All our bags are packed!

Jan 20
Marla Todd, Associate Director of Advancement Communications

Calendars of Dean Kim Kidwell and Office of Advancement gift officers are filling up for the next few months. Part of those commitments involve traveling across the country to interact with ACES alumni and friends. And they want to see you!

Picture one of those Facebook “Traveling From/To” posts with the dotted lines leading from Champaign-Urbana to the following destinations:

  • Phoenix, Arizona
  • Tucson, Arizona
  • Naples, Florida
  • Washington, D.C.
  • St. Louis
  • Chicago

It is only the third week in January and staff have already been connecting with great ACES supporters in the Los Angeles area, Galesburg, Bloomington, and more!

If you will be in the same areas, please contact College staff to make a connection! Drop a quick e-mail to Our door is always open for visitors on campus, as well.

Gift officers Chad Vogel and Kimberly Meenen hit the road to visit with ACES alumni, donors, and friends.

Lunch at Bevier

Jan 18
Stephanie Henry, ACES Media Specialist
I am not sure what took me so long, but last semester I discovered how much I love having lunch at our student-run Bevier Café.  It has quickly become one of my favorite places to meet friends  or colleagues for lunch on campus. 

Bevier Café, located in Bevier Hall, is staffed and managed by students in Food Science and Human Nutrition. It’s a laboratory for students to learn the ins and outs of a quantity food service operation.  I am excited about what the students are able to learn there, and I know I am supporting that learning when I go to Bevier to grab lunch. 

Most importantly, though, the food is delicious. And they offer a variety of entrees, soups, side dishes, salads, sandwiches, etc. every day.  I have tried dishes prepared in ways that I have never had before, thanks to the creativity of students experimenting with new recipes. I love their salads, which vary each week, and any time they have quiche on the day’s menu, I try to stop in. 

Admittedly, I go to Bevier Café for the food, but another great benefit is all the ACES students and faculty I bump into while I am there.  I have been able to catch up with researchers who I had been hoping to get in touch with just by chance run-ins during lunchtime at Bevier. The café has a really nice atmosphere, and lunch there feels like a nice break in the middle of the day. 

And for us regulars, we know that the coffee is good, you can get recyclable to-go-boxes, and not to forget our Bevier Café punch cards. 

I am looking forward to Bevier Café’s reopening from the winter break on Jan. 23. Want to learn a little more about what they do? What’s on their menu? Visit 
Bevier offerings
A wide selection is always available.

Risks and Rewards. Adjust as Needed.

Jan 17
Debra Korte, Teaching Assistant Professor, Agricultural Education

Winter brings lots of things, including snow, ice, and cold temperatures. Sometimes we have to adjust our plans due to the unpredictable weather.

Regardless of the weather conditions, it is our perspective on the situation that allows us to see either the dangers of the winter weather or the hidden beauty in the ice and snow.

Ice is slick and dangerous. It eventually either cracks or melts. When you look at a crack in the ice, you will find that it has a definite starting point. This point diverts into several small cracks with varying endpoints. But a crack in the ice is never a straight line.

I’ve written a lot of reference letters the past few weeks for students who are applying for jobs or internships. Each student has a vision for where he or she wants to end up in life and in a career. Similar to a crack in the ice, there is a definite starting point (i.e., first job or internship) which expands into a web of opportunities. There is no straight line, but each path leads to a distinct endpoint. Along the way, each path offers something new to learn and someone to learn from.

Just like the unexpected snow and ice can change our plans, sometimes life brings unexpected breaks which require us to adjust our path. Be alert. Pay attention. Learn from others on the journey. Say “yes” to things that you know will help you reach your goals.

Ice can be risky and beautiful. Look for the potential rewards which lie within the risks. Make adjustments as needed.


Telling our story

Jan 13
Kim Kidwell, Dean of the College of ACES

Transitions create an opportunity for reflection. In my case, I am reflecting on a 22-year journey I spent at another institution and a 2-month journey I have just begun at the University of Illinois! I can sum up my impression of the College of ACES in one sentence: The faculty, staff and students in this college are nothing short of fabulous. I am truly impressed with the people that make up the ACES community, including our alumni, stakeholders, and friends. You, as a collective, define the essence of this organization. Every day I learn new things about the amazing work that is occurring in our trenches that impacts the quality of people’s lives locally, regionally, nationally, and around the globe. You are living into the land-grant mission, and I am very grateful that you chose to invite me to return to the ACES family. I am confident that the profile of the college and the value of our work will rise internally and externally as our future unfolds. 

