Reflections from Dixon Springs Agricultural Center

Jul 24
Lucas Neira, Animal Sciences graduate student

After four months at Dixon Springs Agricultural Center (DSAC), it is time to say "See you later." Now that I’m at the end of this experience, I can truly understand the important skills it brought to me.

I had the greatest experiences keeping up with several fields, helping conduct reproduction research, selecting heifers for replacement, making nutritional evaluations, and developing my management skills.

I am always trying to figure out what makes the United States such a leader in agricultural production. A year and a half of living here in the United States has brought me to the conclusion that it’s the hard work and the passion to produce the best steak that pushes the United States to the top.

At DSAC, I had the opportunity to work and learn with great partners. They cared enough to spend the extra time to teach me – sometimes a single explanation that seems so simple for most can be quite a challenge in a foreign exchange.

Also, I would like to say thanks so much to Dr. Dan Shike and Frank Ireland. I am thankful for the opportunity to spend this great time with you guys. The University of Illinois has provided me with some awesome moments, and I will never forget this experience.

I hope someday to be able to repay all these great lessons and provide someone else the same opportunities.

man in front of cows

ACES welcomes new friends from Lebanon and China

Jul 21
Leslie Sweet Myrick, Office of International Programs Media Communications Specialist

Summer may be a “downtime” for many offices and units on campus, but not for the
ACES Office of International Programs (OIP). We are currently hosting two groups of scholars and students!

For the third year, OIP is hosting Fulbright scholars from Lebanon as part of the Junior Faculty Development Program: Economic and Rural Development. These seven scholars are here for 10 weeks during which they will learn new teaching and research methods (in conjunction with the UI campus’s Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning). They are also paired with host professors to design a research project.

Last year I wrote about the genuine connections I witnessed from the Fulbright Program. Already at this year’s orientation lunch, I made a new friend in this group, and I look forward to being a small part of her experience here.

At the same time, OIP is hosting a group of Chinese upperclassmen from Zhejiang University as part of the International Summer Immersion Program (ISIP). This summer program, which pairs each of the 20 students with an ACES faculty member to complete a research project, is in its seventh year.

For both groups, OIP coordinates a series of field trips and cultural events for a better understanding of American culture. As in past years, we hope to create new “ambassadors for Illinois,” and contribute to “mutual understanding” but as usual I expect we will gain just as much not only by building professional links with these scholars and their institutions but by making new friends.

Students from China on campus

ACES all around us

Jul 19
Brianna Gregg, ACES Coordinator of Transfer Recruitment

Foellinger Auditorium is getting a summer cleaning, which really highlights the beautiful architectural details. Foellinger is something that is used by many of our colleges and students for the larger classes, but what many don't realize is that ACES is very present in the auditorium - the part that sets this building apart from its neighbors, the roof!

If you look, on the very top you'll notice a large, prominent pineapple to represent all being welcome and a give a feeling of hospitality. ACES literally teaches hospitality in our Food Science and Human Nutrition major (a major that is practical and enjoyable for many!) so really, ACES is everywhere - it's amazing.

So next time you are walking down the quad, look up and take in your surroundings, ACES is all around you. 

ACES is on a few of the other buildings too, but I'll let you discover those for yourself!

Foellinger Auditorium

Remembering a friend

Jul 17
Marla Todd, Associate Director of Advancement Communications

Rising from the open expanse of the South Quad is the McFarland Bell Tower. For those in ACES, the chiming of the McFarland Bell Tower is now a part of each and every day. What some may not know is that the McFarland Bell Tower was erected from a gift from H. Richard (Dick) McFarland in memory of his wife Sally.

Dick McFarland passed away on June 28 in Indiana. The bell tower will now also serve as a lasting reminder of his generosity and commitment to the University of Illinois. In addition to the bell tower, Dick and Sally provided a gift for the McFarland Student and Alumni Center, located in the ACES Library, Information and Alumni Center. Numerous ACES students receive scholarships made possible by Dick’s contributions. Illinois 4-H members have also benefited from his support of statewide awards and programs.

Dick was raised on the family farm in Hoopeston and graduated from the University of Illinois with a degree in agriculture in 1952. He was the senior class president that year, when the football team played in the Rose Bowl.

Dick spent two years as an officer in the United States Air Force, serving in the Korean War. He built a successful career in corporate America, working for companies such as Keebler Cookies, Campbell Soup, and KFC Corporation before starting his own company. McFarland Foods Corp. was a thriving company operating as many as 45 fast food restaurants in three states at one time.

As we hear the chimes and watch weddings, engagements and special occasions at the bell tower, we can now remember Dick McFarland’s loyalty, accomplishments, and his willingness to share his success with others! The College of ACES family will miss him.    

McFarland Key Award Winners
Dick McFarland pictured with his 2016 Illinois 4-H Key Award Recipients.

Farewell to the wet nose and the wagging tail

Jul 17
Sara Tondini, Animal Sciences graduate student

When walking into work at the Animal Sciences Laboratory this morning, I was greeted with a wet nose and a wagging tail. The Honorary Department Head, Spenser, says hello to everyone that walks by and puts a smile on their groggy faces. 

