list and checking things off. It brings me a sense of accomplishment and I've always liked that about my busy schedule. However, I've noticed that as I start to check off one thing I add about 3 or 4 more to the list. I'm challenging myself this December to actually give myself a break while on break, and you should join me. 

Here's how to do it: 

1. Say no every now and then: I know you want to do a thousand things but it's okay to only do nine hundred and ninety nine things sometimes. If you cannot find anytime in your schedule to even consider a break. Say no once. It's scary... and freeing. 

2. Set aside time: Actually do it. Don't say "I'll take a break after this." Write down a date or some evenings in your week or a whole entire weekend and schedule yourself some "me-time". 

3. Hide all electronic devices: Having email on your phone is a blessing and a curse. When you're trying to relax that's when the curse part comes in. Just put them away. All content will be there blinking and buzzing when you return, promise.  

4. Invite your friends: Maybe alone time is what you need but if you want someone to hold you accountable start movie night or game night or plan an adventure. Your time is valuable and when you spend it on the people you love you are definitely getting your money's worth. 

Give yourself the nicest gift this year and take a break with me!

P.S. Dogs are really good at taking breaks. 
Especially mine. 


Nov 21
Jason Emmert, Assistant Dean, Academic Programs

“I don’t know.”  As a student recruiter, I hear those words fairly often in response to my question “do you know what your plans are after high school?” Not knowing is completely understandable when I hear this from freshmen, sophomores, and even juniors. But when I hear it from a senior, sometimes it’s almost heartbreaking. 

I’ve met so many bright young people who have fantastic plans for their future, some involving the U of I, some not (and that’s OK). But there seems to be a growing number of seniors who don’t have any direction. They have no idea what life after high school will involve, and it is clear in many cases that they’re not getting the encouragement and advice they need.   

Over the years I’ve tried to develop at least one piece of advice and encouragement for each student, no matter what their interest is (or isn’t). You usually don’t have to drill down too deep to find out if they like science, math, people, working with their hands, technology, etc. If their interest fits well with our majors in ACES, we can have a great conversation about our potential career paths. But what if that’s not the case?

When I’m able to determine that students enjoy working with their hands, or that they want to pursue a more physical type of career, I tell them to check out the great trade school, community college, and tech school options we have in Illinois. But I also encourage them to take some business/management coursework, because as you get older, the physical work becomes more difficult (I can attest to that!). With training, maybe they could transition into a management role, or run their own shop. That’s may not be life-changing advice, but I at least want to give each student some encouragement to stretch themselves and reach for the best life they can.

I want to ask each of you to be an encourager of young people – any time you get the chance! We love to have advocates who promote the wonderful opportunity of pursuing a degree in ACES – believe me, your efforts are incredibly valuable to us! But please don’t ever pass on the chance to encourage young people who may not be a fit for our college and university. You may provide just the spark they need to set the wheels in motion on the way to a better life. You can do it!

You can do it

A man on a horse looks different than a man standing on the ground

Nov 17
Stephanie Henry, ACES Media Specialist
Recently, ACES alum, Dr. Temple Grandin, was back on campus and spoke to a few classes and presented a seminar for the Animal Sciences department.  Dr. Grandin is well-known as both a consultant to the livestock industry on animal behavior and as a world-renowned autism spokesperson, speaking candidly about her own experiences with autism.

She is a passionate speaker on both of those topics and it was great to hear from her in person.

I have been mulling over one of Dr. Grandin’s word pictures she used in her seminar that day. She was talking about the importance of keeping animals calm while working with them, especially in handling cows. Part of that, she explained, is considering what they see in their surroundings and being aware of what might frighten, surprise, or distract them.  And then she said this:

“To a cow, a man on horse looks a lot different than a man standing on the ground.”

For the next few days, I found that idea coming back to mind over and over.  Aren’t people the same way? Don’t we need time to acclimate to new situations, new ideas, and new surroundings? We need to take things in and decide if they are true and safe.  We need time to deal with change.

As I prepared for an interview that week for a story I was writing to highlight the great work being done in The Autism Program (TAP) in ACES, I again kept thinking of that phrase about the man on the horse vs. the man on the ground.  I talked with a parent of a 16-year-old boy who has autism. She told me that her son, who now towers over her in height, thinks and relates to others at the level of a 5- or 6-year-old child.  With assistance from programs such as TAP, that mom told me that the family has learned to help him by better understanding the way he sees things.

That mom’s words rang so true with what I had heard Dr. Grandin say.  To be able to see things from someone else’s perspective and to understand what frightens them or what motivates them, is so important in being able to connect or communicate with someone.  

I will probably never let this idea—that a man on a horse looks different than a man on the ground—leave my thinking, especially as I raise my kids, meet new people, or communicate with the media and public in my job as a writer for the College of ACES. Sometimes we just need to see things from others’ perspectives, and give each other the time and space to find truth and a sense of safety and hope in what we are offering.

I am grateful for the words and work of Dr. Temple Grandin. 

Temple Grandin

Showing Thanks

Nov 16
Marla Todd, Associate Director of Advancement Communications

There is amazing power in two little words – Thank You! As we approach Thanksgiving, I’ve been reflecting on how we can go beyond those two little words and show people how thankful we are for their kindness and generosity. Allow me to share a few examples from the College of ACES to, perhaps, inspire this thought for you.

Earlier this year, Adam Kurczewski participated in an Agricultural and Consumer Economics course in which students spent a week exploring agricultural policy in Washington, D.C. He also spent an academic semester interning through the Illinois in Washington program. Private donors partially supported both Adam’s course and his internship. Adam is sincerely grateful for both experiences contributing to his professional development. He shows his appreciation by participating in the Department of ACE D.C. Coffee Initiative, where he shares his experiences with other students interested in issues in the federal policy arena.

