Roundtable roundup

Jan 11
Richard Vogen, Director, Planning and Research Development

For over a decade now, organizations that have public policy interests related to Illinois agriculture have met together in the Illinois Agricultural Legislative Roundtable – to seek common ground on state and federal issues of importance to the community that makes up agriculture, broadly speaking, in the Prairie State.

On January 9, the Roundtable convened for its annual winter meeting, hosted by the Illinois Farm Bureau in Bloomington.  With the general election and veto sessions now over, the attention is now on issues that confront the new General Assembly in Springfield and the new Congress in Washington.  Everybody knows that money is tight, so the issues going forward are a lot like the ones left on the table – the “farm bill” debate in Washington, the pension debacle in Springfield, and government spending and deficits at all levels.  Also coming off the past year’s drought, the critically low water level in the Mississippi River, threatening navigation to move plant food north or commodities south, has risen to a top-of-mind issue, while all eyes are on the sky for the next growing season.  Industry groups and policy makers have coalesced with the Army Corp of Engineers to work on ways to keep the river open as long as possible.

The main topic of Roundtable discussion this year concentrated on issues related to the livestock industry in Illinois. While economics may argue for growth of local food animal production in states like Illinois – closer to markets and inputs – the Illinois livestock industry faces significant headwinds from many quarters. Not least of the current issues is animal care. Janeen Johnson, associate professor of animal sciences at the University of Illinois, explained to the Roundtable that her research shows how some of the issues related to animal well-being in livestock production are being driven by the wrong forces. As the public is increasingly distant from livestock production, public attitudes toward the industry are shaped by influences often charged with emotion. Science is incredibly valuable for testing assumptions that may lead to unintended consequences in the public policy arena, and Roundtable members turn to the University of Illinois to seek scientifically sound solutions to challenging issues.

The next Illinois Agricultural Legislative Roundtable is scheduled for June 12.

Janeen Johnson
Janeen Johnson, associate professor of animal sciences at the University of Illinois, spoke at the Roundtable.

Check it out

Jan 9
Leann Ormsby, Assistant Dean of Information Technology and Communications Services
If you haven’t yet seen the latest issue of ACES@Illinois, be sure to check it out at This winter 2013 issue of the magazine is full of inspiring stories about ACES students, faculty, staff, and alumni and how our college’s teaching, research, and outreach programs are benefiting people in Illinois and around the world. I’m always so impressed and humbled when I read about the passion and dedication our ACES family has to make a difference in the world. Go ACES!
ACESatIllinois cover

Bridging the transfer experience

Jan 8
Holly Herrera, Coordinator for Transfer Recruitment
I had a transfer student stop by my office yesterday to just say hi and it totally made my day. I have the unique opportunity of developing relationships with prospective transfer students from across the nation and I become that friendly face once they arrive to the University of Illinois campus. I was a transfer student years ago, and I didn’t have that one person that I could contact for a school-related question (or even questions about Champaign-Urbana). Coming to the University of Illinois can be a bit frightening; it is a huge campus with more than 40,000 students. But having that one person to check in with makes all the difference. I am glad to be that person for hundreds of ACES transfer students every semester.

What do you want to GAIN in 2013?

Jan 7
Jean Drasgow, Director of Career Services

Instead of thinking of what you want to lose in the in New Year (i.e. unwanted pounds, bad habits etc.), I suggest thinking about what you can gain. Yes, that is right. I said the four letter word, G-A-I-N.

In terms of moving your career forward, there is an unlimited list of items you could seek to add. For example, you may want to add a mentor or two to your repertoire to navigate the professional world. Perhaps you could gain a marketable skill such as gaining the ability to create a mobile app. Degrees or certifications are also desirable to gain.

Don’t forget to add experiential learning in 2013. Experiential learning manifests in many forms such as job shadowing, studying abroad, volunteering, completing an internship or performing a job. As you can see, it is desirable to gain rather than lose in the world of careers.