The best way to predict the future is to create it. To that end, defining who we want to be, how we want to be, and what we want to create are going to be primary topics of discussion across the college over the next few months. My highest priority now is to discover the “ACES stories” so I can share them with people that I encounter on my introductory tours. As I learn more about what we do and why it matters, I am finding opportunities to engage in meaningful discussions with people who are interested in supporting our efforts or partnering with us to expand possibilities. What I ask is that you do your best to help our communications team tell your stories in a compelling way by responding to their requests for interviews, stories, and information. Every day I learn something new that’s taking place in ACES that people across the globe need to know about in order to improve their ability to make informed decisions. I am willing to be the messenger, and what I need most from you is support with gathering our messages. 

I embrace the future with you knowing that the journey will be challenging, but the outcome will be worth the efforts. After all, few things that I have ever done in my life that were worthwhile were easy. I consider challenges to be opportunities that can translate into amazing successes. From that perspective, the future of the College of ACES looks incredibly bright.

ACES stories

My year in the news

Jan 9
Lauren Quinn, ACES Media Specialist

It’s my anniversary. As of last week, I have been writing for the College of ACES News and Public Affairs office for one year. I was assigned to cover research news out of the Department of Crop Sciences. I’ve never taken a course in journalism, but my boss had a hunch I had a knack for writing about science. After all, I had been a scientist myself for most of the 15 years leading up to my big career switch.

I was a plant ecologist, studying invasive species in natural ecosystems. Like many Ph.D.’s, my research focus was pretty narrow. So, although I knew a lot of the basics about plants, I didn’t have much professional experience with most of the diverse study systems being investigated in the crop sciences department. Because I’ve been following the department’s research over the past year, however, I now know that nematode neurons are more anatomically diverse than previously thought, that horseradish can fight cancer, and that pits filled with woodchips can reduce nitrogen runoff from farm fields. Who knew? 

That’s the value of turning research into news: I give the public answers to questions they might not have thought to ask, to inspire “wow” moments about science. That said, a lot of what I cover has very direct, practical implications, especially for the farming community. Either way, it feels good to know I’m helping science break out of the confines of the ivory tower to mingle with the masses. As we embark on 2017, I am looking forward to another year of getting the story of ACES out to the world. 

Guide to Grad School from an Undergrad

Jan 6
Sara Tondini, Animal Sciences graduate student

1) GRE - Does it matter? Yes and no. There is no minimum GRE score needed to get into graduate school. An average score suffices for the application process. If you're trying to get a fellowship, then your GPA and GRE score play off each other to determine if you meet the criteria. In this case, a well-above-average score is usually needed. Also, take the GRE early in case you want to take it again, and study right the first time so you don't have to take it again. :)

2) Network - Even if you are accepted into grad school, you still need a professor willing to let you work in their lab. Talk to everyone. Narrow down your interests, but don't be afraid to reach out to professors you've not talked to before. If you share a common goal and interest, most of the time, they're glad to meet with you. They might even give you a few more names to talk to.

3) Do your research - If you're going to interview with a professor about joining in on their research, then you should probably know a little bit about the research they do. Academic papers seem scary and have lots of words you're not going to understand, but do your best to get a good idea.

4) Ask questions - While doing your research for the interview, you'll have about a thousand questions. Don't be afraid to ask them. I used to think this would lead the professor to believe that I wasn't smart enough to understand the material, but they don't expect you to understand everything. That's why you're going to grad school. You have a lot left to learn! Questions mean you're inquisitive and interested in their work. Ask away!

5) Don’t get discouraged - Exhaust all your options. Things may not work out exactly the way you planned. During my ongoing journey, lots of unexpected things have happened. Doors have opened and closed. New acquaintances have been found. Sacrifices have been made, and I still don't really know where I'm going to be next fall. The whole process has helped me understand that the unknown is not the scary part. It’s the part that keeps you going.

Sara in the lab
Conducting lab analysis during an internship my junior year. This opportunity solidified my interest in research and started my pursuit to grad school.

Reflect and Reset

Jan 4
Brianna Gregg, ACES Coordinator of Transfer Recruitment

A friend of mine told me he thinks it’s funny that people assume things are going to change in the year ahead just because the date is changing on the calendar. He’s right, physically nothing changes (unless it is Y2K - yikes, that was an exciting time!), but the calendar flip does give us a chance to reflect on and reset for the year ahead. We can make new resolutions moving forward and try to create better versions of ourselves, which feeds right into the mission of ACES: improving the world we live in today! See how I made that connection? Smart, right?

So, as you reflect on the year behind and reset yourself toward your goals in the year ahead, remember to make the most of your time in ACES - how can you help improve today’s economy, environment, and/or community? We are excited to hear about your ideas! 


Celebrate and Rest. #check

Dec 20
Debra Korte, Teaching Assistant Professor, Agricultural Education

I’m a ‘to-do list’ type of person. I like lists. Most importantly, I love to check items off my list .

Whether it’s a list you’ve written down or a list in your head (as many of my students claim to have), now is a great time to check some big accomplishments off your list.