Earlier this fall, we celebrated the 10th Anniversary of Doris Kelley Christopher Hall. The College of ACES sincerely appreciates this beautiful building, made possible by a generous gift, that supports the land-grant mission. Faculty, staff, and students show their thanks by serving families in our community and beyond through programs and resources housed in Christopher Hall.  

Josiah is a 17 year-old 4-H member in McLean County. Josiah joined the McLean County 4-H Shooting Sports Club so he could learn to shoot air rifles. Donors to the Illinois 4-H Foundation support shooting sports statewide. Up until his involvement with 4-H shooting sports, Josiah only spoke to members of his family. He is a young man with high-functioning autism. 4-H changed Josiah’s life. Not only did he show his gratitude for the opportunity to participate in 4-H shooting sports by winning the 4-H state air rifle shoot in September, he spoke in front of a group. If you haven’t read Josiah’s 4-H story, what are you waiting for?

With Thanksgiving just a little over a week away, perhaps it’s time for us all to SHOW our thanks!

Broadening agricultural development in Africa

Nov 16
Leslie Sweet Myrick, Office of International Programs Media Communications Specialist

The Office of International Programs and International Food Security at Illinois (IFSI) recently had the honor of welcoming a distinguished alumnus, Dr. Jimmy Smith, back to campus. Dr. Smith serves as Director General of the International Livestock Research Institute.

I loved how Dr. Smith started his lecture by paying tribute to the University of Illinois as the setting for one of the most formative stages of his life and one where he and his wife enjoyed raising their children. He went on to specifically name and thank the many mentors he had here; five of these have passed on, but he still wanted to honor them. He also thanked several people still on campus, some in the audience whom he felt indebted to, specifically paying tribute to Dean Merchen’s “Animal Science 320” which he said he would “never forget.”

Smith certainly lived up to his role as a “distinguished speaker” even though he was humble about this. He closed by encouraging the students and researchers in the audience to use the training opportunities and partnerships of the U of I, of which he named himself as a great beneficiary, to help Africa’s development.  

If you missed this important lecture where he presented a case for broadened agricultural development in Africa, check out this summary and video recording.

Hauser Smith Nelson

A time to reminisce

Nov 14
Shelly Nickols-Richardson, Head, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition

What is Hospitality Management (HM)? It’s the coordinating, organizing, managing, and leading of warm, friendly, and abundant entertainment and reception of visitors and guests. In the College of ACES, it’s the study of a combination of complex business principles with biological and social sciences that lead to lucrative careers in the hospitality industry.

A gregarious group of HM alumni gathered at the Schaumburg Wildfire, hosted by Howard Katz (BS’82) and Adam Rochman (BS’01) (left middle), to network and socialize. Graduates shared their stories about their wide variety of amazing positions in the HM industry, while reconnecting with classmates and building their professional networks. Foods, beverages, and friendliness were flowing as Alanna Olah (front center) and Jill Craft (far right) caught up with individuals to hear about their illustrious careers.

Many fond memories of Bevier Café and the “stress” of the Spice Box meal were shared. Most reminisced about how their experiences in the HM program helped them to be successful in their first and subsequent professional positions. All are proud to be U of I graduates! Watch for future HM alumni gatherings and join in the fun!

Wildfire Alumni Event


Nov 14
Brianna Gregg, ACES Coordinator of Transfer Recruitment
The history of words and phrases is something I typically take for granted (there are some interesting ones out there), but recently I’ve been thinking about the background of the word ‘deadline.’ According to the internet, always a credible source, it started during the civil war in reference to a point in a prison camp where prisoners would be shot if they crossed- harsh right? Yet, it evolved over the year and we apply this term to many facets of life- newspaper printing deadlines, voter registration deadlines and, to get to my point, COLLEGE APPLICATION DEADLINES.

While you certainly won’t be shot at if you don’t adhere to the college application deadlines, you may be missing out on a crucial college experience! So if Illinois at all interest you, why not turn in the application before the deadline. We won’t know to give you the chance to be a student here if you never apply.

December 1st- that is your Illinois application deadline! Make sure you meet it!


Nov 11
Debra Korte, Teaching Associate, Agricultural Education

I’ve heard people say how much they enjoy the beautiful colors displayed in the Fall leaves. I enjoy looking at the leaves, but when I see trees, I see characteristics which have many similarities to our own lives.


In my opinion, the branches of a tree reflect its root system. The intricately woven web of branches we see are an outward display of what’s hidden underneath – the root system – of the tree.

We are similar. The version of ourselves we bring to work or class each day is a reflection of our “roots” – our beliefs about the value of people, society, and the well-being of others. Although we cannot see the inward root system of others, we can see the proof of their internal beliefs through their actions, conversations, and demonstrated behaviors.

Tree Trunk

I believe the trunk of a tree also tells a story. The trunk changes over time, yet it remains unchanged as the heart of the tree. The trunk is ever-present throughout the growth process, and displays the nicks and scars of a weathered life.

Our trunk – our heart – holds our core values. The things we believe to be true in ourselves and others. As the trunk supports the tree, our core values support our decisions, our motivation, and our beliefs about the potential of others as well as ourselves. Our core holds the essential lifeblood for us to be the best version of ourselves every day. Our core values help us to not only believe in ourselves, but also believe in those we care the most about.

When we look at trees from a different perspective, we see them in a unique and different way. The same holds true for the way we view others and our life circumstances. Stand firm to your core values, hold your ground with your root system, but challenge yourself to look at people or situations from a unique perspective – a positive light – to seek out the best version of ourselves and others.