Give generously

Feb 7
Debra Korte, Teaching Assistant Professor, Agricultural Education

On the first day of my first full-time job, I found a piece of paper on my desk that listed the “Twelve Rules for Happiness.” I don’t know who placed it on my desk nearly 15 years ago, but through multiple moves of homes and careers, the faded and well-creased piece of paper has held a permanent position on my refrigerator.

Each item on the list is important. For whatever reason, number 7 seems especially relevant right now.

7. Give generously. There is no greater joy in life than to render happiness to others by means of intelligent giving.

I am extremely fortunate to see this philosophy demonstrated each day by those with whom I am privileged to work. Whether it’s conducting a practice job interview, volunteering to facilitate a workshop, or offering a listening ear in the spirit of empathy, the students and colleagues I am surrounded by give generously to help others.

Give wisely by means of intelligent giving. Your time, talents, and resources are valuable. Give with an open heart and an open mind. Give generously in hopes that you can inspire others to do the same.

Life is one big group project

Feb 6
Sara Tondini, Animal Sciences graduate student

All but one of my classes this semester has a group project, and most of the time when we see this on a syllabus, it is followed by sighs and soft murmurs. Inevitably, one or two people do all the work, and the others just chill and sign on to the Google doc once to say "looks good guys," and then are never to be seen again. That being said, here is my insight on group projects.

It's real life. Almost every job setting will require you to work with a team. You are rarely ever doing something by yourself. If you work for a company, your work is contributing to a larger group of works, and this will require you to rely on a team. Not every team member will contribute equally, and that is just how it goes. If you do your part and do good work, you will be recognized and rewarded. Maybe by your boss, but if not, by your peers. The knowledge you’ve gained from doing your part is also a reward. Learning how to work in groups makes you a valuable player, and that will pay off in the long run. All these individual benefits aside, it’s nice to have others there to help. You have people to lean on and ask questions and double check your work and look at frantically when you're giving your presentation and forget the meaning of a concept on a slide. It’s all about perspective, and while you think a member may be unhelpful at first, they could just be seeing things from a different angle than you. When you're in charge of yourself, things seems easier because you have only yourself and your consequences to worry about. When you have a team, you rely on each other; your work is a reflection of theirs and vice versa. That takes a lot of trust, and that is an attribute not easily learned. 

There is a reason for group projects, and that reason is that life is one big group project. *wince* It’s hard to take in at first, but you got where you are today because you worked with a ton of people who helped you, challenged you, and got in your way, but all of them made you the kind of worker you are now. 

P.S. If you’re the kind of worker to sign on to the Google doc once and leave, you need more help.

My Dairy Management group project members.

Touring the dairy farm on campus.

We're listening

Feb 2
Judy Mae Bingman, 4-H Media & Marketing

We’re listening now more than ever.

Jump over to and look at the new Illinois 4-H website. Yeah, we did that!

Illinois 4-H is a thriving, growing, vital program reaching nearly 200,000 Illinois youth a year. In the past five years, while other youth organizations have faced a decline, Illinois 4-H has grown and not just a tiny amount. We’ve grown 24 percent.

We’re working harder to represent all Illinois youth. Hispanic club membership has jumped 137 percent in five years; minority membership is up 90 percent.

We’ve kept 4-H a secret much too long. Effective organizational communication is a two-way street. We know we must learn to listen more and talk less if we want to develop meaningful relationships with clients. The new website invites two-way communication on every page, and the public is talking up a storm. In the first month of operation, website-driven questions from clients average ten a day… up from a previous five a month. Yeah, we did that!

The "Ask a Question" feature in the footer of each page sends an email request directly to the state office. "Request a Program" allows teachers' requests for programs to go directly to the county in which they live. Every program and event page allows visitors to "Tell a Friend" about their experience. With one click, visitors can post directly to their Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snap Chat, YouTube, and Google accounts from the page they are on. Each page also invites visitors to "Share Their Story" about a 4-H experience or “Donate” directly to the Illinois 4-H Foundation. You can also “Register” as a 4-H alum and receive quarterly newsletters.

And, families can “Join 4-H” from any page on the site.

In addition to the superb functionality, the site is visually appealing and responsive to all devices. No more spreading your fingers to magnify the print on your phone. Now, the content is mobile-friendly. And, we’ve made it easier to find the information people need. Everything is accessible in three clicks. Period.

We hope you’ll look us up. Share your story. Ask a question. Register as a 4-H alum. We’re listening.


ACES celebrates 10 years of the Global Academy

Jan 31
Leslie Sweet Myrick, Office of International Programs Media Communications Specialist

Last week dozens of ACES faculty and staff and colleagues from across the campus gathered to celebrate 10 years of the ACES Academy for Global Engagement (Global Academy).

Each year 6-8 new scholars are admitted into this unique training program but never before had all the scholars from all the different “classes” been in the same room to share experiences and celebrate the overall value of this program that has supported international activities and strengthened ACES international partnerships.    

Each year’s Global Academy program culminates with an international immersion trip, and naturally many of the stories shared focused on these trips which have often resulted in new research collaborations with international colleagues as well as expanded worldviews.

At the closing of the event’s official program which included testimonials from several of the former Academy fellows and introduction of the new class of scholars, the room was immediately loudly abuzz with conversations and comradery.  

With so many internationally focused colleagues in the same room celebrating the success of this program, it was once again so obvious to me that “ACES is International.”  

Learn more about the ACES Global Academy here:

Do something new

Jan 26
Krista Temple, Junior in Agricultural Communications

A new year and a new semester make for a great time to look for new things to do on campus.

Whether you’re a freshman or a senior in your last semester, it shouldn’t be hard to find something new or different to try. Our campus offers everything from ringing the bells at Altgeld Hall and attending a tennis match, to doing research and joining a student organization.

With more than 5,000 courses and 150 programs of study offered, the opportunities here are endless. Take an elective that you aren’t familiar with to learn about a different industry. Additionally, the diversity on our campus and the many study-abroad programs available provide many opportunities to learn about other cultures and other parts of the world.

Whether you check out some fun events, or an opportunity specifically related to your major, a new experience could help you discover a new industry or career that you are interested in and give you new perspectives before you graduate.

Altgeld Hall
See the chimes at Altgeld Hall

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.