Unlike extra pounds and bad habits, when you gain professional skills, abilities and knowledge, you want to flaunt it rather than hide it. Be sure to update your resume and digital footprint to highlight your progress. In sum, a good career New Year’s resolution is to target what you are missing or determine a weakness and add experiences to enhance your portfolio. Once completed, be sure to document the progress.

First class PSM in TSM

Jan 4
K.C. Ting, Head, Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering

One of my exciting tasks as a department head is to take part in recognizing and celebrating the degree completion of our students. Many graduates from our Technical Systems Management (TSM) undergraduate and graduate programs participated in the College of ACES graduate reception in the Illini Union on December 14, 2012. It was a historical event for our department. We graduated the first group of students from our new TSM graduate program. Four students completed their degree requirements for Professional Science Masters (PSM) in TSM.

Our TSM undergraduate program has been very successful in educating technically competent managers for agriculture, mechanization, construction, food, environment, and energy systems. As of fall 2012, we had 201 students enrolled in the undergraduate program. The development of a graduate program in TSM was initiated over 10 years ago. In fall 2011, the brand new master degree program in TSM enrolled seven students for the first time. Three students were pursuing their master of science degrees and four were in the PSM degree option. The degree completion of the four TSM graduate students marked a new era of the graduate education in our department. Dr. Joe Harper has been providing outstanding leadership in developing and coordinating of the TSM graduate program. Congratulations to our first class PSM in TSM!

A more inclusive ACES in 2013

Jan 4
Jesse Thompson, Assistant Dean, Academic Programs

As we move forward into 2013, the ACES student body and campus, like our nation, continues to grow increasingly diverse. It is important that we continue to promote programs and attitudes that encourage cultural pluralism and dispel some of the uncomfortable feelings that we all tend to have about people whose heritage or physical appearance is different. That means that we, as a community of student learners and professional educators, need to come together to develop ways to expand our multicultural perspectives.

Inclusive Illinois, an initiative lead by the Office of the Chancellor, is one of the ways that the campus has sought to recognize and value the changing population on our campus of racial and ethnic minorities, international students, sexual orientation, and people with disabilities. Inclusive Illinois also seeks to help us recognize that diverse backgrounds and experiences influence how we learn together and succeed as a university community.

We seek to help our students, through team-based projects, workplace experiences, travel abroad, and leadership activities in both classroom and non-classroom settings, gain a better understanding of those factors which will be critical for their success in this increasingly diverse and global job market. If we are successful, current students will recognize that each culture has something positive to contribute, and as graduates, they will work together to find solutions to this ever-changing society and global workforce.

ACES in the Dominican Republic

Jan 4
Meredith Blumthal, Director of ACES Education Abroad Program

One of my favorite parts of my job as the Director of Education Abroad for the College of ACES is traveling to the Dominican Republic with my freshman discovery course. We are currently in the Dominican Republic and will be here until January 12. The class is a great mix of students from all backgrounds – urban and rural, representing six different ACES majors. We left January 2 and already have overcome the challenges of travel – airline mechanical issues caused major flight delays which meant we spent way too much time in the Miami airport, but we made it!

Students are learning firsthand about what it means to work and travel globally –even though we arrived at 1 a.m., we still had to be up bright and early for our briefing at the U.S. Embassy. We will be spending our time here in Dominican Republic learning about agricultural and food systems.  Specifically, our program includes learning about sugar cane processing, the entire coffee supply chain, and avocado and banana export processing.

It’s also important to understand the culture of a country if you want to work globally so we will spend time learning about and experiencing Dominican culture from our partners at ISA University in Santiago, which has been our partner for many years.  Although this is only my second time leading this program, ACES has been coming to the Dominican Republic for so many years that many people remember past student groups. Sometimes we even find Illinois memorabilia at their offices from past programs.

The coffee roaster we visit is a great example, as the folks at Columbia Street Roaster in Champaign helped connect our program with the roaster here in the Dominican Republic.  As a result, they always receive us with a warm welcome.  It’s a great example of how global agricultural is in our own backyard.  And after all my travels and experiences, one thing I have learned is that in international agricultural “it is a small world after all.”

