Let generosity guide your walk

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

Nearly 70 years ago, a young woman walked the same paths you now walk on this beautiful campus. No doubt, even she didn’t know then what an influence she would later become to generations of young people attending University of Illinois or young 4-H members.

This fall, Lila Jeanne Eichelberger will be inducted into the National 4-H Hall of Fame Class of 2016 at a ceremony in Chevy Chase Md. Known around campus as “Shorty” because of her small 5-foot frame, Eichelberger stands as a giant among her peers for her philanthropic efforts to support 4-H and the university.

A woman of remarkable grace, Lila Jeanne tirelessly campaigns with her time, energy, and financial resources to the advancement of Illinois 4-H, 4-H Memorial Camp, 4-H House, University of Illinois, and Illini Sports. She is a member-emeritus of the Illinois 4-H Foundation Board of Directors. 

Generosity is one of the four pillars on which 4-H stands, along with creating a community of belonging, providing opportunities for youth to gain independence, and enhancing learning so young people master the life skills they need for successful careers. Lila Jeanne learned her lesson well.

She has made financial gifts to U of I and Illinois 4-H every year for 50 years. In total, her giving to 4-H alone exceeds $2 million. In 2000, she created an endowment to honor her late mother, a 50-year 4-H leader. Today, she continues to add value with an estate commitment which will endow the Margarette E. Athey 4-H Adult Volunteer Leader Development Fund at over one quarter-million dollars.

More than that, people simple adore Lila Jeanne for who she is. Says Curt Sinclair, 4-H Memorial Camp director and beneficiary of many recent Eichelberger gifts, “The instant you meet Lila Jeanne Eichelberger, your personal definition of ‘genuineness’ is shattered and the bar is raised higher than you had it before.

“Nothing in the mile-long list of her accomplishments is self-serving,” he says. “My personal experience with her is entwined by our common belief in the incredible power 4-H camping programs can have in the lives of young people, both campers and counselors. Her purely genuine spirit of the 4-H pledge; that of head, heart, hands, and health, mentor us all.”    

Eichelberger credits 4-H with shaping her career choices and leading her to U of I where she received two degrees and an advanced certificate. She taught home economics for 40 years. She married the late Paul Eichelberger. "Paul was the love of my life; we shared so many interests - one key one being Fighting Illini sports," she said. "Neither of us would be the person we became if it had not been for sports, 4-H or the University of Illinois."

When you imagine your future self, will generosity be the thing you are known for? It starts the moment you look past your own needs to the needs of those around you, in your club, your community, your country and your world.

Lila Jeanne, pictured here with Curt Sinclair, has made significant contributions to the 4-H Memorial Camp near Monticello. A new visual arts craft center will be built in the fall near the lake.

The Illinois 4-H State 4-H Office and Illinois 4-H Foundation staff met recently at 4-H Memorial Camp to thank Lila Jeanne Eichelberger for her generous donation to the 4-H camping program. The staff stand on the future location of the new creative arts building which will be built through Eichelberger’s generous donation to the Illinois 4-H Foundation.


Real-WORLD Learning

Jun 6
Debra Korte, Teaching Assistant Professor, Agricultural Education

I feel fortunate to have a career which provides me the opportunity to prepare future teachers and leaders for the agriculture industry. In addition to planning curriculum and designing instructional strategies to best meet the needs of students and adults, I find myself frequently discussing the value of real-world learning. My personal definitions of real-world learning – Teach people how to apply textbook knowledge in real-world applications. Teach people how to use the information they have learned in the classroom in the real world. Teach people how to use their resources to solve problems in the real world.

I developed a new definition of real-world learning during a recent study abroad experience. Organized by Dr. David Rosch, Assistant Professor in Agricultural Leadership Education, I had the chance to travel to Italy with 16 Agricultural Education students. I saw students experience real WORLD learning.

Students’ views of the world were expanded as they saw firsthand some of the greatest and most widely recognized historical sites and works of art. The Colosseum. Trevi Fountain. The Basilica and St. Peter’s Square. Michelangelo’s David sculpture and his painting of the ceiling in the Sistine Chapel. The Vatican Museum. The Leaning Tower of Pisa. Pictures and stories from their elementary textbooks were brought to life.

