Building Extension 3.0

Feb 22
Kim Kidwell, Dean of the College of ACES

Extension personnel facilitate the translation of many of the fantastic discoveries made at land-grant universities to people around the world. Oftentimes, this is the only way that this valuable information reaches people so they can make good decisions that improve the qualities of their lives. I believe Extension embodies the essence of the land-grant mission because this is where transformation happens.

Over the past six years, tremendous change has occurred in the Extension enterprise that has had dramatic consequences: some favorable – others not so favorable. The impact of Extension efforts in urban areas has improved dramatically in recent years, whereas efforts to support commercial agriculture have declined. We cannot be all things to all people. However, I am curious about what we are doing in Extension that is working well. I am also curious about the challenges, obstacles, and oversights. Ultimately, how can we adjust to improve visibility and impact?

We must navigate the gap between ACES discovery research and the translation of those research outcomes to communities. We have extraordinary researchers publishing in the most prestigious journals; yet, the transformative ability of this work is limited because few people outside of the scientific community are aware of these discoveries. We also have extraordinary Extension personnel performing magnificent work in our communities. However, very little of this work brings awareness to ongoing ACES research and teaching efforts. We need to close this gap and synergize our assets across the three aspects of our mission: Extension, teaching, and research.

If Extension 1.0 is the model that was in play in 2010, we are currently living into Extension 2.0. I propose we work together to develop Extension 3.0 in a way that allows us to close the loop among discovery, translation, and transformation efforts. Learning from our past, noticing what is working and what is not working in our current system, and adjusting to move forward to address concerns are ways we can evolve our Extension model into something that is enormously impactful. This will require our researchers to invest time and energy to support the translation of the outcomes of their work. It will take a collective effort across ACES and Extension to live into our purpose of transforming lives.

To accomplish this we may have to reshape how college and Extension personnel view each other in regards to living into the land-grant mission. Who is responsible for translating ACES research to citizens of the state and around the globe? How do we measure and assess impacts of our efforts? Do we have the appropriate mechanisms in place for acknowledging people for their contributions? Many questions that we have the power to answer are in play. The path forward must allow every employee to be in a situation where their contributions are valued and appreciated, and where accountability and acknowledgment pathways are well developed.

Please embrace the challenge of working with Associate Dean Czapar and myself to frame Extension 3.0. We are open to ideas about what it should look like and how to manifest it. I am certain of one thing: Extension will remain a vital part of the College of ACES. We cannot maximize our potential as a college of this nature without a vibrant Extension presence, and research is the foundation of effective Extension efforts. I look forward to working with you to create relationships among our research, teaching, and Extension enterprises as we build Extension 3.0.

Building Extension 3.0

Practice generosity

Feb 21
Angie Barnard, Illinois 4-H Foundation Executive Director

It is never too early to make a difference…practice generosity.

As the Executive Director of the Illinois 4-H Foundation, my primary responsibility is to raise money to support Illinois 4-H youth and the programs offered to them through the University of Illinois 4-H Youth Development Program. Trust me – when I’m out talking to people, it’s easy to create excitement about supporting this cause. But, so many people feel that if they can’t give a large amount, it isn’t worth supporting at all.

I enjoy having the conversation about making a difference to those efforts that you are passionate about and want to see improve by giving what you can. $1, $5, $10…just give what you can and together it makes a BIG difference. More importantly, get in the habit of giving. When you are out of school, think about things that have shaped you and say thank you by giving them $5. It may be your lunch money for one day, but heck you can pack a cold meat sandwich at home instead for one day!

There are very few people who don’t like the idea of generosity. Humans love to help others and confront needs when we see them. Unfortunately, there are also very few people who are content with the level of generosity in their lives. Most people I know wish they were able to give more. And while there are a number of reasons that this may be the case… sometimes the best solution may be the simplest.

  • Consider the benefits of generosity. Generous people report being happier, healthier, and more satisfied with life than those who don’t give. 
  • Embrace gratitude. Make a list of the things in your life for which you are grateful. 
  • Start really small. If you’ve never given away money, start by giving away $1. If you are embarrassed to give just $1, don’t be. Every amount makes a difference!
  • Give first. When you receive your next paycheck, make your first expense an act of giving. 
  • Divert one specific expense. For a set period of time (try 29 days), divert one specific expense to a charity of your choosing. All the money that was going to your coffee on Thursday mornings—set aside for a charity.
  • Fund a cause based on your passions. There are countless charities/causes that need your support. And some of them are directly in-line with your most compelling passions. What are you most passionate about?
  • Find a person you believe in. If you find that you are more easily motivated and shaped by the people in your life rather than organizations/causes, use that tendency as motivation instead. Discover who they support. Maybe you can join alongside them.
  • Spend time with people in need. One of the most effective antidotes for non-generosity is to make space in your life for those who actually need your help.
  • Spend time with a generous person. One of the most life-changing conversations I’ve ever had about generosity occurred when I found the courage to start asking specific questions of the right person. I remember starting with, “Have you always been generous?” 

Generosity rarely happens by chance. Instead, it is an intentional decision that we make in our lives. But it does not need to be as difficult as many people think. Sometimes, starting with the simple steps is the best step that we can take.

What simple steps have you incorporated into your life to foster generosity?

Blanket Buddies
Sadorus 4-H All Stars club members raised money and made 33 blankets for residents at a local assisted living facility. They have learned that spending time with people in need and supporting a cause based on their passions makes life more rewarding!

