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

It's always been about the people

Oct 31
Robert Hauser, Dean of the College of ACES

Just a quick note on my last day in the Dean’s Office to thank everyone – within the college, across campus, and throughout the state – for making the last seven years so enjoyable, both professionally and personally. The College of ACES is a first-class operation because of its programs, its infrastructure, and its long history and culture of academic, research, and outreach excellence. But to really understand and appreciate this first-class operation, you must know the people.

I did not really “know” those people, whether internal or external to the college, until I became Dean, and even then it took two or three years to fully appreciate the dedication and commitment that define them. The college is one of the best “land-grant” institutions in the country as measured by countless metrics. It is impossible to measure, however, the skills, selflessness, and friendships of people with whom I have had the pleasure to work and interact over the past seven years. And it is also impossible for you to understand the sense of gratitude that I have for everyone associated with ACES – again, both those who are on the college payroll and those stakeholders outside the college from around the state and around the world. 

Any success that I might have had administratively was undoubtedly facilitated, if not driven, by the great people surrounding me. Please know that, professionally, that point has never escaped me and that I am deeply indebted to all of you. But perhaps more importantly, I hope you understand from a personal standpoint that I have so enjoyed being part of the department, college, and university. I will miss that …and I will miss you. 




Speaking Softly

Oct 28
Richard Vogen, Director, Planning and Research Development

For the past seven years, the College of ACES has been led calmly and resolutely by Robert J. Hauser, who is now making the transition to emeritus status. It has been a true privilege to work alongside Dean Hauser in his quest to keep ACES moving forward. The challenges during his tenure, especially on the financial front, have not been easy. But one of his principle strengths has been his ability to gain important insights for his decisions, based on solid information and analysis. Bob has a knack for asking the right questions at the right time, and he always respects the one giving the response. He is fiercely loyal to the University of Illinois, despite his Iowa roots, and the College of ACES. He also cares genuinely for the mission of this college to benefit the citizens of Illinois and the world. Bob operates from the philosophy that outstanding scholarship will flourish when support is given to the best talent, doing important work, aimed at the right problems. He has an eye for excellence, and he lets people do their work, whether in academics or in management.

For those of us who have known him for a long time, as an agricultural economist, as head of the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics, or as Dean, Bob is famously soft-spoken. In fact, we often strain to hear him, but his quiet voice conveys authenticity that you can rely upon. Not a man of many words, each one is carefully considered. No matter how you may know him, doctor, professor, dean, or simply Bob, the Dean of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, Robert J. Hauser, will be missed in the halls of Mumford. We salute you, Bob, and we bid you well in your ensuing career.

Hauser and Vogen

You never really leave

Oct 28
Judy Mae Bingman, 4-H Media & Marketing

Be prepared. This campus will always hold special memories for you. As a young graduate, I would stop by campus on my way through from where my first job took me to where I was born. After marriage and babies, I would still stop, toddlers in tow, to show them the quad, Assembly Hall and Morrow Plots.

Illinois, where I got locked in the graduate library stacks one night.
Illinois, where I watched a football referee die on the field during a game my freshman year.
Illinois, where there were five times as many people in my dorm as my home town.
Illinois, where I met the woman who would become my best friend.
Illinois, where I was introduced to the band Pork and the Havana Ducks (Google it... it will be an experience).
Illinois, where I missed earning Bronze Tablet status by one spot.

I admit to being a little devastated that neither child chose my alma mater to be their alma mater. And, yet, they both carry a little bit of Illinois with them … as 4-H members. University of Illinois, as Illinois' land grant university, is home to Illinois 4-H. My job is to make sure every 4-H member knows they have a place waiting for them at Illinois. Like a parent welcoming home a child, U of I is home to every 4-H member.

Two great traditions … Illinois and 4-H.


Stories that matter

Oct 27
Jennifer Shike, Director for Communications and Marketing

"I’ll never forget you, Hunter. Promise me that you will never forget me.”

As I watched Willard pull my 8-year-old son close for a hug and whisper these words to him, I couldn’t help but feel a little overwhelmed by the moment. And that was just one of many I experienced last Sunday where I was reminded of the power of one small voice.

The story actually starts two years ago, when my now 10-year-old daughter, Olivia, went with her 4-H club to put on a fun carnival for the residents of Maple Point Assisted Living Facility in Monticello. I remember spending most of that day keeping our baby occupied while the kids played games with the residents. However, in the chaos, I did notice that Olivia had a particular gift for connecting with the residents. So much so that she told me that she didn’t want that to be the last day that she saw her new friend, Paula. She wanted to go back and write her letters.

