Coming down with “senioritis”

Jan 24
Claire Benjamin, Senior in ACES

Everyone knows that being a freshman is scary. They have to make new friends, navigate a huge campus, and adjust to college life. What everyone fails to reveal, is that being a senior is scarier.

Suddenly sand is running through the hourglass while the job applications start piling up. In college, senioritis takes on a new meaning: the fear one will not find a job before graduation.

But looking back at my time here, I feel prepared to take the next step. I know that I can make new friends, just as I did in all my ACES and non-ACES classes. I know I am prepared to navigate the global market because of the skills and lessons I learned here. The best part about graduating from this college is knowing that I have a support system here as I adjust to becoming (dare I say it?) an adult.

Claire Benjamin

Shiny shovel

Jan 24
K.C. Ting, Head, Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering

I attended the annual banquet of Illinois Land Improvement Contractors of America (ILICA) in Springfield, Ill., on January 12. There I had the distinct pleasure of accepting, on behalf of the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering (ABE), this year’s ILICA Shiny Shovel award.

The award was given in recognition of the long-term and very productive partnership between ILICA and ABE. The partnership was initiated more than 40 years ago by Professor Ralph Hay, and our collaborative relationship has only continued to strengthen. In recent years, Professors Kent Mitchell and Richard Cooke have been very active in assisting ILICA in the development and delivery of educational programs for its members.

Barry Dickerson, Senior Director of the College of ACES Office of Advancement was also in attendance. Dickerson has been very effective in working with ILICA in advancing the goals of the College of ACES. ILICA has been a major contributor to the teaching, research, and extension programs in ACES. Their members have donated a large amount of expertise, equipment use, and operation/material costs to construct research and training field sites for ABE, as well as make landscape improvements on the ACES campus. 

The invitation to this year’s ILICA annual banquet was already a real treat for me. The warm hospitality of the hosts and the delightful conversation at the dinner table were most enjoyable. Throughout the evening, it was obvious ILICA and the U of I consider their strong relationship a mutually beneficial experience they plan to continue.

I did not know I was going to receive the Shiny Shovel Award until the chair of the award committee called me to approach the podium after the dinner. When I returned to my table with the award, my ILICA friends asked me with a smile, “Were you surprised?” At that moment, I realized I was immersed in a shiny example of great university-industry partnership.

ACES faces everywhere

Jan 23
Bill Simmons, Assistant Dean of Academic Programs

I recently attended a professional conference in Saint Louis where scientists and industry representatives from the North Central region gathered to share information on some very specific topics… namely “weed science.”

Weed Science is a small, but important part of what we do in ACES. Weed science incorporates genetics, plant physiology, biology, ecology and the more applied aspects of controlling weeds in agronomic systems. Feeding a hungry world requires efficient and sustainable agricultural techniques and our graduates are in the midst of this important professional work.

At the meeting, it was my pleasure to host a graduate student “quiz bowl contest” where a team from ACES finished second (and have vowed to “win it all” next year). Some Illinois ACES undergraduates were in attendance and won awards in the research poster contest.  As the meeting continued, it struck me how many ACES grads and current students populated this meeting with distinction. Young, mid-career, and yes, old.  They were everywhere!

Society President,  ACES grad; NC director,  ACES grad; Resident Education chair, ACES grad; Industry Vice Chair, ACES grad; Finance and Policy chair, ACES grad. Many gainfully employed industry scientists obtained an ACES undergraduate or graduate degree. They are looking for the next wave of ACES grads as their companies hire tomorrow’s leaders. I think you get the picture.
An ACES education puts you in excellent position to becoming a professional leader. Multiply this one example across the various subject matter topics in the College of ACES and you see that there are ACES faces everywhere! Have I mentioned that I love working in ACES?

Running in sleet

Jan 21
Jean Drasgow, Director of Career Services

I started on a three mile run on Sunday at about 11:30 am. It was 25 degrees and windy so I was going to take an ‘out and back’ route that was mostly protected. About three-fourths of a mile into my run it started to precipitate, light drops, nothing too major. Then, a mile into my run, the precipitation turned into full-blown sleet. I could have turned back and shortened my run, but I would have been disappointed in myself for not reaching my three-mile goal, so I decided to push through. 

