Best Places for ACES - Finals 2015 Edition

Dec 8
Katie Burns, Junior in Agricultural Leadership and Science Education

It’s that time of the semester again -- finals are fast approaching! It’s important to find the best study spots that are quiet and give the best snacks to keep us focused.

I asked a few of my friends to suggest their favorite places to study.

ACES Library: Of course! The library is incredibly spacious and has big desks so you can spread your work all over them. As an added bonus, you can schedule a room for a quiet group study environment. Also, there is a big computer lab downstairs for getting those final project PowerPoints completed. 

IGB Cafeteria: Located in the Carl Woese Institute for Genomic Biology on the ground floor, this area is reasonably quiet and is full of natural light.

Bevier Café or Bevier Commons: Both rooms are located on the second floor of Bevier Hall. They are great places to stop during the day to study or work on a project. Plus Bevier Café always has a great dessert selection every day. Stop by for lunch (and dessert) from 11:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m.

I know the deeper we get into finals week, the harder it becomes to find the motivation to cook. So I have compiled a list of great places to eat where you can get the extra bang for your buck.

Papa Del's: The lunch special is $3 for a huge slice of pizza. You can also order the breadsticks for $5, which come with two dipping sauces. It’s worth the money, and I guarantee leftovers for your next meal. 

Antonio's: Another great pizza place on campus where you can buy by the slice -- all day. I recommend the Mac N' Cheese pizza or the Chicken Bacon Ranch. You can’t go wrong either way. Plus, if you buy two slices, you get the 3rd free.

Culver's: Located just off campus, you can use your iCard to get 10% off your order. The frozen custard is the just the sweet treat you need to continue studing.   

Pandamonium Donuts: Open at 7:30 a.m., stop by on your way to your 8 a.m. final to grab a donut. Follow them on Instagram (@pandadoughnutcu) and see the amazing creations they come up with. They are usually located on the corner of Goodwin Avenue & Oregon Street, directly in front of the Krannert Center for Performing Arts & Expresso Royale.

Need a place that’s open late?

Jimmy John's: Freaky fast and freaky good. Enough said. Most locations are open until 3 a.m., and they deliver anywhere on campus. Keep studying. Have it delivered.

Insomnia Cookies: Open until 3 a.m., feed that hankering for a triple chocolate chip cookie! Better yet, they deliver! Make sure you have milk. What is a cookie good for without milk to dunk it in?

Merry Ann's: With multiple locations open for 24 hours, check out this local favorite. The waitresses always keep filling your coffee or water. Plus, who doesn't love good breakfast food?! 

Finally, as my grandma always said, “This too shall pass.” Finals will come to an end, and we will be ready for the much needed winter break. Good Luck Illini! Study Hard!

ACES Library

Experience without Reflection is Experience Wasted

Dec 7
Leia Kedem, Agricultural Communications Instructor

In our Intro to Agricultural and Environmental Communcations class (AGCM 110), students write blog posts to develop writing skills and reflect on current issues and relevant life experiences. As the semester draws to a close and we near the end of 2015, Christy Allen, a freshman in agricultural communications, shares insight on looking back at  -- and learning from -- our experiences.

A wise family friend, Genny Six, once told me that “experience without reflection is experience wasted.” I was too young at the time to understand the full meaning of this statement, yet it stuck with me over the years and has slowly but surely become more and more applicable.

Throughout my high school years, I had many opportunities to attend FFA conventions and leadership conferences. They never failed to invigorate and excite me about the possibilities the agriculture industry has to offer. I quickly realized that no matter how valuable the information a presenter shared, no matter how inspired a speaker left me, it did not make a lasting impact unless I made the decision to implement their wisdom into my life.

It takes reflection on these experiences to truly gain anything from them.

A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending the Agriculture Future of America (AFA) Leaders Conference. Thursday through Sunday were spent in Kansas City networking with industry professionals and acquiring important skills and knowledge (think dining etiquette, the difference between "business casual" and "business professional," interview skills, etc.).

