Why today is perfect

May 4
Brianna Gregg, ACES Coordinator of Transfer Recruitment

You may be thinking that today is crummy if you are near campus - mid 40s, wicked wind, large puddles, and the all important component of constant precipitation. BUT today is reading day, and what better weather to have on a day where you should be focused on those lecture notes and homework quizzes before the start of finals? So hunker down, warm up that can of soup with the dust on top, and crack open those notes - you’ll be great!

Study hard Illini - and may the fourth be with you.


A new way to explore education

May 2
Alicia Kabat, ITCS Student CDE Coordinator

Spring fever is in swing—warm weather, plants in full bloom, and Illinois high school agricultural education students gearing up for the biggest day of the year. On the last Friday of April, around 1,200 prospective U of I students from across Illinois attended Career Development Events held here on campus. From metro Chicago to every corner of countryside, students converged for a packed day of learning opportunities, friendly encounters, and experiences they will never forget.

I began the spring semester as the Student CDE coordinator intern with ITCS to further my experience. Since day one, high expectations were placed upon me and have been life changing for my upcoming career as an agricultural education teacher. My main duty was to prepare for the state Horticulture/Landscaping CDE, where 250 students would compete to demonstrate their knowledge. My semester’s adventures took me from creating and revising many products for the CDE to coordinating with faculty and staff across the College of ACES and the State FFA Center. I learned that communication is key! Many emails and meetings have taken place throughout the preparation process. With the wonderful support system throughout the Educational Publishing team as I prepared for the CDE, tasks were easy to complete.

The skills and knowledge I learned in my internship as the Student CDE Coordinator will greatly affect the readiness I will feel as an agricultural education teacher. I now know what is needed and how to do it, and what the final product of a Career Development Event that I coordinated feels like.

The University of Illinois has created this opportunity for me to explore education in a way that I never experienced before. The College of ACES has moved me closer to the type of educator I want to be. There’s nothing comparable to the experience I have had as an intern in Information Technology and Communications Services.

State FFA CDE Contest

Making a difference

May 1
Leslie Sweet Myrick, Office of International Programs Media Communications Specialist

International Food Security at Illinois (IFSI) along with the Soybean Innovation Lab and European Union Center recently hosted the Third Annual Food Security Symposium. This year’s theme was “Commercial Agriculture in Tropical Environments.”

For two days I listened to presentations and discussion on the challenges, successes, and tradeoffs of growing grains in tropical regions to alleviate food insecurity. The presenters were a diverse group including guests from the public sector, private sector, professional organizations, and environmental think tanks. The locations discussed were also diverse spanning from Brazil to Africa, and even Vietnam.  

These challenges are huge, but I left positive that International Food Security at Illinois (IFSI) can make a difference. Two main take-a-ways for me personally, as a non-scientist, non-economist, were:

  1. How committed at all levels our college and university are to the issue of food security. (Chancellor Robert Jones and Dean Kidwell both attended the symposium.)

“Starvation is a weapon of mass destruction,” said Dean Kimberlee Kidwell, and also “This is an area where doing the right thing really matters.”

  1. How committed everyone was to environmental stewardship while achieving food security goals. (Nearly every presentation addressed this.)

I’ve no doubt the presenters and attendees, including those watching the live webcast from around the world gained many ideas and inspiration for further work and collaborations on these issues. The symposium presentations are archived here in case you missed (or want to revisit) this great event:


Director of Office of International Programs Alex Winter-Nelson (left) listens as keynote speaker Pedro Sanchez (right), former recipient of the World Food Prize, answers questions.

Five lessons every 4-H member knows

May 1
Judy Mae Bingman, 4-H Media & Marketing

Lessons come wrapped in all types of boxes. Here are five lessons every 4-H member knows.

#5: You aren’t going to win every time, and that’s okay. How you lose is just as important as how you win.

There’s no way you’re going to get through life #1 all the time. Real champions accept the judge’s rating, evaluate what they can do to improve, and try again. Time and again, life will give you opportunities to practice winning graciously and losing gracefully. The question to ask yourself is “Did I improve over my last attempt?” If the answer is yes, you’ve won regardless of the color of your ribbon. Perseverance.

#4: Time is your best friend or worst enemy. Learning to juggle multiple responsibilities will be a lifelong benefit.