I took a senior seminar class last year, and Spenser sat in on our lectures and would be sure to sniff out backpacks for any hidden food. He would plop down on the cool floor and occasionally search for scratches and rubs. Spenser is the beloved pup of the actual Department Head, Dr. Loerch. The two are quite the pair as Dr. Loerch also always greets people warmly, making them feel important. My senior seminar class taught by Dr. Loerch was met with life lessons that were genuine and certainly won’t be forgotten.

Dr. Loerch’s enthusiasm for scientific advances in this industry and his compassion for the people who help make it happen are admirable. The animal sciences family I have been a part of the last four years has always felt like a second home because the people (and pups) here make it that way. 

At the end of this month, we will sadly be saying goodbye to Dr. Loerch and Spenser as they head to Penn State to make new memories and smell new smells. Dr. Loerch accepted a position as the Senior Associate Dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences at Penn State, his alma mater, and we congratulate him on this opportunity to make lasting differences in more lives.

The click of Spenser’s paws on the tile and the sound of his collar jingling throughout the halls will be missed by many, so be sure to say goodbye and wish them both well before the end of the month!

You say tomato

Jul 14
Stephanie Henry, ACES Media Specialist

Nothing says summer, like homegrown tomatoes, right?

During the summer months, many ACES students are learning a lot about tomatoes. There are students not only growing and harvesting tomatoes right on campus, but also learning how to safely process them into products and creating delicious recipes from them.

Through a partnership between the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, the Department of Crop Science’s Sustainable Student Farm, and University Housing Dining Services, students are involved in every step of the process of creating “locally grown” tomato-based sauces for the dining halls on campus. In fact, assuming a good tomato harvest this year, the Illinois Sustainable Food Project will provide 100 percent of the pizza sauce served on campus.  That is a lot of sauce and a lot of pizza!

And the project is expanding to include wheat milling and cold-pressed fruit juices from crops also grown on campus.

Aside from the delicious products that are being produced, the project is allowing an excellent educational opportunity to students as they learn to use industrial grade equipment to make real products in large quantities, like 2,000 pounds of tomatoes large.

It’s not only a great partnership between ACES and the dining halls, but also a great model of sustainable food production.

Read more about the project  here

tomato plant

Bevier Cafe: Where everybody knows your name

Jul 11
Brianna Gregg, ACES Coordinator of Transfer Recruitment

Sometimes You Want to Go... 

Where everybody knows your name, and they're always glad you came. Now that you have the Cheer's theme song stuck in your head, I'll get to my point.

ACES is part of a bigger campus- a campus close to 45,000 students - that's crazy big! Chances of you running into someone you know on a typical day walking on the quad are slim, but not impossible. What's nice about this is that there is some solace in being anonymous, but sometimes, you want people to know who you are and ask 'how's it going?'

Well, my friends, Bevier Cafe is the place for you! Bevier Cafe is a home away from home on the ACES campus- they offer great food (I strongly recommend the cookies AND the awesome sauce, just not together), a warm environment and great company. Not only that, if you become a true regular, you may even have a dish named after you - oh the days of Martensen Mocha Cake- a true legacy. 

So, friends, when you are looking for a welcoming environment on a large campus, Bevier Cafe is the place to go!

Fresh face, fresh ideas for farmers

Jul 3
Lauren Quinn, ACES Media Specialist

As a writer for the crop and animal sciences departments in the College of ACES, I have learned a lot about the kinds of stories the ag audience wants to hear. My articles about the departments’ transformative research activities are well received, but lately the ag readership is all abuzz with rumors of a new addition to the crop sciences department. Fortunately, I recently got an exclusive sneak peek at the man himself. Nick Seiter won’t join the department officially until September, but I was able to sit down with him for a few minutes on a recent visit to campus. Read on to find out what I learned about the man everyone’s talking about.

ACES Marketing and Communications: Tell us a little about your background.

Seiter: I’m from southeast Indiana originally. I did a bachelor’s and a master’s in entomology at Purdue, working on row crop insects and specifically on the western corn rootworm for my master’s. I went to Clemson University in South Carolina to do a Ph.D. starting in 2011. I developed preliminary management practices for the kudzu bug, which was a new invasive species in soybeans. In 2014, I took a position at the University of Arkansas as an extension entomologist working on various insect pests in cotton, soybeans, sorghum, corn, and occasionally in rice.

ACES: What got you interested in row crop entomology in the first place?

Seiter: I’ve always been interested in science and always liked being outdoors more than in the lab, so agriculture was a good melding of those interests. I started working in row crop entomology as a summer job. I enjoyed it and kept going from there.

ACES: Why Illinois?

Seiter: The fact that it is closer to home is one great reason for me to come here, but also the ag industry here is booming. Illinois is a great place to work in agriculture. It sounds like there’s a tremendous need here since they haven’t had an applied entomologist in this position for a while. It’s an opportunity to build a program and to do some impactful work, I hope.

ACES: Do you have specific projects in mind yet?

