Best part of my job

Feb 20
Tina Veal, Director of Alumni Relations

As I gear up for next week's “to-do” list, I am looking forward to seeing old friends, meeting new ones and sharing the Illini Spirit! One of the greatest highlights of my job is meeting alumni near and far and next week I will be doing just that! The College of ACES Alumni Association often holds alumni events throughout the year to engage alumni with their alma mater, share college updates and bring ACES Alumni together.

Next week, I travel to Washington, D.C., for the “Big Ten Ag Alumni event” on Monday evening. There are more than 200 registered from University of Illinois, Michigan State University, The Ohio State University, Penn State University, Purdue University, University of Minnesota, University of Nebraska, University of Wisconsin and the newest members of the Big Ten -  Rutgers University and the University of Maryland. What a wonderful evening it will be to reconnect with our D.C. alumni and friends and celebrate agriculture with our Big 10 agricultural friends!

On Thursday evening, I will be close to home reconnecting with alumni in the Springfield area through an ACES in Places alumni event. Katheryne Rehberg, District 5 ACES Alumni Board member, is hosting an alumni event at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library. Dean Robert Hauser will be giving an update on the College of ACES. We will also recognize the heritage that Abraham Lincoln provided through the signing of the Morrill Act,  which was  signed into law in 1862 and shaped the mission of public higher education in the United States. The Morrill Act allocated 30,000 acres of Federal government land to each state to sell, the proceeds from which were used to establish public colleges.

The college and our alumni have much to be thankful for as graduates of our “land-grant” college and shaping us into who we are today! I look forward to seeing alumni near and far in the week ahead!

For the love of agriculture

Feb 20
Molly Singraber, Senior in ACES

It is crazy to think that in just a short week, March will be upon us. This semester seems to be flying by, and with all the events to look forward to, I do not see it slowing down any time soon. Luckily, March brings with it ExplorACES, St. Patrick’s Day, and the Women Changing the Face of Agriculture conference.

For the second year in a row, the Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow chapter (ACT) will be working with the Women Changing the Face of Agriculture (WCFA) conference to promote extraordinary opportunities for women in the agriculture industry. This conference will be held at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Ill., on March 8.

I have been fortunate to serve as the team leader for this event, and work closely with many inspirational women responsible for making positive changes within agriculture. The ACT teams are spearheading design efforts for promotional materials for the event, along with writing profiles of women who will be attending the event. Working alongside the dedicated leaders in our ACT chapter and the motivated leaders in the WCFA has made me even more excited about the opportunities within this industry. These women remind me that each day holds possibility and that hard work, passion, and drive go a long way.

Women Changing the Face of Agriculture

Spring fast approaching at the Plant Care Facility

Feb 13
Nathan Deppe, Plant Care Facility Coordinator
Days are getting longer and sunny intensity is increasing despite the less than balmy weather outside! For those of you that have experience working in greenhouses, you know how we pick up certain cues: Cues referring to spring’s approach right around the corner!

We are not the only ones to notice changes in weather. Researchers are gearing up for field season as we speak. This means we are noticing an increase in flats with various materials to be used as transplants. Bioenergy grasses follow suit prior to vegetables and other plants later this winter to early spring.

In addition, the Hort Club is prepping for their spring sale! On Saturday, Professor David Williams helped expedite their process by employing a mechanized potting machine. This helped speed the process of filling pots with soilless media prior to planting with transplants (see image). Now all these plants need are several months of warm sunny weather to make them marketable for sale!

The Bulletin

Feb 13
K.C. Ting, Head, Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering

The Agricultural and Biological Engineering (ABE) Department at the University of Illinois has a long tradition of encouraging effective communication among its members, alumni, and friends. One of the media that has been enjoyed by many people is the weekly bulletin. It started out as a posting of current happenings in the department. The purpose was to keep everyone well informed in a timely fashion about the news, events, activities, and action items. The intention was to publish an issue approximately every week. Many years ago, the bulletins were printed in hard copies and distribution was limited to (mostly) individual mail boxes in the department. Later, its distribution migrated to email, which made it possible to reach many more people in various destinations around the world.

Recently, in response to feedback from our readers, we decided to create a new look and name it The Bulletin. It will be published every two weeks on Wednesday. The first issue of The Bulletin was published on February 6, 2013. It contains information on award/scholarship applications, Monday brown bag topics, the I4 Seminar series, our monthly special coffee, graduate students defenses, Mark your Calendars, Spring Awards Banquet, Facebook (become a fan), and important dates to remember. It also announces the new Voices of Aces blog on the ACES website.

The Bulletin will continue to be distributed via email. In addition, it will be posted on our departmental website at If you are interested in receiving issues of The Bulletin every other Wednesday, please send your email address to Mary Schultze at Viewers can also access all issues of The Bulletin directly at

Not sure what career path to take? Do what you love!

Feb 12
Jean Drasgow, Director of Career Services

Since Valentine’s Day is this week, I think I need to write about love. I’m not going to talk about romantic-love, I’m going to talk about work-love. I often get asked by students, “Can you find me the career I can do with this degree that I can make the most money?” I sink down in my chair because I feel like I’m arranging a marriage based on money rather than love.