Those who stay in 4-H through the busy teen years say that 4-H help them prioritize work, allowing them to still participate actively in sports, music, church, or drama while maintaining an active 4-H life. How? They set goals. They communicate their commitments to coaches and leaders. They keep a calendar. They focus on important tasks and discard wasteful activities. They make good use of the time they have. 4-H helps kids learn that waiting to the last minute to finish assignments creates stress and often results in missed opportunities to excel. When they learn that lesson young, they remember it later in college and career. Focus.

#3:  Stand out from the crowd by working harder than everyone else. Excellence shows without ever saying a word.

Just because our logo is a 4-leaf clover, don’t think our success is just dumb luck. 4-H members know it’s hard work, not luck, that produces the results they want. When you put hours of work in, it shows. If you’ve ever broken a calf to lead, rewritten code until the program runs, re-sewn uneven hems, or taught a dog to sit, you know success takes time and consistent effort. 4-H members know that hard work takes sacrifice. While friends are sleeping, 4-H members are up feeding livestock or watering gardens, producing the world’s food. While friends go boating, 4-H members go visit colleges and industries to help determine their future course. While friends sit and visit, 4-H members and fellow club members are visiting with area elderly showing compassion for others. Nothing important is ever earned by being lazy or letting someone else do the work. Determination.

#2: You are either part of the solution or part of the problem. Choose wisely.

You have to show up when people are depending on you. 4-H members know they can’t just walk away when it’s their turn to lead. They don’t sleep in when animals depend on them for daily needs. They don’t turn their heads and assume someone else will cover their empty spot. They don’t walk away when the challenge seems too hard. 4-H members learn to work as a team, knowing they are stronger together than they are individually. 4-H members work the problem in front of them, seek input from others, and then see the plan through. 4-H members become dependable students, employees and entrepreneurs. Dependability.

#1: Create the community in which you want to live. See yourself as a caring citizen of the world.

4-H members are 4 times more likely to engage in their community than their peers are. It’s a researched fact. From a young age, 4-H members are intentionally engaged in community service projects. They are taught the virtues of generosity and given safe environments in which to practice service. They are included in every step of the decision-making process, from concept to action. They see themselves as part of the solution to today’s problems. That’s empowerment! That’s leading with your heart! That’s 4-H. Compassion.


ACES and TAP: A source of light

Apr 26
Stephanie Henry, ACES Media Specialist

As a writer for the College of ACES, I get the opportunity to meet a lot of inspiring people who are willing to be vulnerable and tell their stories. What a privilege it is to hear about how people have faced life’s challenges. And it’s also a source of pride to hear how ACES has helped them navigate through those challenges.

One of the families I recently talked with, the Moore’s, a Champaign family navigating their way through their son Jacob’s Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis, found a lifeline in ACES.  Becky, a wife and mom of three, described to me, with candor, some of the difficult stages they have had to work their way through during the years since Jacob was first diagnosed. He is 16 now.

But she also told me, with passion and hope in her voice, about some of the positive things that have happened since the diagnosis. Finding The Autism Program, or TAP, at the U of I was at the top of her list. In particular she credited TAP director Linda Tortorelli with providing her with the encouragement and resources to carry her through a “dark time,” as she remembers it.

And just like TAP, Becky is just as eager to help others and to pass along all she has learned to those who are navigating their way through the challenges of autism. This is such an amazing example of what the ACES story is all about!

April is National Autism Awareness Month. Learn more about the services and resources TAP offers at theautismprogram.illinois.edu.

Read more about the Moore family and TAP in the latest issue of @ACESIllinois.

A balancing act

Apr 21
Ariel Majewski, ACES Marketing Intern & junior in journalism with a minor in music

Each year, I look forward to spending Easter with my family. Normally on the Saturday before, my parents and I decorate dozens of eggs. We’re not tie-dye fans—we prefer to draw unproportional cartoons on our cracked canvases. While Mom—God bless her—can’t seem to figure out why her drawing of a clock looks like a dead frog, Dad and I applaud her efforts. Then on the big day, my parents hide our miniature Picassos in the most ridiculous places so I can (never) find them. After two hours of a frustrating search for the “dead frog,” which somehow camouflaged within our blender, we all play board games for the rest of the night.

But…this year’s Easter wasn’t anything like this. Instead, my dialogue with my friends went like this:

What did you do on Easter?

Well, I worked.

Did you see your family?

No, I needed to work on campus.

