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. 


It feels real now

Nov 4
Sara Tondini, Animal Sciences junior

I just registered for my last semester of classes as an undergrad at the University of Illinois. If senior year didn’t feel real before, it feels really real now! This being my 8th time registering I feel like I’m a bit of a pro when it comes to getting signed up for the right classes. I have tips/resources below that have helped me and might help you, if you haven’t registered yet.

DARS Audit – This is a wonderful document generated online, by the Office of the Registrar, in a matter of minutes. It gives you an up-to-date list of the classes you’ve taken, the classes you’re registered for, and the classes you need to take. It shows how many hours you’ve taken and has sub-categories for each general education requirement and requirements for your specific major and concentration. I always consult this before figuring out what my class schedule is going to look like next semester.

Advisor- Once you’ve compiled a list of the classes that you need to take, it can be hard to narrow it down. Your advisors know a lot of the material that is taught in the classes in you major, and they know the subject matter and how tough the coursework is. It’s a good idea to meet with your advisor so they can help you pick the right classes for your potential career path.

Location– This is a tip that I wish I had known my freshman year, and it is sometimes unavoidable but most classes tell you what building they will be in before you register. If you have classes that are completely across campus and you only have 10 minutes to get there, maybe pick a different elective or a later time slot. Managing coursework is stressful enough without sprinting to your mandatory discussion class every Tuesday and Thursday morning.

Explore- The University requires you to take so many hours and if you take all your required classes you’ll probably still have some hours that need to be filled without any restrictions. This is time for you to explore areas that you’re interested in but might not align with your major. Hopefully you love the classes in your major but if you only take those course while you’re here you are hindering yourself the opportunity to broaden your horizons. I love science and I’m quick to learn science material, but when I took a foreign language course and world religion course I was forced to learn in a way that I wasn’t use to. It was fun and interesting and helped me grow as a student.

Good luck and happy registering! Before you know it, you’ll be finalizing the schedule for your senior year. Enjoy the ride!


Go, now

Nov 3
Lauren Quinn, ACES Media Specialist

My mother is a born traveler. My dad goes along for the ride, but it’s my mom’s innate wanderlust that propels them across the globe at least once a year. This past spring, they were spelunking through cave dwellings in Cappadocia, Turkey. Next up: a safari in South Africa’s Kruger National Park. I beg to be taken along—Mom passed her wanderlust down to me, and I’ve got it bad—but it’s not in the cards right now. 

I used to travel. I’ve snorkeled through bioluminescent plankton in Puerto Rico, swayed to live reggae music in the Bahamas, practiced yoga on a platform overlooking primeval New Zealand forest, watched a pride of lions through the early morning mist in South Africa, sung in centuries-old cathedrals in Eastern Europe, and attempted to climb a baobab tree in Madagascar. I took a job in Australia that allowed me to travel all over the country. And when I moved back to the States for another job two years later, I managed to incorporate regular trips to Japan into my work.

Even when it’s difficult to communicate or navigate in foreign countries, travel enriches us. We witness and, on the better trips, actually experience how our fellow human beings live under circumstances that may be radically different from our own. We learn that it is possible to witness both incredible beauty and tragic poverty in the same moment. We learn that we are not the center of the universe. In short, travel makes us better. And, of course, our travel dollars can improve the places we visit by creating jobs or conserving the environment. It’s a win-win.

So, why haven’t I left the country for the past five years? Life happened. I met and married my husband and had two kids. We bought a house. All good things – things I wanted my whole adult life. But meanwhile, I changed jobs and money got tight. It’s expensive to fly a family of four across the country, let alone across the globe. That’s probably why my parents took us on a lot of road trips when we were growing up. I’d like to do that, and to take my kids on even more exotic adventures, someday. I will. I must. For them, and for me.

So, I’m here to tell you that the time to travel is now. Do not wait; life might just get in the way. Fortunately, the university offers a huge array of opportunities to get you out of Central Illinois. ACES Education Abroad coordinates faculty-led courses in a number of countries, as well as international research opportunities and internships. The U of I Study Abroad office will find a place for you to spend a semester or a year. Take advantage of these opportunities. Go, now, and get better.

Lauren Quinn Collage

Leaving legacies

Nov 2
Jason Emmert, Assistant Dean, Academic Programs

This is cliché, but have you thought about your legacy? Lately I’ve been thinking about it quite a bit. Part of my job entails communicating with donors about their scholarships recipients, and hopefully providing an opportunity for students and donors to communicate. As part of the natural course of things, every year there are a few of our long-time supporters and donors who pass away, and it leads me to reflect on their lives and accomplishments.

I’m frequently amazed by the degree to which they’ve left legacies, not only in our college, but in so many other ways. On the surface they’re ordinary people, but they’ve made extraordinary impacts on their communities, families, friends, and of course, on our beloved college and university.

Everywhere you look on campus you see legacies that convey generosity and love for the university, through buildings, campus landmarks, dedicated spaces, and the very environment surrounding us. But to me, the greatest legacies are found in the faces of everyone you meet, including students, faculty, and staff. We’ve all been encouraged and supported by others in some meaningful way, and we carry their legacy with us.

What an opportunity we have to build a legacy, not just through financial support of things that are near and dear to us, but through the impact we have on others. Thank you for your legacy, and best wishes for a wonderful fall!

Prasanta Kalita