Running in sleet was fine at first; but by my return leg, I had a slight hill to climb. Normally, the hill is inconsequential but I was struggling to get traction on the asphalt slope. I moved over to the shoulder of the road to gain traction on the rocks and grass. I normally avoid the shoulder because my ankles seem to turn more easily on choppy terrain, but I decided given the circumstances it was the better choice. On my run, I also encountered a four-way stop with cars coming from two directions having difficulty stopping because of the slick roads. I kept checking my surroundings, looking at my feet to make sure I would land without twisting my ankle and up and around to gage the traffic hazards. I noticed that running in sleet could be challenging, even hazardou,s but the chink, chink, chink sound of the sleet hitting the ground and the ever-growing glistening scenery gave me an experience in nature that I hadn’t had before.

I do not want to give the impression that I am a hardcore crazy runner. One look at me and you would know that I run so I do not feel as guilty when I eat ice cream. By now you may be asking, “What does running have to do with career advice? Running in sleet is like navigating a career in rough times. You have a career goal and at some point you will need to answer for yourself, “Is this goal too tough? Should I keep going? Do I push through for the satisfaction or do I cut my losses and try another day?” You have to use your best judgment. By deciding to keep running, I faced some challenges which I had to navigate and adjust. I did not have a fast run, but I still finished it.

Sometimes if you try a challenging career/job/major, you may struggle with it. You may have to adjust and do things that are out of your comfort zone (like running on the shoulder or moving to a different state). During your career you will also need to keep aware of the environment around you and stay relevant (aka avoid becoming roadkill). But by doing things out of your comfort zone, you will be able to experience things you have never imagined. For instance, you may not ever know you like living in Texas unless you push yourself to try it. Who knew I would like running in sleet?

ACES announces Award of Merit recipients

Jan 16
Tina Veal, Director of Alumni Relations
The College of ACES Alumni Association is proud to announce the 2013 ACES Award of Merit Recipients.

James R. Fraley
Livestock Program Director
Illinois Farm Bureau
M.S. ‘87 Animal Science
Cooksville, IL

Douglas L. Hixon
Professor and Head, Department of Animal Science
University of Wyoming
B.S. ’68 Animal Science
M.S. ’70 Animal Science
Ph.D. ’80 Animal Science
Laramie, WY

Lynette L. Marshall
President and CEO
The University of Iowa Foundation
BS '83 Agricultural Science
MS ’00 Educational Policy Studies
North Liberty, IA

Tami Craig Schilling
Director of Strategic Operations & Communications
BS ’90 Agricultural Communications
Okawville, IL

David D. Shockey
Attorney at Law
Shockey & Cox, LLC
BS '80 Agricultural Science
Ph.D. ’83 JD of Law
Riddott, IL

Award winners will be recognized during the Award of Merit Luncheon and at the annual College of ACES Funk Banquet on Monday, April 15, 2013. Watch for more information on the ACES Alumni website in early February 2013 to register for the ACES Award of Merit Luncheon at Congratulations to these outstanding ACES Alumni!

Looking back on LeaderShape®

Jan 16
Jason Emmert, Assistant Dean, Academic Programs

Last week was one of the best weeks of my professional life (O.K., my personal life as well, aside from family!). I had the honor of serving as a cluster facilitator for the University of Illinois winter break session of LeaderShape®, a 6-day leadership institute. I saw my involvement as an opportunity to learn more about an event which I routinely encourage students to attend. However, I was somewhat skeptical about spending so much time away from the office and from home.

Had I only known what an amazing experience it would be, I would have begged to be a facilitator years ago! First, our students are amazing. There were 62 U of I students (including 11 students from the College of ACES), and everyone was open to building a great learning community. Much of LeaderShape® centers around developing a personal vision for the future, geared toward service and truly changing the world. This is not easy, but it is worth it. I believe everyone ended the week with an amazing vision, but also with specific short-term goals for making a difference now.

There is so much more I can say, but I’ll end with my strong endorsement for this program. If you ever have the opportunity to attend or help facilitate, I say go for it!


