Eat like a college student

Sep 11
Stephanie Henry, ACES Media Specialist

August was a big month for our family. Just a few weeks ago, we packed up crates of dorm supplies, guitars and video games, and clothes. And just like that, my oldest son left home for his first year of college.

I told you it was big. 

We dropped him off at his dorm on a Thursday. And when I talked to him on Saturday, I, of course, had a million questions for him. How’s your roommate? Are you having fun? What have you been eating?

His roommate’s great. Yes, he’s having fun. And, his dining hall serves all-you-can-eat pasta—his favorite—and offers every kind of bread and deli meat for sandwiches—his second favorite—so the kid is set for the next nine months.

That puts my mind at ease that he will be well-fed during his busy days of classes and paper-writing.

If you think about it, that transition from family meals at home that were probably planned and prepared by someone else, to suddenly being on your own and choosing when and where to eat, can be a big one for a young adult.  

Researchers in ACES have actually been studying the eating behavior of college students, especially looking at whether college students are food secure—do they have access to food and do they have enough food?

And, recently, they have even looked at how much food students waste and why they waste food. Previous research has shown that young adults in the 18- to 24-year-old age group tend to waste the most food. So ACES researchers wanted to know why.

One of the biggest reasons they found is that maybe it’s just a stage—that transitionary time of young adulthood, especially being a young adult in college. All those lessons about planning and shopping for your own meals, probably haven’t been learned yet or haven’t been necessary. Also, many colleges don’t even have a place to store leftovers. 

And college students who have access to an all-you-can-eat dining hall aren’t necessarily aware of how much food they are really wasting.

So ACES researchers are working to bring more awareness of the issue of food waste to young adults. Find out more about what they learned about college students’ eating habits in this recent ACES News story.

Oh, the places you’ll go with ACES

Sep 7
Tyler Angus, Sophomore in Agricultural and Biological Engineering

Over the winter break of my freshman year, I went on a study abroad trip to the Dominican Republic with my ACES 298 class. Something that was never on my radar when the semester began ended up becoming hands down the most memorable experience of that year.

As a freshman going into engineering, I was a little overwhelmed at the course load that I had signed up for and planned on just taking it easy with activities for my first year. About six weeks into the semester, one of my professors pulled me aside after class one day and convinced me to enroll in the class, saying that he thought I would really enjoy the experience. Saying yes was probably my best choice of the semester.

After half a semester of classes learning about various agricultural systems across the Caribbean, it was finally time to head to the island. In the Dominican Republic, our group made our way north across the country starting in Santo Domingo and departing from Santiago. During the trip we made stops at various different operations in the DR and learned about how they ran agricultural systems in a tropical climate. From an organic banana farm that operated year-round and produced its own fertilizer on-site to a cacao plantation where we got to see the entire process of transforming a cacao pod into a bar of chocolate, it was an amazing experience. Coming from a grain production background and  getting to communicate with the local growers and learn about how they overcame some of the same problems but with completely different methods was something that I will never forget.

Looking back on the trip, I am so thankful for that little nudge from my professor to go on this trip. It is something that I will always look back on with a smile and I can’t wait to get up and go somewhere new this year.

Something bigger than yourself

Aug 31
Jennifer Shike, Director for Communications and Marketing

When I think back to my undergrad days, some of my best memories are related to the teams and clubs I was a part of during my four years in college. There's just something about being a part of something bigger than yourself. I am so impressed by the variety of RSOs and clubs offered to students in the College of ACES. Regina Cortez, a graduate student in Food Science and Human Nutrition, is the president/founder of a new RSO in ACES - ACES IliniTech. I asked her to share a little more about this new opportunity for ACES students.

Who are ACES IlliniTech and what do we do?
ACES IlliniTech is a student RSO that is focused on agricultural and food technology and entrepreneurship. Our goal is to provide ACES students with the tools, network, and skills to become entrepreneurs. We also want to build relationships with startup companies, especially those in Research Park. 

We are the sister club to FaculTech, a similarly functioning student organization at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Rehovot campus, focused on the same issues with the same goals. We will be working closely with FaculTech by having joint events and will eventually have a student exchange to meet the members of FaculTech and also to get a better understanding of the tech/startup scene in Israel, which is quite robust. 

As of right now, there are over 400 startups in Israel that are solely focused on agricultural and food technology and we would like to understand what it is they do and how they do it. Our hope is that within the next couple of years, ACES students will be able to take all of the things they learn in their classes and apply it to something innovative and create a startup. We want ACES students to have success in this way. This type of programming has been offered in the College of Engineering and the College of Business, but not yet in the College of ACES so we are hoping to fill that gap!

For more information, contact Regina Cortez.

Funding your Startup

How will you spend a month of doing?

Aug 30
Judy Mae Bingman, 4-H Media & Marketing

There is a difference.
On Purpose. With Purpose.