Final exams. #check

Fall semester. #check

Grades completed (for faculty). #check

Graduation (for some). #check

Aside from our academic accomplishments, there are many opportunities during this season of the year to celebrate. No matter how big or small the accomplishment or the occasion, take time to celebrate!

Perhaps just as importantly as celebrating your accomplishments, take time to rest. Surviving the semester is a test of patience and endurance. Now is the time to rest. (If necessary, put “rest” on your list. Then celebrate the moment when you can #check it off your list!)

Whatever your plans may be for the break…

  1. Celebrate your accomplishments.
  2. Set aside time to rest.


To-Do List


Dec 15
Marla Todd, Associate Director of Advancement Communications
As we approach the 150th anniversary of the University of Illinois, I’ve been reflecting on the many generations impacted by this institution.

We see the connection in current faculty who were trained by former faculty, who, in some cases were trained by a faculty member before them. That’s multiple generations of some of the world’s leading scientists. 

We see 4-H leaders, who were 4-H members themselves, influencing future leaders!

We certainly see it in our students.

While interviewing potential recipients of the Jonathan Baldwin Turner scholarships last week, several times I heard students share that they wanted to come to school here because it’s where their parents came to school and, in some instances, grandparents, as well. A few noted that they had never really even contemplated attending somewhere else. The history of the College of ACES launching success for previous generations was repeated in several conversations.

Earlier this month, there was a similar theme of multiple generations experiencing the impact of the College of ACES Jonathan Baldwin Turner scholarship program and in-turn paying it forward. The first JBT scholarships were awarded in 1979. With more than three decades of recipients, we’re starting to see a generational sequence. In the room during the annual JBT banquet, there were former recipients, who had become JBT donors themselves, and were attending that evening in the role of parent of a recipient. Did you get that? Let me draw a picture.

JBT scholarship recipient > JBT scholarship donor > Parent of JBT scholarship recipient

To me that’s a special testament to the JBT program and its ripple effect!

Families, networks, generosity, and leadership are all products of the generations who have passed through this institution.  

Kraig Krause, left, congratulates Eileen Urish on receiving the JBT scholarship supported by the Kraig Krause Scholarship fund. Urish grew up near the Krause family farm in Mason County.


Dec 13
Kim Kidwell, Dean of the College of ACES

If I were to choose one word to describe my first 30 days as the Dean of the College of ACES, it would be the word hopeful. After meeting dozens of people, including students, faculty, staff, alumni, donors, stakeholders, community members, and Illini colleagues, it’s clear how much people love this college and the university. Even more exciting to me is their willingness and eagerness to partner with me to create a vibrant future for ACES and the people we serve. The outpouring of support and encouragement I have received has been truly remarkable.

I am deeply moved by the stories I have heard from students about the experiences our faculty and staff are creating for them. Lives are being transformed, and our students are grateful for the sense of home and support they experience in ACES. I have heard many accounts of dedicated alumni who go beyond the call of duty to improve the college by devoting their time, resources, and energy to help create new possibilities with us. I have read stunning reports about the many discoveries taking place in our research programs that are improving the lives of people around the globe. The quality of the faculty and staff in this college is truly extraordinary. Excellence abounds and people are excited about the future. The upshift in energy and enthusiasm is palpable, and opportunities to take action have already presented themselves to me. 

My intention as dean is to empower the ACES community to live into our collective potential by capitalizing on the strong foundation that exists in academic programs, research, and Extension to catalyze a vibrant future for this organization. I am working with the administrative team to develop action plans to initiate efforts to propel the college forward by elevating the visibility and image of the college to internal and external constituents, by activating our donor and alumni base to support strategic visioning and advancement, and by implementing strategies for reducing our dependence on state resources.

Initial efforts include piloting collaborative strategies with college support units and departments to improve communication and visibility. The ACES administration team and I are actively engaging with stakeholders and partners, both internal and external, to address concerns and to identify opportunities for expanding collaborations. Efforts are also underway to determine the value-added proposition of being an ACES graduate, which will be used to invigorate recruitment efforts and create connections with industry partners. We will share details surrounding these efforts early next year after strategies have been clearly framed.

In spite of the tremendous budget challenges the university is facing, I remain hopeful that we will thrive, not just survive, as we move forward. I have used the following mantra to guide me throughout my career: “Do the right thing. Do it again and again and again, and good things will happen.” That approach brought me to the perfect place at exactly the right moment with an excellent cast of characters to join me in this commitment. If we continue to do the right things, we will continue to have the opportunity to transform lives. I am grateful to all of you for allowing me to join you on this journey.

Taking a "selfie" with Frank Gonzales, a junior in finance in the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics.

Sitting in on a session at the Farm Assets Conference with U of I President Emeritus Robert Easter last month in Bloomington.

Meeting Emeritus Professor of Animal Sciences Jim Pettigrew and his wife Cinda at a reception earlier this month.