Again, as Genny suggested, “experience without reflection is experience wasted,” so here are some of the key takeaway points that I believe, upon implementation, will help make me a better agricultural communicator and have a better outlook on life.

Take the time to refocus and become re-energized about your passions. We live in a go-go-go society where something always needs our attention or something always needs to be done. Living at a fast pace too long can result in crashing and burning. I hope you are passionate about the ways you choose to spend your valuable time. Make sure to take the time to remember why you have these passions and what you want to do with them.  An AFA session focused on “Finding the Right Cultural Fit” included the alarming statistic that 89% of Americans are not passionate about their job.  If you are one of the 89%, figure out why that is and what you can do to change it. Passion leads to higher quality work and happier life. AFA provided the chance for me to interact with high caliber individuals who reminded me that the stresses of college are temporary, but the rewards of an Agricultural Communications degree will be lasting and oh so worth it. I will be able to work with inspiring people while representing an industry that I love and quite frankly, I don’t think it can get much better than that. Don’t be part of the 89%.

College students: Your degree is a roadmap, not a final destination. I cannot count how many industry professionals I was able to hear from and interact with over the four-day span of Leaders Conference. AFA worked hard to ensure a ratio of 1 to 1 ½ industry professionals for each delegate attending the conference. As they told stories about how they ended up where they are now, I began noticing a common theme. Very few of them are doing exactly what they originally thought they wanted to do. Yes, your education is important and should be taken seriously. But do not think your major is locking you into a specific career for the rest of your life. The agriculture industry has such a diverse array of career paths; you never know where you may end up.

Busyness does not directly correlate to productivity. A Franklin Covey session titled, “5 Choices of Extraordinary Productivity,” made me aware of how I am spending my time. “Don’t confuse activity with accomplishment.” Checking my email every five seconds will keep me busy, but is not productive. Technology can improve productivity, but it can also be a distraction. Be aware. Live more from intention and priorities than from habit. Do the important things first and everything else will fall into place.

Everyone has some wisdom to share - all you have to do is listen. Below are some of my favorite quotes from the AFA Leaders Conference experience.

“Keep knocking on doors until you get what you want.”

"Don’t let yourself be defined by the perceptions of your generation.”

“Are you going to inspire the world today or infect the world with pessimism?”

“Life is going to happen. And it’s going to be awesome. Then terrible. And then awesome again. Have faith things will work out.”

“Get what you want out of life; don’t let life get what it wants out of you.”

Many of the speakers who have been in the agricultural industry for a long time kept reiterating that this is the most exciting time in their careers and that this is the best time to be in agriculture.

I love soaking up opportunities such as the Agriculture Future of America Leaders Conference. It is necessary to step away from the stress and busyness of day-to-day life to refocus. Pre-conference, I was caught up in the exhaustion and demands of college life. This conference reminded me how lucky I am to be studying a subject I love, at a university I love, surrounded by people I love. Like Genny said, take the time to reflect on experiences. It may end up changing your whole outlook on life.

Christy Allen, center, and her friends at the AFA Conference.

The best fit for me

Dec 2
Nicole Chance, Sophomore in Agricultural Communications

Oftentimes, when people introduce themselves to me, they will ask where I am from. I always respond with Lebanon, Indiana, and they are usually a little surprised by that. Normally the responses I get back are, “Where the heck is that?” or “Why not Purdue?” I respond with…well it is actually a funny story.

Growing up on a 2000-acre grain farm and farrow-to-finish hog operation, agriculture has always been a key fiber of who I am. Although, pursuing a degree within the agriculture industry was never my first decision. I originally wanted to major in broadcast journalism and be a television anchor. But, like any high school senior, I began to question that decision.

I started to think about my roots and where I grew up. The fondest memories I have were helping my dad with harvest and riding along in the combine on a crisp fall night, or working in the hog barn for hours on end processing baby pigs. Those are memories that you cherish and don’t forget. They define who I am and what I am most passionate about.