Seiter: I think there will be a lot of need to work with western corn rootworm, but western bean cutworm is another one that’s emerging. I think there will be some opportunity to work on that, as well as some of the soybean defoliators, stink bugs, and other pests that come up on a recurring basis.

I like to choose projects based on need, taking a problem-solving approach. That’s what motivates me in my work, that problem-solving aspect. It’s why I’ve worked in applied research throughout my career.

ACES: What are you looking forward to most?

Seiter: I’m looking forward to meeting the other people working in this area, meeting my clientele, and hitting the ground running.

Seiter will seek funding from industry, regional commodity groups, and the USDA to pursue his research plans. He officially joins the department on September 16, 2017. Can’t wait that long? Follow him on Twitter @nick_seiter and stay in touch with the Department of Crop Sciences and the College of ACES to hear about more visits in advance of his start date.

Nick Seiter

Running to the Goal

Jun 29
Debra Korte, Teaching Assistant Professor, Agricultural Education

I have a love-hate relationship with the exercise of running. Although I hate the thought of running, I love to use running as a chance to set aside the worries of life, step away from technology, and focus on the task at-hand. When it comes time to self-motivate, I tell myself these five rules for running (go ahead, count on one hand)…  

  1. Watch your step. Each step is important. We may encounter large rocks, small rocks, and mud. Focus. Prepare for anything that may come along the path.
  1. Look ahead with an eye on the prize. Sometimes we become so focused on the steps that we lose sight of the end goal. Details are important – no one wants to turn an ankle – but never lose sight of the end goal.
  1. When it’s comfortable, try a new path. The known path is comfortable because we know what to expect. When we take a different route to look at surroundings from a unique perspective, we often recognize opportunities from a new vantage point.  
  1. Run the hill. Any goal worth pursuing includes an uphill climb. The hills always appear when we are exhausted and worn. There are two options – walk the hill or run the hill. Either way, we have to climb the hill to reach the goal. RUN the hill. The end reward is worth it.
  1. Finish strong. We always have the choice to stop pursuing the goal. Yet somewhere inside we find the courage and the energy to meet or surpass the goal. Muster up everything remaining to finish strong.

We often find ourselves “running” in one or more aspects of life – summer classes, internships, or “vacations” (which feel more stressful than they were intended to be).

Whatever big goal you are staring down this summer, I hope this quick handful of hints helps you get there. 


Beneath the Southern Cross

Jun 27
Richard Vogen, Director, Planning and Research Development

Guiding navigators for millennia, the Southern Cross is a bright constellation in the southern sky.   Cultures of the southern hemisphere adopted it as their symbol, and the stars of the “Crux” feature prominently on several national flags. Sometimes known as sons and daughters of the Southern Cross, pioneers made their way to Aotearoa, the Maori name for the island nation of New Zealand.

Beneath the Southern Cross in the middle of May, twenty of our finest Illini landed in Queenstown on the south island, framed by the soaring peaks of the Southern Alps. International business immersion was the reason for the journey – with agriculture, food, and fiber as the frame. To illustrate New Zealand’s innovative approaches to agribusiness, the students traveled value chains ranging from Merino wool, to grass-fed lamb and beef, to Kiwifruit, to dairy.

Directly engaging students with the professionals who lead important industry segments is a primary goal of the International Business Immersion Program (IBIP), and for two solid weeks that happened every day. Real-world interactions with people who live and work in a culture greatly enrich the study abroad experience. In New Zealand, the Illinois students also met ACES alumni, like Jack Cocks, who operates the Mt. Nicholas high country sheep station with his wife, Kate; Jo Stevenson, an expert in business resiliency in the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquake; and Trent Jesso, a former IBIP participant who is making his career and life down under in transportation logistics.

From a Maori cultural evening, to an afternoon in “Middle Earth”, to super rugby competition between the Auckland Blues and the Waikato Chiefs, a taste of the Kiwi nation whetted the students’ appetites for more international adventures. Upon reflection, they said things like this.

“I have grown more as a professional, and I am now more than ever, ready to go out into the world of business.”

 “While we went to New Zealand to seek answers, I felt that I learned much more about asking questions and looking at situations from different angles.” 

“This trip pushed me to step out of my comfort zone by interacting with intelligent individuals in a professional manner.” 

“Participating in the International Business Immersion Program taught me so much more than I could have ever imagined…I can say without a doubt that traveling to New Zealand has made me a better student, agriculturalist, professional, and person.”

In IBIP, students critically evaluate important opportunities, constraints, and drivers for businesses in their international contexts.  For this class, student teams gathered primary data to inform their research about innovative responses to consumer demand, disruptive natural events, and growth of tourism, as well as innovative uses of advanced technologies and competitive advantages of pastoral livestock systems.  As an overarching bonus, students discovered new ways of creative thinking at the heart of New Zealand’s culture of innovation in food and agriculture.

After the ACES Career Fair in October, this group of budding professionals will share their stories from beneath the Southern Cross.

“When you see the Southern Cross for the first time, you understand now why you came this way.…”

Crosby, Stills, and Nash

students in New Zealand
Richard Vogen and his students enjoy the scenery in New Zealand.