5 tips for the new year

Jan 12
Sara Tondini, Animal Sciences graduate student

Whether you spent most of your break sleeping or eating or both, it’s time to get back to business. It's the beginning of a new semester with new classes, professors, classmates and opportunities. In order to get off on the right foot, I have some tips for the New Year and the new semester.

1. Go to class: We're starting fresh. As of now you have the opportunity to get all your participation points for your classes :) go you! If you were stressing around finals time last semester, use that to help you stay focused this semester. Attend class and take your studying seriously. You’ll be thanking yourself in May.

2. Improve your study habits: You could start a study group in one of your more challenging classes or take notes in a different way. If you usually type your notes on your laptop, try writing them down in a notebook instead. Writing can help you remember, and if you’re not on your laptop, you won’t be tempted to switch browsers and start shopping for spring break clothes. If you usually study at home change your surroundings. I’m partial to the ACES Library, but there are plenty of great study spots on campus.

3. Meet new people: Whether it's a classmate, a professor or someone sitting next to you at lunch, introduce yourself to someone new. This can be hard for the quiet ones (me), but networking is one of the most valuable assets you will gain in college. I’m not saying the person you introduce yourself to is going to give you a job on the spot, but everyone you meet knows something you don’t, and it’s important we learn from others.

4. Try new things: At least one new thing! Maybe you want to try a new restaurant with friends or get involved in a study abroad experience or join an RSO. Don't limit yourself. Sometimes we get stuck in the same routine and get too comfortable. Challenging yourself and stepping outside of your box, even just a little bit, can create opportunities you didn’t know were there.

5. Recharge: It's important to take care of yourself. Try and do something every week that recharges you. It could be a trip to the gym or a movie night with some friends or my personal favorite, a nap! Make time for yourself to do something you enjoy. This will make some of the stress of that week go away, so you are in the right mindset to stay focused on school, work and your other responsibilities.

It’s a New Year, but you’re still you, and you know yourself better than anyone. So before classes start, take some time to think about how you want this semester to go. You can try all of my tips or come up with some of your own. It’s important to set goals and stick to them. Make this year your best year yet!

Come back soon!

What’s your New Semester Resolution?

Jan 6
Debra Korte, Teaching Assistant Professor, Agricultural Education

The start of the calendar year typically includes a few New Year’s resolutions. Some people set a goal to lose weight, exercise more, give up a poor habit, or live a healthier lifestyle.

For students and faculty, it’s important to reenergize during Winter Break. Rest. Enjoy time with family and friends. Prepare for the upcoming semester.

In the next few weeks, challenge yourself to create a New Semester Resolution. What do you want to do differently this semester? Improve your grades? Join an RSO? Commit to a study abroad experience?

Like any goal setting process, be specific with your New Semester Resolution. Establish checkpoints to evaluate your progress. Provide measurable and realistic details to help you achieve your New Semester Resolution.

Enjoy the next few weeks of your break. Return to campus with a renewed sense of purpose to fulfill your New Semester Resolution!

New Semester Resolutions

Back At It!

Jan 5
Brianna Gregg, ACES Coordinator of Transfer Recruitment

It’s been a while since I’ve ventured into the blogging world, but I have somewhat of a good excuse. Our family was blessed with a little girl, Lena, back in September. Holy Adjustment! But now I’m back! Being away from campus for so long really makes me appreciate the family I have in ACES. You know you’ve got a great community when your class of 100+ students writes you a congratulations card, co-workers visit you at the hospital (probably more Lena than me, but I’m claiming it) and bring you food- delicious food!

I supposed I’m not surprised by this because ACES has always had a family atmosphere. They take care of the whole person, not just the job. It was an awesome example and reminder of the ACES community. It makes coming back to work a HECK of a lot easier. So to that- I say thank you ACES for keeping me part of your community and family!

Lena Gregg

Expanding our concept of ‘neighbors’

Dec 23
Judy Mae Bingman, 4-H Media & Marketing

Many of you are here at ACES because of where you grew up. On a farm. In 4-H and FFA. From rural communities. Agriculture is what you knew from the moment you were born, and you can’t imagine any other career. When the work was done on your farm, your dad took you down to the neighbors’ farms to help them finish up.

Illinois 4-H is about to give a whole new spin to the term “neighbor.”

With the help of a $10,000 grant from Brandt Foundation, the “4-H Neighbor to Neighbor” program will team rural and urban teens as they explore careers in agriculture and address the critical issues of hunger and food insecurities in their communities. They’ll learn from each other as they work together to accomplish a common goal… improving their lives and their communities.

With a declining rural population, the need for attracting youth to agricultural careers is critical. USDA predicts only 61% of the 57,900 annual agriculture job openings will be filled with qualified graduates equipped to meet the challenges of feeding, clothing, and powering a growing world population.

But, youth can’t choose agriculture if you don’t know it’s even a choice. Now, with Brandt and the 4-H Neighbor to Neighbor program, we’re educating a whole in audience to the world of agriculture. Hopefully, many of them will also find their way to the University of Illinois campus and join you in ACES.

This is the second year the Brandt Foundation has helped Illinois 4-H take the agricultural message on the road. Last year, a $10,000 grant funded an expansion of the Ag in the Classroom program using 138 uniquely-trained 4-H Teen Teachers to reach 2,100 youth in 20 counties. The BRANDT Foundation was established to help organize the giving of BRANDT Consolidated, its employees, and the family founders and to fulfill its mission to provide meaningful assistance and support to the communities, farms and families in its areas.

Youth learn where their food comes from in 2015 Brandt Foundation and 4-H partnership.