The students don’t quite know it yet, but not only are they going to have a great learning experience here in the Dominican Republic, they are also building lifelong friendships with each other.  I have seen it so many times before.  There is something about our short-term study abroad programs in ACES that builds great friendships. It might have to do with traveling together for 10 or more days as you really get to know each other well. That doesn’t just go for the students, it’s a great opportunity for me to get to know them as well. And that’s a great privilege for me.

Sharing what they learned

Jan 3
Walt Hurley, Professor of Animal Sciences

The game show host wore a sports jacket, jeans, and a HUGE red bow tie. The water chemist came dressed in a large rubber apron and goggles, while the farmer sported a more traditional John Deere hat. The fish did double duty as a scientist. And the cow, call her 9017, had on white slacks and a white top, both covered with large black spots. Her headband with pink ears looked more like those of a cat, but one ear had a large yellow tag with her number. During that game show, this group of students educated their audience about the sources and effects of man-made estrogenic substances in the environment.

In another group, students took on the role of an animal species and developed a short poem about the effects of environmental estrogen on their character. Still other groups developed skits that examined management of dairy farm wastewater, bioconversion of estrogen in the environment, detection of environmental estrogen, the regulation of dairy wastewater, and other related topics.

These students in ANSC 498 – Integrating Animal Sciences – taught their fellow classmates, a few faculty, and other visitors, what they learned after spending the semester working on a project focused on the excretion of estrogenic hormones in wastewater from dairy farms. The project touched on reproductive physiology, dairy cattle management, animal waste handling, environmental bioconversion of hormones, estrogen as an environmental contaminant and its effects on animals, and policies and laws associated with farm wastewater.

Challenged to develop a skit to demonstrate what they had learned about their topic areas and the project as a whole, these students provided a glimpse into what they learned and how they think about their topics. As their teacher, I am continually, and always very pleasantly, amazed at how creative our students can be in sharing their knowledge when given open-ended opportunities such as this.

Stepping out of your square

Jan 3
Ellen Reeder, Senior in ACES

I’ve been in New Zealand for three days now and I have absolutely fallen in love with the country. Eating peaches right off the tree, hiking around the Southern Alps, and getting to know some of the most genuine farmers I’ve ever met – this opportunity to study abroad is amazing.

I think that one of the family orchard owners, Simon, said it best when he told us, “You’ve got to get out of your square, mates.” He said that he frequently takes his orchard employees to neighboring farms to learn new practices because it’s important to learn from others. I think this is just what studying abroad feels like.

I’ll admit, I was a bit nervous when I left snowy Illinois for more than 24 hours of traveling to sunny New Zealand. But let me tell you – this opportunity has been everything I hoped for, plus more. Sometimes stepping out of your square, or box, can be difficult, but it’s one of the most important lessons to learn. If you never step out of your comfort zone and try new things, you’ll never learn about other countries or experience a new culture. Opportunities are always near, don’t be afraid to knock on the door and step out of your square, especially with a study abroad experience in the College of ACES.

New Year excitement

Jan 3
Doug Parrett, Interim Head of the Department of Animal Sciences

The start of 2013 brings a lot of excitement for the Department of Animal Sciences in ACES. For seniors, it will be the last semester of classes with exciting career opportunities ahead. For other undergraduates, there is continued learning and experiences that will be challenging, fun and hopefully, enriching. For the many great teachers in Animal Sciences, there is the excitement of meeting new students and engaging them in our many classes.

I have spent the past five months serving as the Interim Head of the Department of Animal Sciences, but I also have kept my teaching assignments. Teaching is the most important mission of our great university and the most rewarding for most professors. ACES students are academically strong and very motivated, which make them a lot of fun to teach. I look forward to the interaction and learning experiences ahead in 2013 with our Animal Sciences students. Students who engage the learning process gain the most from classes and are the most fun to teach!