Choosing to come to the University of Illinois and be a part of the College of ACES in the Agricultural Communications Program has allowed me to combine both my talents in agriculture and media to inform others of one of the largest industries in the United States and the world. ACES has provided me with the opportunities and skills necessary to be a thriving advocate for the agriculture industry.

I have been surrounded by a multitude of friends and faculty on campus that are just as passionate as I am about the agriculture industry, and encourage me every day to learn more and get involved. The skills that I have gained from the College of ACES are skills that I know will last a lifetime, and always another form of reassurance that the University of Illinois and the College of ACES was the perfect fit for me.

Nicole Chance and friends in ACES

You still have a place in 4-H

Nov 24
Judy Mae Bingman, 4-H Media & Marketing

4-H is the place …  the place where you belong and are part of the club; the place where you decide what matters to you; the place where you serve in the world where you live; the place where you learn and succeed at what interests you.

4-H is the place where you create innovation, where you embrace community, where you change the world, where you grow your  team of friends, where you let your creativity run wild.

4-H, the place where you explore your world and engage in real-world experiences.
4-H is the place… always has been, always will be … where you get better at being you!

4-H members are creating food-secure communities, protecting the natural resources of Illinois, promoting healthy lifestyles, and learning skills vital in today’s workplace. 4-H … where you’re never too old or too young … to learn, to help, to contribute, to serve, to teach, and to be better than you were yesterday.

I would guess that 4-H was a large part of many of your lives before college. It still can be. 4-H needs college students to teach a new generation the skills you learned as members. 4-H needs college students to be mentors, helping youth find their own place. 4-H needs college students to show off the U of I campus to visiting 4-H members. 4-H needs college students to chaperone events. We need you—your time, your talents, your perspective, your drive, your experience, your willingness, and your passion.

4-H still needs you, and we think you still need 4-H, don’t you. Good, then let’s get together soon. Write me at, and let 4-H still be the place for YOU!

Rachel Fox and Kaity Spangler, both 4-H alum and U of I students, served as summer interns at the State 4-H Office in Champaign.

Show Up and Other Lessons

Nov 23
Marla Todd, Associate Director of Advancement Communications

Holly Spangler (’98 Ag Comm) shares a Thanksgiving reflection and asks other alumni to join her in “showing up.”

When I was but a sophomore at the University of Illinois, the week-long fall break was not yet a thing. The university held classes through Wednesday, letting out for Thanksgiving on Thursday and Friday.  (And for clarification: I say the university held classes because although they were held, they were not always attended. Ahem.)

As a sophomore, I had a car and the ability to head home whenever I pleased, but I also had an ag communications class that met at noon on Wednesday. It was my last class for the day. The only thing standing between me and home. I contemplated my options: it was a small class, it was taught by my advisor, Bob Hays, and my absence would be conspicuous. Also, I was a rule follower and in general, not a class skipper since I was paying for this whole thing and all.

I went to that class, along with less than a half dozen of my peers. Bob welcomed us and informed us that showing up is important in life. So much so that because we came to class, he was waiving our final paper for the semester.

I think I heard the Hallelujah Chorus in that moment.

That was 20 actual years ago but I have never forgotten that moment and its lesson: show up. Meet your commitments. Do the job. You just might get rewarded. And even if you don’t, show up anyway.

The lessons were many from my ag com days, and not just in assignments. They came in hours spent in computer labs, in darkrooms and on field trips. They came from conversations in the hallways of Mumford and from walks across the ag campus. They came in the consistent urging by every professor and student to do your very best. Every day.

And to show up.

So many years down the road, we’re still showing up. This time, it’s to raise money for the new students who want to show up and do their very best. We’re a bunch of alumni, hitting up other alumni, to raise money for ag com student scholarships in a campaign called the Next 500.