4-H Teen Teachers take the Illinois agricultural story to the classrooms.

Innovation – Not only for Engineers

Dec 21
Richard Vogen, Director, Planning and Research Development

There is a lot of innovation going on in Champaign-Urbana lately, and it’s not only the geeks and nerds that have a corner on the market. In fact, there is a good bit of buzz pertaining to the food and agriculture space. Look at who is setting up shop in the Research Park at the University of Illinois, and you will see familiar names from the agriculture sector and several start-up companies that see opportunities to innovate in related market segments. In fact, on February 18, the 2016 Agriculture Technology Innovation Summit is scheduled at the nearby iHotel, http://researchpark.illinois.edu/agtechsummit. What’s really exciting about all this innovation opportunity is that it is not limited to professionals and professors. Students really can get in on the action in a variety of ways, including ACES students. For example, the College of Engineering is home to the Technology Entrepreneur Center, but the TEC is keenly interested in reaching out to students who have innovative ideas from all across the campus to take a plunge and try their programs. In fact, right now, nominations are open for the Illinois Innovation Prize. Maybe your idea could be the next big thing! For more information, go to http://tec.illinois.edu/.

JBT – the tradition continues

Dec 15
Marla Todd, Associate Director of Advancement Communications

This season is full of tradition for so many! For the College of ACES, the first Friday of December brings the opportunity to celebrate a 37-year tradition – the Jonathon Baldwin Turner (JBT) Scholarship program.  At a banquet Dec. 4, the College of ACES honored the newest class of JBT Scholarship recipients, and the generous donors who made these 50 scholarships possible.

The JBT Scholarship program is the premier scholarship opportunity made available to the best and brightest ACES freshmen. This year’s class was no exception. Not only did they excel academically, but they were engaged in their schools, communities and, in some cases, around the globe. They were class officers, student council presidents, and Illinois State Scholars. Their activities include sports, cheerleading, dancing, theater and music. They’ve spearheaded fundraisers to battle cancer and diabetes. Volunteering at soup kitchens, food pantries, hospitals, humane societies and as election judges spanned their scholarship applications. They are not limited in their work ethic – working detassling corn, growing strawberries, raising cattle, mowing lawns, DJ’ing, lifeguarding, teaching piano and guitar, and coaching and refereeing a plethora of sports.

Nearly 20 years ago, on the first Friday in December, I joined the ranks of JBT scholars and still keep in touch with many of my fellow recipients (in part because many of us lived in the same certified housing that first year.) At that time, I didn’t completely grasp the breadth of amazing people surrounding me, nor the impact that would be made by that group in the years ahead. I’m not sure that the 50 outstanding young people who sat in that room Friday evening realize that about themselves right now either, but I am certain they will have great impacts both at the University of Illinois and far beyond.

Congratulations to these amazing students on this much deserved honor and thank you to the numerous donors who continue to support the JBT Scholarship program.

David and Louise Rogers, JBT donors, with recipient Jacob Apter, freshman in Human Development and Family Studies

Professor myths debunked

Dec 9
Sara Tondini, Animal Sciences graduate student

As we start packing to go home and continue studying into the night for our finals, I think it's important we take the time to acknowledge the person that pushed us to learn and grow and be our better selves this semester. (No it's not your mom, although it usually is. Sorry mom.) It's your professor! A professor that is engaging and cares about their students is one of the most valuable aspects of a student’s college career. For most professors, the classes they are teaching, they have taught 100 times. For us students, it’s brand new! The professors that take the time to answer questions and clarify material are admirable. Here at the U of I (especially the College of ACES) we have intelligent, dedicated professors. So as I hear students fill out their ICES forms, I am shocked to hear some of the complaints. I want to debunk some myths about your professors right now.

Myth 1: “They're so busy with other important things. They don’t care about teaching.”
Your professors are extremely busy, but they also care a whole lot about the generation of young adults in their field that are getting prepared to go into the workforce and make big changes in this world. They devoted their career to the study of this specific field and as a student your interest in this field is very important to them. This is their time to give you the correct information and help you make knowledgeable decisions in the future concerning this area of study. Send an email, go to office hours, or just talk after class if you feel like you need one-on-one time. They'll be happy to help!

Myth 2: "We never went over a problem like this in class. They want me to fail the exam."
They want you to use your brain and take the information they have given you to make an informed decision. I'm here to learn, and I actually want to learn. I don't want to regurgitate definitions.  I want to understand how things work and why the work and be able to apply that knowledge in my future job. Sure the “easy A” classes are nice, but I would much rather have a professor push me to work for my good grades then get spoon fed the answers. I already feel unprepared for adult life enough as it is; I need all the knowledge I can get!

Myth 3: "Attendance was required, and no make-up work was allowed. They must not care about my other responsibilities.”
High school prepares us for college and college prepares us for the real world, and a lot of the time you don’t get to make-up work in the real world. The difference between high school and college is that now you can decide whether or not to go to class. If you decide not to go, you’ll deal with the consequences. Sometimes you’re tired, sometimes your favorite movie is on (I’m guilty of this), and sometimes you just don’t want to go but you should! It’s all about balance and finding that balance can be tough, but you shouldn’t let your responsibilities get in the way of each other. Your professors want you to do well and to do well; you have to have all the information they’re giving you. That’s why attendance is required. They want to teach us about hydrogen bonds and p-values, but they also want to teach us how to be accountable, intelligent young adults.

Remember these things when you fill out your next ICES form and thank your professors before you leave. Good luck on finals and have a wonderful break!

Study time at ACES

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