Fading freshmen frenzy

Jan 15
Bill Simmons, Assistant Dean of Academic Programs

Campus is buzzing again as our ACES students have returned from Winter Break to begin the spring semester. Among those returning are about 500 freshmen who now have a semester of experience and a “different look.” Gone is the far away gaze of students coming to campus for the first time trying to figure out the new college life.

Fall semester is a time of excitement, adaptation, and discovery, and now, with that behind them, they can dig in and enjoy their academic growth and personal development over the next few years.  As it turns out, ACES is a smaller community embedded on a larger campus. Our students can seek out the comforts of small classes, clubs, study groups, and learning communities while retaining access to the hustle and bustle of a vibrant Big Ten campus. What could be better? Build upon your fall success and join a club, work in a laboratory, or look into a study abroad opportunity.

To the high school seniors that received an invitation to join us next fall, you have an opportunity of a lifetime to become part of this special group. We look forward to working with you and preparing you for your transition to the University of Illinois. I, along with other faculty and staff in the College of ACES, enjoy participating in the phases of your academic growth from matriculation to graduation. Have I mentioned that I love working in ACES? Have a great start to your spring semester.

The return to Champaign-Urbana

Jan 14
Molly Singraber, Senior in ACES

Even with the cold winter chill welcoming back the student body, there is a buzz on campus that marks the excitement of spring semester. To me, spring semester differs slightly from fall semester in that there is an air of possibility that comes along with spring. It could be the promises of new year’s resolutions that lead to this feeling, or it could be the start of a semester that ends in summer vacation. Either route brings out a warming feeling to a wintery campus.

With this being my last semester on campus, I am looking forward to embracing time with my friends. I am excited to catch up with fellow ACES students and hear about their study-abroad experiences, winter break activities, and new courses. The comfort of proximity is something I will undoubtedly miss upon graduation.

The most stimulating part of returning to campus is the new coursework that comes along with a new semester. I am particularly looking forward to taking my first agricultural education class this semester. As a student in agricultural communications, I believe that honing my leadership skills will enhance my ability to work as a successful communicator. There is nothing like sitting down with a fresh syllabus to ignite the creativity in a student!

This semester is off to a great start and it is just the beginning. Only time will tell where the spring takes me, but the possibilities are looking bright!

ACES Campus

A closer look at the Plant Care Facility

Jan 14
Nathan Deppe, Plant Care Facility Coordinator

Some of you out there might be asking about the Plant Care Facility. Certain questions like: What is it? Who uses it? When is it used? These are all good questions of which deserve all good answers.

The Plant Care Facility is comprised of two large greenhouse complexes used mainly for agricultural and horticultural research and academics. The Turner Hall Greenhouse is the oldest facility built in the 1960s, boasting seven ranges of rooms for plant growth (see photo below). The Plant Sciences Laboratory Greenhouse (the flagship of our operation) is located mere steps east of the Turner Hall Greenhouse. Sophisticated environmental controls allow us to provide exceptional conditions for a wide variety of research conducted at this facility. ACES faculty and staff utilize our resources daily to meet their goals and objectives. 

We truly are a 24/7, 365 days/year operation dedicated to promoting and enhancing plant growth and development. Next time, I’ll fill you in on the types of plants and research conducted at the Plant Care Facility.

University of Illinois Plant Care Facility

Leaving New Zealand

Jan 12
Ellen Reeder, Senior in ACES

I just finished my last day in New Zealand and I’m feeling as though I never want to leave this beautiful place. Tonight we had dinner on a sailboat and it was definitely my second favorite part of the trip, behind biking through wine country.

Tonight we had wind in our sails as we watched the sunset and laughed about the good times we’ve had together in the last two weeks. It’s hard to believe that just two weeks ago most of the people in this group were strangers to me. Sure we had the common ACES bond, but that was it. It’s amazing to know that these are people who I’ll call some of the best friends I have made in college. They’ve been the wind in my sail for the past two weeks. They’ve made this trip the experience of a lifetime and I owe them for helping me try new things while experiencing a new country.

It’s hard to believe that soon I’ll be back on campus on the other side of the world. After this experience, I’m ready to hit the books, work hard, and be the wind in someone else’s sail.


Ellen Sailing