As I answered these questions, I realized how my academic responsibilities have recently consumed my life. And while my parents were understanding of their college student’s workload, the empty nesters couldn’t help but leave bittersweet text messages of how much they would miss their daughter for Easter. My father even shipped bags of Easter candy with a note stating that he would miss hiding eggs for his little girl (and reminding me not to tell mom that he sent Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory in a UPS box).

It becomes so easy to prioritize work over rest and family time—two values that the Easter holiday stresses.

But no matter what beliefs or ideologies you have—if you ever feel that there is an unbalance when it comes to work and family time, especially as final exams approach at a stealthy pace, take a moment to just stop and celebrate time together. Even if it means placing a long phone call or starting a group Skype chat over the weekend—continue to create these familial-bonding memories while contributing your work to this university’s sesquicentennial scrapbook. 



Apr 19
Kim Kidwell, Dean of the College of ACES

“What is your vision for the College of ACES?”

I have been asked that question dozens of times since November 1, and it still causes me to pause because I don’t consider myself to be the sole creator of ACES’ vision. This college has a long, impressive history of success in living into the land-grant mission, and many of you have dedicated your careers to creating excellence in the College of ACES. My hope is that I can add value to what we are doing by increasing the visibility of the college, strengthening our funding portfolio, and building strong relationships with external partners. Wherever we go next, we will do it together.

I did not arrive on campus with a blueprint in hand of how to move the college forward. However, I am in the process of mindfully assessing functionality and impacts of ongoing activities across the college. I thought it might be useful for you to know how I approach the assessment process.

The first step is to notice what is working well in our current system so we can continue to do those things. Next, I determine what isn’t working by asking two questions: Is it efficient? Is it effective? If the answer to either question is “no,” I conclude that whatever is being assessed is not working. I then consider adjustment opportunities to address the breakdown. This typically evolves brainstorming options with relevant parties and then creating an action plan with a timeline to address the obstacle. Finally, the action plan is implemented and then the situation is reassessed to see if the outcome evolved or improved. If not, another adjustment is implemented and the cycle is repeated until the goal is achieved. I call this the Notice-Adjust-Evolve (NAE) model.

I use NAE as a leadership tool for implementing initiatives and strategic plans. It is a simple, yet effective, model that involves adaptively managing in real time to ensure that progress is being made and goals are being accomplished. I encourage all of you to embrace this model as well so you can identify subtle, timely adjustments that can be made to improve your overall level of success and expand your contributions to ensure the vitality of the your unit and the college.

With this in mind, the best answer I can truly provide to the question about my vision for the college is this: I am using the NAE model to create a collective vision for the College of ACES that will allow us to achieve even greater levels of excellence through timely, adaptive management. 

Mumford Hall

Why I chose ACES

Apr 17
Nicholas Close, Incoming Freshman

As we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the University of Illinois, we remember and reflect on the generations that have shaped our campus, but we also welcome and celebrate the future generations that will continue to drive our University’s legacy. Nicholas Close, a member of the next generation of ACES students, reflects on his decision to join the University of Illinois family. Nicholas was recently awarded the Illinois FFA State Proficiency Award in the area of Diversified Crop Production!

The reason I wanted to get a degree in the College of ACES at the University of Illinois is because I would like to get the best education I can in order to manage a viable farming operation. Since the University of Illinois is a land-grant school and renowned for its ACES program, I believe this university’s academic program will be an essential step towards achieving my life goals. 

I also favor the University of Illinois over other universities, since my father and grandfather are both graduates of this college. Throughout my childhood, I have heard them reminisce on how their education has been very valuable in their careers as farmers and business managers. I am excited now that I have been accepted to be the third generation of my family to attend this college.

As a 4-H member, I am partial to the University of Illinois Extension Program for all it does to coordinate 4-H events. I also have been an active FFA member in high school and noticed that the U of I attracts many outstanding FFA members. I will enjoy being on a campus with people who share the same interests. Overall, I have put a lot of thought into what college I want to attend, and the University of Illinois ACES program really stands out above the rest.


Nicholas Close

No Shade on the Corn

Apr 14
Richard Vogen, Director, Planning and Research Development

“No, Sir we don’t mess around/our library’s underground/’cuz you can’t throw shade on the corn.”  The Other Guys, a popular campus men’s vocal group has been singing this refrain for a long time. Why? Well our undergraduate library is underground for a reason.

Since this is our sesquicentennial year after all, this story has its roots almost as far back as the beginning. During the first few years of the university’s existence, people with practical farming experience taught the agricultural programs. They also farmed the land that had become part of the institution and used it to demonstrate techniques to students and farmers.