Illinois in my roots

Feb 16
Marla Todd, Associate Director of Advancement Communications

On the day I graduated from the University of Illinois, my brother leaned in to hug me and whispered in my ear, “Your grandfather would be so proud of you! He loved this university!”

With the sesquicentennial anniversary celebration of the University of Illinois kicking off later this month, I am reflecting on the university’s role in my family, as well as thousands of others across this state and beyond. The land-grant mission reaches far beyond Urbana-Champaign.

Indeed, my grandfather loved this university. He and several of his brothers earned degrees in the 1930s from the then College of Agriculture. They would go on to pursue careers in production agriculture and beyond. I am a third generation Illini. Two of my uncles and my brother also earned degrees in ACES.

My parents are not Illinois alumni but I can attest that the University of Illinois has impacted our family for decades. The University of Illinois Extension office was a regular stop when my mom ran errands “in town” when I was growing up. She was either dropping off 4-H paperwork or picking up the latest information related to her HCE group. The regional FBFM representative shared best practices and asked about each of us kids while meeting with my dad to review the farm financial records throughout the year.

Even my siblings who are not University of Illinois degree holders walked this campus several times per year. State 4-H conferences, Illinois FFA convention in Assembly Hall (now State Farm Center); and meats, livestock, and dairy judging contests after a four-hour bus ride are all University of Illinois memories for my family. The list of ways the university has touched generations of my family goes on and on:

  • We learned from teachers who were trained at the University of Illinois.
  • We led livestock in to show rings with official judges who were both University of Illinois faculty or judged competitively at the collegiate level wearing orange and blue.
  • The production and conservation practices on our centennial farm have certainly benefited from the translatable research conducted by the University of Illinois.
  • My niece and nephews are now learning by doing at the Illini Summer Academies and ACES Family Academies.
  • My kids cheer on Fighting Illini athletics and are quickly learning to sway to the Alma Mater.
  • And the next generation of Illini graduates are earning their degrees right now.

This is just a glimpse of my family’s Illini story. What’s yours? Share your story on the Sesquicentennial Webpage.

This was my great uncle's student handbook.

Join the conversation

Feb 13
Stephanie Henry, ACES Media Specialist

Have you had a chance to check out any of our #askACES Twitter chats over the last several months? We have had a blast getting to know the faculty and researchers who have participated. We have also learned a lot about what kinds of questions the media and the public have about the impactful work we do in the College of ACES.

Each month, during the one-hour Twitter chat, ACES researchers answer your questions in a live Q & A conversation.  We have covered some, often, timely topics such as childhood obesity, the science of processed meat, GMOs, and water quality, to name a few.  Our ACES experts have been able to share a lot of helpful information and resources during these chats, even considering the limited-number of characters allowed in a “tweet.”

Each chat is then followed up with a podcast interview with the researchers to dig a little deeper into the conversation and cover questions that may not have been answered during the Twitter chat.

On Feb. 16, we’ll be talking with Dr. Brian Ogolsky from the Department of Human Development and Family Studies as he discusses the science behind why romantic relationships improve or deteriorate. It’s Valentine’s Day week so perhaps relationship maintenance is on a few peoples’ minds?

You are invited to join the conversation using #askACES on Twitter from noon - 1 p.m. on Thurs. Feb. 16 to ask your questions or to simply follow the conversation.  

Stay tuned for future #askACES topics and dates. For previous podcasts visit


Do you see the hidden figures?

Feb 8
Paige Jones, Junior in Agricultural Communications

This past weekend I had the opportunity to see the movie Hidden Figures. This film was based on the true story of three African American women working for NASA in the 1960s. They were incredible mathematicians that made significant contributions not only to the United States’ first trip to space, but also to racial and gender equality. Their names were not mentioned in the newspaper when Alan Shepard became the first American to reach outer space or when John Glenn successfully orbited the earth. These women were the behind-the-scenes people, the hidden figures of American history. After watching the movie, I began to question just how many hidden figures there are in the United States. Who are the people that just kept their head down, did their work, accomplished great things, and never asked for any recognition or a simple thank you? Who are those hidden figures at the University of Illinois? Or specifically in the College of ACES? Who are the hidden figures in your own life?

When thinking about the hidden figures of the College of ACES, I’m sure there are several you could name that I’ve never even met or heard of. There are many that stood here over a hundred years ago and have paved the way for each of us, faculty and students alike, on this campus. There are many that are here now that I would consider hidden figures. They do the behind-the-scenes work that maybe you don’t always notice or maybe you have never cared to wonder who was responsible for it. These hidden figures of the College of ACES dedicate themselves to improving this school and never ask for anything in return. Do you see what they do and the impact their work has on the College of ACES? Do you say thank you?

I like to think that there are hidden figures in our own life stories as well.  I think about the people that have positively impacted my life and have played a role in getting me to this point. The first to come to mind are my parents. They deserve every ounce of gratitude and credit that they receive, but they certainly receive the bulk of it so I don’t consider them hidden figures. The hidden figures in my life are the grandparents and babysitters that made sure I was fed after school and got my homework done before my parents picked me up. They are the teachers that were the firsts to suggest I pursue a career in writing or communications. They are the various community members from my hometown that have followed my post-high school endeavors and cheered me on through texts, emails, or simply Facebook comments. All of you deserve more thanks than you realize. That is what makes you hidden figures in my life.

My challenge to all of you reading this is to look for the hidden figures. They are all around us; we just don’t look hard enough. Look for them around the College of ACES. Look for them in your own life. Once you find them, say thank you.

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