We want more students to come and learn what it is to show up. This fall, ag com welcomed 7 new students; our goal is to attract 20 new students a year. Scholarships will help. Surveys show that scholarship dollars significantly impact a student’s college choice, and they’re looking for amounts north of $10,000. It’s a lot but it’s in line with rising college costs, but my fellow ag com alumni and I believe it’s possible to put together endowed scholarships to carry a student through their four years at the University of Illinois.

So if you’re an ag com alumni, keep your eyes peeled. We’ll be reaching out soon, and you better believe we’re making a competition out of it. Decade against decade!

Who’s going to show up?

What makes a leader trustworthy?

Nov 23
Jennifer Shike, Director for Communications and Marketing

How would you rank your trust in your boss? How would your employees, family, spouse, friends, etc., rank their trust in you?

I was challenged by David Horsager, author of The Trust Edge, to think about this more deeply at the University of Illinois Extension’s Exceeding the Vision Conference last week. I’ve been fortunate to hear many great speakers, but David stood out as one of the best I’ve heard in some time for his powerful message about trust.

Horsager set the stage by defining trust as a confident belief in a person, product, or organization. As trust increases, he explained, so does output, morale, retention, productivity, innovation, loyalty and revenue. As trust decreases, costs, problems, skepticism, attrition, time to market, and stress increase. It’s easy to see why companies with high trust levels outperform companies with low trust levels by 186%.

Here are a few of his key points in discussing the eight pillars of the most trusted leaders.

1.    Clarity. We trust the clear and mistrust the ambiguous. Any time you add complexity to what you do, you lose trust. If you have more than three priorities at a time, you really don’t have any.

2.    Compassion. It turns out that compassion affects trust and the bottom line more than you think. LAW of Compassion. L-Listen. A-Appreciate. W-Wake up and be present. Nobody gets enough appreciation. Want to kill someone’s self-esteem? Tell them good job when it wasn’t. Notice what others do. Appreciation changes things.

3.    Character. Do what needs to be done when it needs to be done whether you feel like it or not. It’s the work of life to do what is right rather than what is easy. People love people who do what they say they will do.

4.    Competence. Input leads to output. The energy you put in is exactly the same as what you put out. The thoughts you put in lead to the desires which lead to actions. If input matters, how am I staying fresh, relevant and capable?

5.    Commitment. Commitment breeds commitment. Every time you make a commitment you can’t make, you lose trust in yourself. The only way to rebuild trust in yourself and others’ trust in you is to make and keep a commitment.

6.    Connection. There are repelling traits and magnetic traits of people. The #1 trait of the most magnetic people in the world is gratitude.

7.    Contribution. You can have compassion and character, but if you never contribute the results, it doesn’t make an impact. Getting the right results matters. There are two sides of contribution – daily contributor to myself (how do I get the most important things done?) and How do we motivate others?

8.    Consistency. We trust sameness. It’s the little things, done consistently, that make the BIGGEST difference.

You cannot have clarity without consistency. Just as you cannot have connection without commitment or competence without character. These pillars of trust work hand in hand. And it doesn’t happen overnight. But when these eight pillars of truth work together, greatness explodes in leaders, organizations, friendships, marriages, and more. Just a few things I've been pondering since last week. A big thanks to University of Illinois Extension for bringing in this challenging and motivating speaker!


David Horsager
David Horsager, discusses trust at the U of I Extension Annual Conference, "Exceeding the Vision."

Don't forget to say thanks!

Nov 19
Sara Tondini, Animal Sciences graduate student

We’re in the home stretch, less than a week away from fall break. November has been full of pumpkins, falling leaves and sweaters, but my favorite part of this month is hearing the words thank you. We’re thankful for the people in our lives and the things we have all year round, but this month we get an extra dose of the “thank you’s” and I love it. We still have some time before break, so I have compiled a list of people/groups on campus that you should thank before you leave!