In addition to the sights and sounds of Italy, I saw real WORLD learning occur as a result of spending several days with a select group of people. I watched the dynamics of the group unfold during the multiple day study abroad experience. Students who may not have known each other prior to the trip bonded together based on common interests. Values like trust, care, and concern for others developed when faced with the challenges of a new country, new city, new language, and new culture. Friendships evolved and changed. Experiences were shared. Memories were made.

Real-world learning happens every day – in a variety of locations and with people we perhaps never anticipated meeting. Students interacted with their global neighbors, immersed themselves in the culture over food and conversation, and enhanced their understanding of different worldviews through this experience.

Four Things I've Learned in Four Days

May 31
Paige Jones, Junior in Agricultural Communications

As the summer heats up and the stress of the end of the year cools down, campus has become pretty quiet with students leaving for their summer adventures. Some students left for home to help on the farm, some left to learn and work in foreign countries, and some, like me, have started their summer internships.

In my first week as the College of ACES Communications and Marketing intern, I have already started gaining experience in writing, alumni relations, and social media management, which are all major components of this job. However, I think the most important thing I’ve learned is something that is applicable in any job: how to be a good employee. My boss may read this and think, “Does she know the definition of good?”, and you might read this and think, “What does an intern know about being a good employee on her fourth day?” I’ve always thought there is something to be said about the opinions of a newbie with a fresh outlook on a situation. So I now present to you… Everything You Need to Know about Being a Good Employee. Disclaimer: It’s only my fourth day so there is actually a little more that you really need to know.

1.    Be professional.
Everyone seems to hate hearing the word “professionalism” because we associate it with dressing up in clothes that aren’t comfortable and pretending to enjoy doing so. Although I think it’s important to look your best, I believe the most important aspects of professionalism are being passionate about your work, being enjoyable to work with, and being eager to learn more. A wardrobe full of business suits will not make you professional if you don’t act the part.

2.    Ask questions.
This is such a simple one, yet many of us, including me, are often too proud to say that we don’t know how to do something. You don’t look dumb because you had to ask. Asking questions does not mean you don’t know what you’re doing; it means you want to improve the quality of your work. Asking the right questions will get you much further than asking none.

3.    Show up.
Showing up isn’t simply being present at work. My hometown’s basketball team lives by the saying “All In.” When you show up to work, be all in. Your best work surfaces when you are dedicated to what you are doing. Being all in means you are not above any job or task because you are committed to seeing your company or organization succeed and will complete any assignment, no matter how big or small, to make that happen.

4.    Be kind.
This is absolutely the most important tip I have for you. Saying please, thank you, or good job or greeting someone with a smile and a “hey, how are you?” can turn someone’s day around. A positive work environment will improve your quality of work as well as the quality of work of those around you. Be someone that people are happy to see and truly enjoy working with.


These four things I’ve learned in four days as an intern are objectives that all employees and employers should actively be doing not only in the workplace, but in life in general. Being professional and passionate, asking questions, showing up and being dedicated, and being kind shows the world the best version of you. So whether you’re starting your internship, wandering the streets of Italy, or helping your dad work cattle, try trusting the advice from this intern. It hasn’t steered me wrong… yet.

First visit to campus

May 25
Judy Mae Bingman, 4-H Media & Marketing

Do you remember your first visit to campus? Sure you do. There’s something about walking on the quad for the first time that stays with a person.

Illinois 4-H wants to be that ‘first look at campus’ for Illinois young people, and we do it through our Illini Summer Academies. This year we set a new record … 310 kids in 16 different academies of study. We’re just about evenly split between incoming high school freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors.

They arrive June 26, and we need your help showing off U of I for four days. We need tour guides on June 26 and 29. We need overnight chaperones (financial compensation available) from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. Sunday through Wednesday.

During the day, you’re free to be on your own or attend any of these 16 academies: Aerospace Engineering, Ag Mechanization, Animal Science, Anthropology, Astrobiology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Creative Writing, Digital Fabrication and Informatics, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Entomology, Human Development & Family Studies, Molecular & Cellular Biology, Plant Science & Ag Business, and Vet Med.