So she did. I watched a special bond form between the two as they shared their love for animals. We stopped by on occasion and sent letters. During that same first year of 4-H she took a project called “Walk In My Shoes” where she learned about the differences between her generation and older generations. She chose to do her project on her great grandma, Ruthie. Around this time, Grandma Ruthie had to give up her independent living on her own to move into a nursing home. This was a difficult time in Grandma Ruthie’s life and Olivia was very worried about her great grandma.

Getting to know new friends at Maple Point helped both of us adjust. And it reminded me of the important job that we have to take care of the elderly. During her second year of 4-H, Olivia took the Service Learning: Agents of Change project and decided to find a way to help her friends out at Maple Point even more – beyond the annual carnival.

She wanted to make blankets for everyone at Maple Point to remind them that others care for them. And in the process, help connect at an even deeper level with the residents there. She created a plan…a plan that cost nearly $500 and would require many hours of work. Realistically, she would need help to complete it. With support from her 4-H Youth Development Educator Jamie Boas, she made a pitch for financial support to the Champaign County Extension Education Foundation and was overjoyed when they donated $250 to her “Blanket Buddies” project. She then asked her 4-H Club to help with the remaining costs to make the blankets and assist in the blanket-making and distributing effort.

After completing 34 blankets last May, Olivia helped organize a one-hour event at Maple Point this fall to present the blankets. With the help of Stacy Cribbs, Maple Point’s activity director, and her fellow 4-H club members, they had a special 4-H display the week before the event to showcase their projects and bring a little “county fair” to the residents.

In addition to giving the blankets out at the event, 4-H members also shared about their projects that had been on display, served cookies and punch to their new friends, and simply spent time visiting and getting to know them.

As a mom, there is no greater feeling than to see your children love on others. I watched Olivia lead the presentation, speaking with such grace and compassion for her age. She floated around the room engaging the residents and encouraging some of her friends who were a little nervous at first, but quickly warmed up and made new friends. My son met a true friend in Willard who had a fantastic time telling Hunter old stories. The smiles on both of their faces were priceless. And perhaps one of my favorite memories of the day was watching my husband take our 2 ½-year old daughter, Harper, over to spend time with Helen. Helen was a sweet lady that we had met when Olivia first met Paula. She is blind, so understandably some of our activities were harder for her to experience in the same way the others did. Harper sat by Helen and stroked her hand. They even held hands for some time. Dan said Helen couldn’t get over how soft and little Harper’s hands were.

Before we left, we encouraged the 4-H members to be pen pals with one of their new friends they had met that day. Nearly 2/3 of the residents were paired up with a 4-H member who will write them letters and invest in their lives in some small way. I watched kids step out of their comfort zone and connect with these elderly friends in ways I never imagined. It was a day full of huge smiles, lots of laughter, a few tears, and experiences that will touch these childrens’ lives forever.

I think the best part of 4-H is that it opens doors, creates opportunities, and helps our young people do things they may never do otherwise. That $250 investment from the Champaign County Extension Education Foundation did far more than bless 34 residents of Maple Point on Sunday. I’m not sure anyone walked away unchanged.

PS – We will never forget you, Willard. Your letter is on its way. Thanks for caring about my son and showing him that his story matters. Yours does, too.


Hunter and Willard
Hunter Shike presents a blanket from the Sadorus All-Stars 4-H Club to his new friend Willard.

Dan and Harper and Helen
4-H alum Dan Shike and his future 4-H'er, Harper, spend time with Helen.

Olivia shares her "Blanket Buddies" story with the residents of Maple Point Assisted Living Facility.


You don’t have to hold up the world today

Oct 25
Paige Jones, Junior in Agricultural Communications

The subject of time is one that has been constantly on my mind lately. I find myself constantly searching for more time: more time for homework, more time to spend with my friends, more time for work, more time for sleep, and more time to stress about how I don’t have any time. No matter how much I let my mind spin, I have never been able to add any more hours to the day. So what do we do? How do we cope with the stress of our daunting tasks? What do we make time for and what do we give up?

In high school, I was involved in every club I possibly could be. Not only was I involved, but I took my involvement one step further and took on leadership roles. I played two sports, took the hardest classes, and taught a class at my church on Sundays. I felt like I was always treading water, trying to keep my head above the waves. The worst of it all was that I didn’t do all of these things because I enjoyed them; I did them because I felt like I was expected to. My dad would always have to remind me, “Paige, you don’t have to hold up the world today.”

As I transitioned to college, I learned the importance of my father’s reminder, and I learned the importance of finding my passion. Finding your passion leads you to the clubs, classes, and people where your time is best spent. Spending your time on valuable things that you enjoy doing means you’re no longer treading water and trying to keep yourself from drowning. You’ve finally remembered how to swim.