Then in June of 1875, the nation’s foremost professor of agriculture, Manly Miles, arrived in Urbana. He had been a professor at Michigan Agricultural College, later Michigan State University. The next year, 1876, Professor Miles planted three half-acre experimental plots for field crops. He left Illinois in 1876 and a new professor of agriculture, George Morrow, arrived on the scene that same year. Professor Morrow took over the experimental fields, which have borne his name ever since.  

Professor Morrow, the only professor of agriculture at the time, became the first dean of the College of Agriculture in 1878, the same year that we began granting degrees. The following year, he laid out 10 half-acre experimental plots according to the Rothamsted plan in England, incorporating Manly Miles’ original plots. The Morrow Plots became the first continuous experiment in crop rotation in the United States, which has persisted until today on the small remnant of ground on Gregory Drive, east of the undergraduate library. 

So why is the undergraduate library underground?  ’cuz you can’t throw shade on the corn. A tall building would have blocked sunlight for the crops on the experimental field, altering the time and intensity of light available for plant photosynthesis. So when the library was built from 1966-1969, it had to go underground.

For a similar reason, the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology, which opened in 2007 just east of the Morrow Plots, was designed with a low enough profile and set back far enough that it does not shade the corn either.

Paraphrasing a comment I once hear Dr. German Bollero make, it went something like this, “When I came to Illinois, I bowed to the Morrow Plots – they are that famous around the world.”  Dr. Bollero is head of the Department of Crop Sciences, and he originally hails from Argentina. The Morrow Plots are a national landmark, the oldest continuous agricultural experimental field in the United States.

Morrow Plots

Where my ACES story begins

Apr 14
Paige Jones, Junior in Agricultural Communications
His work boots echo through the kitchen as he walks up the front stairs. His shirt has a mud stain on the sleeve, and there’s a pen in his front pocket. He washes his hands since he’s been moving cattle all morning, and sits down at the head of the table ready for lunch. He reaches out his hand and grips mine as we bow our heads to pray. Between bites he tells me about one of his old livestock judging teammates, and where he used to take my grandmother on dates in Champaign. He even reminisces about the classes he sat through in Mumford Hall. This is where my ACES story begins, and I’ve been writing it ever since.

My ACES story unfolded at my grandparents’ kitchen table listening to the amazing things my great grandparents accomplished while they were at the University of Illinois and the incredible teachers that they had. They shared stories of their favorite memories and the life-long friendships they gained through ACES. I fell in love with Illinois while sitting at their kitchen table. Today, I’m proud to be the fifth generation in my family to attend this school.

As the university celebrates its 150th birthday, I think of all of my family members that were a part of those 150 years. From engineers to livestock judges, and from Illini football players to crop scientists, I see my family etched into this university, intertwined in its roots. We have all gained so many different things from the University of Illinois, but the one thing we all have in common are memories. My grandfather has fond memories of livestock judging trips and meeting my grandmother for the first time. My aunt remembers pacing through the hallway of the Animal Sciences Lab studying her meats judging notes. My grandmother looks back to her time here and reflects on the friendships she gained. My cousin recalls her transition from undergrad student to animal sciences recruiter and the professors and friends she met along the way.

Listening to their memories reminds me that the things we remember the most are not the scholarships we won or the big exams we aced. We remember the people and the little moments along the way that change our lives in bigger ways than we realize at the time. We remember the rich tradition that accompanies the University of Illinois as this school becomes a part of one generation to the next. Old memories make me wonder about the new memories I am making as an undergrad student in the College of ACES. What stories will I be telling my children and grandchildren about my time here? Have they happened yet? Am I still waiting for them to happen?

I’m back at my grandparents’ house again, and I hear the words of Charlotte’s Web coming from the television screen: “Life is always a rich and steady time when you are waiting for something to happen or hatch.” Our memories and our lives are what take place while we’re waiting around for the next big thing to happen. When I tell my grandchildren about the memories I have from the College of ACES at the University of Illinois, I don’t think I’ll tell them about any scholarships or awards that I received. Instead, I’ll tell them about the time I sat in Mumford Hall writing a blog post about my family all the while remembering that so many family members sat in this very same building years and years before. Perhaps that’s when their ACES story will begin.

A postcard dated May 15, 1942, from Paige's great-great grandfather to her great-great grandmother.