Be the person who gives these students their first look at the campus you love so much.

The Quad at Illinois

Dedicating the Agricultural Education and Leadership Learning Space

May 9
Debra Korte, Teaching Assistant Professor, Agricultural Education
Recently, the Agricultural Education Program was honored to welcome Linda Tank, Senior Vice President, CHS Communications and Public Affairs, to the dedication ceremony of the Agricultural Education and Leadership Learning Space. Because of the generous donation from the CHS Foundation, Inc., the Agricultural Education Program classroom transitioned from “out-of-date” to “state-of-the-art”. Students no longer use a VCR and overhead projector for workshops and demonstrations; instead, they utilize touchscreen technology on large, high definition televisions to navigate websites, watch instructional videos, or display presentations.

Perhaps most importantly, the new learning space allows our online graduate students to feel more engaged in the classroom environment. The technology provides an enriched learning experience for both the on-campus graduate students (present in the classroom) and online students (joining via online software and webcams). Moreover, the new technology allows students from around the world to join classes and interact with other students.

Aside from the classroom experience, students use the learning space to engage with industry professionals in networking opportunities, collaborate with agriculture partners, and develop their skills for utilizing a variety of technologies in traditional and non-traditional education settings.

Thanks to the CHS Foundation, the Agricultural Education Program has a learning environment that is welcoming for future students and upholds the standards of excellence set forth by the University of Illinois as a leader in research and education. Regardless of their specific career paths, students who use this learning space will be leaders in their communities and the agriculture industry.

Many thanks to the CHS Foundation for their significant contributions to the agriculture industry, the agricultural education profession, and the University of Illinois.
Ag Ed Classroom

Tell the world you’re 4-H proud

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

The national #4HGrowsHere campaign is reminding the world that 4-H is alive and growing in this country. Many 4-H alums lose contact with their 4-H roots when they start new careers and move to new areas. The campaign is intended to find those former members and spread the word that 4-H is thriving in every community, from rural farms to urban cities.

Illinois made a concentrated effort to expand our 4-H programs to metro areas several years ago. At the time, some worried that we would lose our strong agricultural foundation for 4-H. I hope by now we’ve proved that more means better for everyone.

Illinois 4-H’s efforts in metro areas have allowed us to tell the important agricultural story to a whole new audience who is far removed from where their food is grown. And, those urban supporters have helped strengthened the base of programming for our traditional audiences too, bringing science and technology programs to the new generation of rural American innovators and engineers.

Everyone wins when we grow 4-H. Who can’t get excited about thousands of kids finding out about 4-H for the first time! Remember your first blue ribbon? Don’t you want that same excitement for every kid? (I see your head nodding.)

“Sows, cows and plows” are still important to 4-H because agriculture will always be important to our growing world, and so is robotics, engineering, computers, and videography. It’s not an “either-or” situation. It’s never been “either-or” in 4-H. 4-H has always been where everyone can find their own path to success. Join us in spreading the word. Register your 4-H membership online @ http://www.4-h.org/4Hgrowshere-alumni/.

More than 450 youth from 65 teams were on campus April 23 for the state 4-H Robotics Competition. Robotics is the fastest growing 4-H project in the state. Many U of I students served as judges for the contest.


Opportunities to thrive

Apr 28
Marla Todd, Associate Director of Advancement Communications

The education one gains in the classrooms of the College of ACES is top-notch However, it’s coupling that classroom instruction with experiences outside the classroom that prepare ACES students to truly thrive after graduation.

Last month during Explore ACES, several panelists shared their perspectives on how taking advantage of individualized advising, experiential learning, and professional development opportunities can best position students for exciting and dynamic careers in food and agriculture. Tom Frey, professor emeritus of agricultural and consumer economics (ACE), and alumnus Dave Shockey were members of the panel that encouraged potential Department of ACE students to choose ACES for the value of education both in-and-outside of the classroom.

Individualized advising
“Students appreciate a trusting and sharing relationship, focused on someone listening to them,” Frey said. When Frey served as an advisor, he encouraged students to identify their goals, and then choose courses to accomplish those goals. It is important for advisors to help students get excited about job and career options, and guide them toward opportunities to explore their interests, he explained. This approach requires advisors specially trained and dedicated to providing one-on-one advising.