1.    Building Service Workers: because every building is always nice and clean
2.    Bus Drivers: for getting us ACES students back to the north side of campus
3.    Career Services: for helping you land that dream internship or job
4.    Favorite professor or TA: for helping us learn and grow (and not making the final cumulative J)
5.    Your roommates: for putting up with you for a whole semester, so far
6.    Your advisor: for being there to help you figure it all out
7.    The person in class that lets you borrow their notes: this doesn’t need an explanation
8.    Coworkers: for making your job fun!
9.    Technology Services: because what would you do without the internet?
10.    Your favorite RSO: for giving you a platform to make a difference and a place to make great friends

Of course, this list only scratches the surface, so add to it and pass it on. Enjoy your break and thank you for reading!

I'm thankful for my wonderful roommates!
I'm thankful for my wonderful roommates!

New faces in ACES

Nov 19
Marla Todd, Associate Director of Advancement Communications

It’s not a secret that we in ACES like to eat! The Office of Advancement often greets new faces to the team with breakfast or other sweet treats. The bagels, fruit, and other fare were in abundance this fall as we welcomed numerous new team members to the College of ACES Office of Advancement.

Charles (Chad) Vogel began his duties as Associate Dean for Development on October 5. In this capacity, Chad is responsible for overseeing the team charged with obtaining external funding in support of the land-grand mission of the College of ACES. Chad came to Illinois from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Iowa State University, where he served as senior director of development. In his free time, he enjoys writing on issues of philanthropy. Feel free to contact Chad at

Pedro Fernandes da Costa brought a global perspective to the College of ACES Advancement team when he arrived in October. Working closely with Barry Dickerson, Senior Director of Corporate Relations, Pedro is responsible for the College of ACES’ relationships with select corporations. Pedro holds a bachelor’s degree in agronomy, master’s degree in agricultural economics, and an MBA.

A two-time alumna of the College of ACES, Jennifer Smith found her way back to campus in early September to join the Office of Advancement team as Assistant Director of Development. She is responsible for securing private support for the Department of Human Development and Family Studies, Agricultural Education program, and Illinois 4-H, working in collaboration with Angie Barnard.

Wasting no time, Matt Smith attended the Farm Progress Show on his third day of work as Assistant Director of Development in the College of ACES. Matt is charged with securing private support for the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics, and Division of Nutritional Sciences. Prior to his arrival in ACES, Matt oversaw sales and marketing at Allerton Park and Retreat Center.

To meet the full College of ACES Advancement team visit the Office of Advancement.

Chad Vogel
Chad Vogel, ACES Associate Dean for Development

Get behind the wheel!

Nov 17
Jason Emmert, Assistant Dean, Academic Programs

“Wow, what a beautiful car,” you think to yourself as you are signing the papers to pay for your dream ride. You’ve been working hard, saving for this for a long time, and the day is finally here. The last signature is written, the last handshake shared; you have the keys in your hand and you begin walking toward the vehicle that you’ve been wanting for years. And keep walking. You leave the new car (and your money!) behind.

What a crazy scenario! Well, unfortunately this happens all the time, all around the country. Students (or parents) pay for an education that goes unfinished. Granted, there are many reasons this can happen – finances, health, and other personal reasons can get in the way, and that can happen at any university. However, the truth is that graduation rates vary tremendously from school to school. 

Are graduation rates an important factor to examine when considering different universities? Absolutely! Often times we’re consumed with comparing cost among schools, but we don’t take the time to look at the schools’ track records of graduating their students. And taking more time to complete a degree adds cost. 

So what do we need to know about graduation rates? First, you should know that the national average four-year graduation rate is around 36%. That’s not great, in my opinion. Part of the problem on many campuses is that there’s just too much competition to get into required courses, causing students to take more time. What about U of I? Our four-year graduation rate is around70%, which is just about double the national average. And, we have the SECOND HIGHEST GRADUATION RATE IN THE COUNTRY among universities that offer similar degree programs to those we offer in ACES.