Many of us do great things with purpose. We are amazing employees. We conquer difficult tasks. We study with purpose, work with purpose, live with purpose, but how much of what we do with purpose is on purpose? There is a difference.

On purpose means there was a conscious choice, a deliberate decision with mindful clarity to do something, to be something. On purpose actions are driven by choice. How many of the great things you do are by your choice?

I’ve lived life with purpose, I think my friends and colleagues would agree. My superpower is seeing what needs to be done and doing it, with passion and excitement and enthusiasm. I am a storyteller at heart, and the 4-H story is so important to tell.

My next developmental step (yes, at this age, I’m still learning and growing into the person I want to be) is to live life more on purpose.

Don’t get me wrong, it takes both on purpose and with purpose to be successful. You can do things deliberately on purpose yet without purpose and fail miserably. To be successful and happy, it takes both.

In September, Illinois 4-H members will be doing good things on purpose in the national “30 Days of Doing” initiative. Starting September 1, 4-H members will purposefully choose actions and tasks that build up their families and communities.

I invite you to join us in 30 Days of Doing ... the choice is yours.

Photo by Clark Tibbs, Unsplash

Students: Be flexible and willing to learn

Aug 29
Krista Swanson , Agricultural and Consumer Economics Research Specialist

Although I never changed my selected degree in crop sciences as an undergrad, my interests and career plans were influenced as I learned more through classes, internship experiences, and staff and faculty mentors. As a student in ACES, I had many great opportunities to evolve, grow, and seek direction on how I could combine my strengths and interests.

During my last year as an undergraduate, I was feeling I was at a crossroads and wasn’t sure which path forward to take. A conversation with an advisor in ACES Career Services led me to a graduate program in ACE, where I quickly found a new realm where I could apply my passion for agriculture, my interest in crop agronomics, and my math skills.

After graduate school I spent one year working in agriculture tax and accounting and more than six years evaluating loan portfolio risk for an agriculture lender. Today, I have the unique opportunity of working with some of the same people I had as professors and mentors as a graduate student. While I have greatly appreciated every step of my career to date, my current role consistently peaks my interest while utilizing my strengths and my educational background.

My biggest piece of advice for current students is be flexible and willing to learn. Take time to evaluate your career plans if you begin to feel drawn towards something new. As a student in ACES you have many opportunities, let those shape your interests and your career plans.

There’s a first time for everything

Aug 28
Jessa Barnard, Director of ACES Study Abroad

Three years ago this month, a close mentor of mine (and now predecessor) invited me to consider leading a section of the ACES freshmen discovery courses which included a study abroad program over winter break.  Thinking about how I’d never been to that country and certainly wasn’t a subject matter expert in the field of study, I felt severely inadequate and underqualified to venture into this unknown territory.  Well, you know how this ends. I decided to take the challenge, hoping the reward would be similar to what I had witnessed in previous programs I had co-led through my role as experiential learning coordinator in the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics. 

The reward I’m referring to is a front row seat to students’ lives being changed, worldviews being challenged, and comfort zones being stretched.  Research is more evident than ever that international and cultural experiences are leading to students being better prepared for the workplace, specifically in a global workforce.  Study abroad experiences during the freshman year are proving to lead to higher college retention rates, and a better understanding of a student’s role in the ACES ecosystem.

This fall semester, the College of ACES will be offering three separate freshman year winter break experience programs led by academic staff and instructors who play an influential role in our students’ lives.  Students will have an opportunity to delve into the topics of agricultural production systems and environmental sustainability in the region of Latin America. They will learn about history, culture, and even employment policies. Then they will get to travel to either Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, or Panama, to see for themselves how farms operate, policies govern, people form communities, and so much more. It is from these experiences that we continually see students making radical decisions to engage in the international community, build relationships and networks, and learn more than they ever could have inside the four walls of a classroom on campus.

I imagine these students feel much like I did three years ago: inexperienced, unsure about the unknown, anxious, and excited.  I’m so thankful that my mentor invited me to lead that program to Guatemala three years ago; for it is through that journey that I experienced growth and challenge.  I am hopeful and excited for our freshmen students that are about to embark on a journey of their own.

ACES Study Abroad Experience in Guatemala

The power of a t-shirt

Aug 27
Maggie Sweppy, Senior in Agricultural Education

It never fails – if I wear Illini apparel in public, someone is going to strike up a conversation. 

The summer before transferring to the University of Illinois, I worked as a waitress. The restaurant I worked at was a small, homey place that had a customer base composed of “regulars,” people that come every week and some every day. As such, I got to know many customers rather well and polite small talk turned into genuine conversation. These customers were invested in my future just like a family friend or a neighbor. At some point, every single one asked which university I was going to attend after community college. When I responded with the University of Illinois, their reaction was always the same. Some were alumni and others were sports fans (faithful fans right?) but regardless of their affiliation, they were always positive.