I wish I had a better answer for your time management problems. I wish I had a checklist template or a time management strategy I could offer, but I don’t. The best advice I can give you is the simple reminder that you do not have to hold up the world today. The world will keep spinning if you have to skip a club meeting to finish a paper, it will keep spinning if you are a couple minutes late to a group meeting because you were on the phone with your mom, it will keep spinning if you need to take a break from studying to spend an hour with your friends. Let go of the expectations you think that people have of you and stop searching for more time because you do not have to hold up the world today.



Oct 24
Steve Loerch, Head, Department of Animal Sciences

Change. This time of year makes me acutely aware of change. The leaves are changing. The temperature is changing. Daylight savings time is changing. The fields have changed from pre to post-harvest.

Change is evident on the University of Illinois campus, too. The College of ACES will be changing leadership at the end of the month. Robert Hauser will retire from his role as Dean and Dr. Kimberlee Kidwell will resume that role on November 1. Dean Hauser has served the College of ACES for 35 years and his leadership will be missed. He has been a consistent advocate for the Department of Animal Sciences and his support is greatly appreciated. Fortunately, the college and department will be in good hands when the change of deans occurs. Dean Kidwell is already actively engaged in college activities and she is off to a fast start as our new leader. I urge everyone to give her a warm welcome when she arrives.

When you get to the heart of it, change is what we do at this institution. We are in the business of changing people’s lives. This occurs through the students we teach and mentor and through the discoveries we make. Looking forward to the great changes ahead!

Fall leaves

Tips for overcoming life’s hardships

Oct 20
Ariel Majewski, ACES Visual Marketing Intern

Midterm season is at its peak—an exam tomorrow, papers due Friday, an online class starting today…

And then I get the phone call. 

My 12-year-old dog needs to be put down. That’s my baby, my best friend. Some breed owners say that bichon frises can live up to 18 or even 22 years old. But this high-spirited, bubbly bichon just happens to have that rare form of bladder cancer. The academic weight falls off my shoulders as I strap on the bigger emotional baggage. And I convince myself to keep my head up, so the tears will stay balanced at the tip of my eye. 

Hardships in college happen—they don’t wait for midterms to end. In fact, these troubles seem to come at the most inopportune times. Like the “I-just-purchased-five-Monster-Energy-drinks-to-pull-an-all-nighter-at-the-UGL” kind of inopportune times. And when you need the love and support of your family the most, the long distance—usually in the form of $60 roundtrip bus commutes—is just another hindrance.

So when you receive that phone call, finish a scathing argument, get struck with an illness or injury, or experience anything else that deeply troubles you, the self-questioning begins. How do I carry on throughout the day? How can I go back out on the quad, “smiling” and waving to my friends? How do I even pretend to listen to the rest of my lectures?

When time keeps ticking while your inner-clock has stopped, here’s a few comforting suggestions to keep in mind:

 It’s okay to cry—no really

Let it out, all of it. Don’t try to “tough it out”—that’s called suppressing your emotions, and it’s not healthy. Through the midst of your busy professional and academic careers, designate a time specifically to cry. Think of it as flushing away those mental toxins.

Talk to your friends

Friends do what they do best: support each other. Alone time is certainly needed when going through rough times. But all those buzzing questions and suffocating fears will be silenced by your friends, if you choose to let them out. They may give advice, or just let their silent, attentive presence do all the comforting. Either way, none of your friends want you to think you’re alone during this time.

Take a trip home for the weekend

It’s simple. Humans weren’t designed to excel at their best during their emotionally worst. We need time to recharge. Go home to the place that you feel most familiar and confident, the place where you can personally develop and grow. Spend time with family and bond together during this difficult scenario. A change in setting can really impact your healing process.

Don’t forget about the counseling center

If you absolutely can’t afford a trip home, the counseling center is always one call away. You may feel uncomfortable expressing your most personal concerns and emotions to a stranger.  But these experts constantly work with students—they’re ready with a list of resources, and they’re ready to just talk it out. You may use the counseling center once, or you may use it multiple times throughout the semester. Maybe you’ll never use it. Just know that the counseling center is always there for your benefit. Always.

Inform your teachers

If hardships are seriously affecting your academics, let your teachers know what’s going on. Even if the instructor doesn’t recognize you out the 200 faces during lecture, let him/her know that you’re dealing with a difficult situation and coping with it. It’s always good to establish relationships with teachers anyway.

Find another emotional outlet

Listen to music, draw, play an instrument, watch funny cat videos on YouTube. Do something that you like to do to keep your mind off the subject, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Mourning will become less draining if you keep yourself preoccupied with your favorite hobbies.

I’m going to try to remember these points as I spend one last weekend with my dog. 

I love you, Skipper. I’ll never forget you.