OK – looking at the four-year graduation rate is important, and most students want to graduate in four years. But what about students who don’t finish in four years; do they ever graduate? For most universities, you’ll also find a published six-year graduation rate. Six years – that sounds scary! Well – that actually does not literally mean six years; it really means more than four. If you take 4.5 years to finish, you become part of the six-year graduation number. Six years provides enough time for most students, even if they face some of the problems I mentioned above, whether it’s financial, health, or something else. When you look at the six-year rate, that’s basically the final graduation rate; very few students take longer than six years.

Well, if the 4-year average is around 36%, what is the 6-year average? Around 56%. Yep – that’s right. Across the country, just over half of all college students ever graduate. But I have good news – at the U of I, around 85-87% of our students finish. And for us, most of that increase happens in one semester (in other words, after 4.5 years). Student graduation is a point of emphasis on our campus, and we plan to keep it that way!

Now – if you’re a college student (or planning to become one) you’re not a statistic. You are an individual, and the numbers I provided above do not mean that you will, or will not, graduate in four years, whether on our campus or another campus. But I believe the numbers do give you an indication of the “pool” you’re in. You’ll have a good idea whether or not you’re surrounded by students who are likely to graduate. And seeing your peers succeed can have an impact on you – motivating you to achieve great things, and reach (or exceed!) your potential. 

At the U of I, we encourage you to dream big – and it’s our job to help you achieve those dreams. Don’t walk on by what you’ve worked so hard to acquire – and get behind the wheel of the best ride of your life!

Graduation rate

Latte or Pumpkin Spice?

Nov 10
Richard Vogen, Director, Planning and Research Development

Every Thursday morning, a marketing and communications team assembles to discuss relevant marketing issues, projects, and strategies for the College of ACES. This most recent Thursday, the first debate was about the quality of the pumpkin spice flavored Joe. Fueling the conversation was the ubiquitous beverage that seemingly keeps the whole university running, early in the morning until late at night. 

Coffee beans are actually berries…Who knew? They come from evergreen plants in the Rubiaceae family. Cultivation of coffee bushes is said to have originated in Ethiopia, sometime before the 15th century. And the earliest reliable evidence suggests that roasting and brewing coffee first occurred in Sufi monasteries of Yemen around the middle of that century, before Columbus sailed. Coffee consumption later spread through the Arab world and into Europe, with lots of mercantile, political, and cultural intrigue, becoming one of the most traded agricultural commodities in the world. The Dutch East India Company introduced coffee to the island of Java in Southeast Asia, where it found a suitable subtropical environment for cultivation, and coffee plantation also spread to other parts of Africa and Latin America. Coffee is second only to water as a popular beverage and almost two-thirds of global consumption is in the United States, Germany, and France. Coffee is truly a global business and a fascinating example of a complex agricultural supply chain with all kinds of economic, social, and cultural implications.

Coffee is more than that though. The biggest coffee brand in the United States sells the experience, not just the beverage. It’s remarkable to think how far Americans have come in coffee culture over just a few years. I still remember my first taste, in the early 1960’s. My cousin goaded my grandmother to give us some while we were shelling corn on a cold winter morning, steaming hot and laced with sugar. I spit it out! But years later, to cope with late hours of studying, etcetera, on this campus, I learned to like the stuff, even though it was the standard issue Colombian variety peddled by Juan Valdez.

But then…I moved to Vienna, Austria…and “Eureka!” I discovered the joy of Wiener Melange, the Viennese version of latte, served in porcelain cups on silver trays. Nothing here really compares…yet…but the revolution did come to America. Favorite coffee haunts now abound on the Illinois campus, and around town. Surely our students, and faculty, would be at a total loss for survival if they did not have these spots to study, converse, and surf the net.  Demand must be strong, because the lines are long and the baristas are busy. So, the story is that once again, agriculture and the business of food fuel the engines of our very lives.

“I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.” T.S.  Eliot