The genuine excitement of people I barely knew caught me off guard the first few times, but then I came to expect it. When I began wearing Illini apparel, these interactions became more common. Despite the positive buzz around the university, I still felt nervous transferring to such a big university and doubted it was have any semblance of a family feel.

Now as a senior, I can say unequivocally that I was wrong. I should have trusted all the conversations I had over the course of the summer. The University of Illinois and more specifically, the College of ACES, is a close knit community ready to welcome new students. It’s one of the most welcoming, professional environments I have ever been a part of. As I begin my senior year, things have come full circle, because now I am the one striking up conversations with strangers in Illini apparel. Soon too they will know the power of a t-shirt.

The gift of time

Aug 23
Marla Todd, Associate Director of Advancement Communications

“Do things for everybody!” Kathy Wessels shared this piece of advice from her late father, Warren Wessels, during a memorial service in his honor this week. Warren Wessels, a former assistant dean in the college certainly “did things for everybody!”

There are many members of the ACES family that credit Warren for the guidance that launched them to success. What he gave to each of them was often time. Time to listen to their concerns and show interest in them as individuals. Time to learn about where they came from and where they wanted to go. Time to do something extra to give a second chance or provide an opportunity.

Time is something we all possess. Each day we make decisions about how to use that time. Giving it to our communities and other people requires nothing from our bank account. Much of the good in this world doesn’t happen without the gift of time.

The Illinois 4-H Foundation recently inducted the 2018 class of the Illinois 4-H Hall of Fame. Those honored volunteered countless hours to benefit 4-H and youth. Time and again, these same people are the ones active in service organizations, school boards, local government, and more. They are the people that build and sustain communities.

As we prepare to start another school year, where will you spend your time? Perhaps we should all “do things for everybody”.


Illinois 4-H Hall of Fame Class of 2018

A day at the Illinois State Fair

Aug 22
Lucas Neira, Animal Sciences graduate student

For the first time, I experienced a taste of the Illinois State Fair (ISF). Being Brazilian and coming from a different culture, I learned a lot during my time in Springfield.  

The first surprise of my day was the big banner that said the fair had been operating for more than 200 years. I started to think how many transformations had happened throughout the years at the fair and the improvements of both the animals and the techniques that producers have employed.

I enjoyed touring a museum and seeing all those old machines that have helped producers during the early years, with many pictures and descriptions showcasing Illinois history. I spent quite a few hours appreciating that place.

Around lunch time, I had another great surprise with a huge diversity of “fair” food. I asked people which ones I should choose. I followed the majority and tried the delicious and unforgettable cheese curds, corn bread, and mini-doughnuts. What a meal!

Every detail makes this fair a special place, but the lessons learned from the barns were amazing. I saw how families worked together early in the morning to prepare the animals – hard work that starts long before show day with selecting potential animals and teaching the kids how to present those animals to the best of their ability. 

Showing is a tradition that has been passed down through many of these families to help keep the younger generations involved with livestock production. As well, it teaches the children to be competitive and respectful with the judges and to be kind to the animals.

I could see the passion in the children’s eyes, even when they had to accept the unpleasant taste of defeat. I learned the most important lesson that day from the judge. With so many animals so close to perfection (and only getting to choose one champion), I learned that sometimes the choices that you make will not be as important as the reasons that you have for making it.

I would like to thank Wes Chapple for inviting me. I appreciate your patience and time sharing your knowledge with me during the show. 

Summer immersion program builds lifelong international friendships

Aug 20
Leslie Sweet Myrick, Office of International Programs Media Communications Specialist

For the past nine years (and I have been writing summary articles like this one for 6 of these years!), ACES has hosted a summer immersion program for students from China, Korea, and Mexico. 

These students get to experience the Illinois campus, work with an ACES mentor, complete a research project, and participate in cultural activities and field trips. Our faculty and their graduate students provide an exceptional experience for these students year after year.

Honestly I don’t have much involvement in this program; others in my office do most of the coordination. I do, however, always attend the “closing ceremony and poster session” to see what the students have accomplished.

But what I always notice at this event is not the research on the posters but the relationships that have formed between the participants and their mentors and lab partners in only a few short weeks. 

As someone who spent two summers abroad from my own studies at Illinois, I am happy to witness evidence that these students will have lifelong emotional ties to Illinois whether or not they ever return here. (And over the years many have returned as grad students.)

So whether its 4 weeks or 4 months or longer, programs like this serve as a bridge for cultural understanding for both the participants and the hosts. Both sides make lifelong friendships and provide international perspectives that are so important because the students and faculty from all institutions represented are ultimately working on the same issues (food security, nutrition, and environment) that are critical to all of us.  

In ACES we pride ourselves on sending so many of our own students out into the world to study abroad. And as I witness at this event year after year (and the testimonials in this summary show), we are also being great hosts to those who come to us.