I regroup and start probing to determine what gives this student the most joy. I ask questions like, “What activities do you do that when you do them, time flies by? Or “What work do you do that leaves you exhausted, but feeling accomplished?” When the students start talking about what brings them joy, I’ll see changes in their expression. Their eyes will light up, they’ll have smiles on their faces, and their body posture opens up—similar changes anthropologists observe when an individual is speaking about the person in whom they are in love.

So I can tell you the careers with higher-than-average earning salaries, but will your heart race with excitement when you head to work each day? Will your eyes light up when you are talking about your work? If you cannot dance into work most days, you may not be doing work that you love. So for this Valentine’s Day, give yourself a gift of finding a career that you love so that you will love what you do!

happy valentines day

Good times…and not so good times

Feb 12
Kathryn Martensen, Assistant Dean and Director of Advising

We all go through ups and downs in life, and to help get through difficult times, I am inspired by a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr., that’s in a frame on the wall in my office. It says, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” Good advice plus a delicious chocolate chip cookie from Bevier Café—that’s my recipe for staying strong when the going gets tough!

Painting the barn red

Feb 7
Marise Robbins-Forbes, ACES Director of Development, Crop Science and NRES
I was reminded this week that being a part of the ACES family doesn’t end with graduation or even with retirement. Several former students of much beloved agronomy professor, Dr. A.W. Burger (taught from 1953 to 1986), came back to campus to announce their fundraising initiative to renovate a Turner Hall classroom honoring Dr. Burger and his wife Phyllis. Flying, driving and skyping from four states, Mike and Cara Hardinger, Bill Kirk, Jerry Brookhart and wife Mary, Mark and Becky Baxa, Harold Reetz, Barb Schumacher, Sue Gray and Larry Hageman shared stories of how this dedicated teacher and his wife shaped their careers and impacted their lives. Through the classroom and through leadership of Field and Furrow, Dr. Burger’s high standards, frank guidance and passion for excellence made their mark. As Dr. Burger would say, we “painted the barn red!”
Dr. Burger honored

That was fun

Feb 7
Walt Hurley, Professor of Animal Sciences

One of the units that I use in the lactation biology course is about mastitis, an inflammation of the mammary gland. The unit consists of a lecture to help students frame their thoughts about the topic, extensive online background information (the “book”) and two online mastitis case studies that they can solve on their own. These are great case studies of mastitis in dairy cattle herds that were developed by Dr. Dawn Morin in Vet Medicine.

Few of the students have a background involving dairy cattle, lactation, or mastitis. To help them, we use an exceptional learning resource – the dairy farm. Students enjoy visiting the farms and it helps them put into context the basic concepts of dairy cattle management and facilities as they relate to mastitis. Students rotate among eight stations in groups while working to complete an assignment in which they relate the new information and each station to the online cases that they had previously completed.

Through this activity, they practice their vocabulary, gain a better understanding of underlying principles of mastitis, apply their on-site learning to the cases, analyze the facilities as they relate to mastitis, and evaluate the new information with respect to the cases. And, all that happens while bonding with their groups and learning from each other. What do they have to say about this adventure? “That was fun!”

This is only the beginning. Wait until you see what they are up to next.

Walt Hurley's Lab

Famous in ACES

Feb 6
Claire Benjamin, Senior in ACES

This week, I’ve felt famous. I had a literary feature article published in the News-Gazette on Sunday about being the last generation on my family farm. As if that wasn’t neat enough, I’ve received a tremendous response from my College of ACES professors, coworkers and friends. I’ve been overwhelmed with kind words, thoughtful emails, and even extra copies of the article. 

In the College of ACES, we are more than just an academic community. We are a family, and this week has made me realize that I couldn’t have chosen better.

Claire Benjamin

More than winning

Feb 5
Jennifer Shike, Director for Communications and Marketing

Running out of gas. Winning Louisville. Placing a class backwards. Meeting their spouse. Judging cattle in the bitter cold. Practicing oral reasons in the van. Throwing the coach in the swimming pool. Creating memories that would last a lifetime.

I couldn’t help but laugh along as students and alumni shared stories from their time participating on University of Illinois livestock and meats judging teams last Saturday night at their annual reunion. My husband Dan was looking forward to honoring the 2002 team, the first team that he coached by himself as a graduate student in the Department of Animal Sciences. Not only was this team extremely talented and motivated, but they also marked a year of change for the livestock judging team program.

In preparation for his introductions, Dan spent two hours looking up how the team placed at every contest. And when he met with the team before the banquet, not one of them could remember what awards they won. Now this wasn’t because they didn’t win any – they were one of the most successful teams in recent history and won the coveted year-end award. However, what they remembered and spent their time talking about were the friendships they made, the miles they traveled, and the things they learned along the way. Needless to say, Dan changed his introduction.

In the College of ACES, there are so many opportunities to gain experiences like these – experiences not remembered by winning or losing (though we do quite a bit of winning around here!), but experiences measured by friendships and lessons learned.

Illinois Judging Teams Banquet