Experiential learning
As a student, Shockey was involved in organizing spring break trips to the financial center in New York and Washington, D.C. “There is a world out there that can impact your perspective,” he said. “The college was giving an education beyond the classroom.” Frey added that the prestige of the University of Illinois often opens doors to allow students experiences that would otherwise not be available.

Professional development
“Student clubs provide students a chance to meet and interact with individuals from the real world, often recent graduates who are especially understanding of their challenges of bridging the gap from college to career, “ Frey noted. Students also build leadership skills and learn from guest speakers on campus.

Individualized advising, experiential learning and professional development opportunities require financial support. The Department of ACE Student Advising and Enrichment (SAEC) fund supports these four purposes to distinguish ACE as a leader in student service. Additionally, those who benefitted from Frey’s guidance, along with Frey and his wife Bev, have formed the Tom Frey fund, which furthers the SAEC. To learn more about supporting the ACE Student Advising and Enrichment Center or Tom Frey fund, visit http://advancement.aces.illinois.edu/focus/students.

Panel in ACE

The Ripple Effect

Apr 18
Marla Todd, Associate Director of Advancement Communications

In the pond of life, we don’t always realize the long-term ripple effects of what we might see as a simple, small gesture. In fact, it may be years before we see the actual impact on someone else or realize someone dropped a stone in our personal pond that made all the difference. 

Earlier this week, the College of ACES Alumni Association honored four outstanding alumni with the Award of Merit. During the awards luncheon they each shared comments about their achievements, personal perspectives, and those who impacted them. 

Although Donna Greene, Robert Gustafson, Scott McAdam and James Shearl all come from varied backgrounds, I noticed a commonality as they spoke. They each noted a particular person or event that they still credit with influencing their success. For one, it dated back to attending a presentation by Roscoe Pershing to high school students about agricultural engineering. Another noted Warren Wessels’ strong advice to change majors. (Side note – I think many credit Warren Wessels with dropping a stone in their pond!) A graduate school scholarship, made possible from the gift of a farm to the University of Illinois, was a critical opportunity for one individual. Finally, an instructor, Mildred Briggs, was mentioned by one other. 

At what is sometimes considered a big University, it’s the pebbles that are dropped in ponds that start the ripples of success for College of ACES graduates. What ripple will you start today? Will you reach out to a fellow student with an opportunity to lead a registered student organization? Will you open a research project to an undergraduate student? Will you give a gift that will provide a scholarship or other funding for many years to come? Or will you find your own special way of creating a ripple that can change lives?

A heart for helping

Apr 13
Sara Tondini, Animal Sciences graduate student

Making money makes some people happy (and money buys pizza, which makes us all happy). Climbing the corporate ladder and getting to the top makes other people happy. Making a name for yourself can be a source of happiness and these are all fine motives, but the College of ACES family tends to go a different route.

I don’t know exactly what I want to be when I grow up. I like too many subjects and have so many interests. I try to do all things to the best of my abilities to make professors and employers happy, so much so that I convince myself that I enjoy those things, even when I sometimes don’t. This has made it tough for me to nail down a specific path to that “dream job.” It wasn’t until recently that I discovered that it’s ok not to know that path and it’s ok not to know your “dream job.” What’s important is knowing the things that make you happy and then pursuing those things.

I’ve noticed that the faculty, staff, and students in the College of ACES have a heart for helping. Helping makes us happy. There’s a sense of selflessness dispersed throughout each major in this college, and I was reminded of that this past Monday night at the College of ACES and Paul A. Funk Recognition Awards. (I was also reminded of how much I enjoy food wrapped in bacon, but that’s just a side note.) Whether we’re traveling abroad to help developing countries grow food more efficiently or coming up with solutions to keep our water sources clean or guiding students like me during our time here and beyond, we’re all finding ways to shrink ourselves and increase others.

I’m humbled to be a part of a college that uses research and outreach and teaching to make a difference in this world. Sometimes you feel like just a number here, especially when you get lost, and you’re not sure where your path is, but I’ve realized that it’s less important to stand out, and it’s more important to help out. It’s ok not to know what you want to do, but I encourage you to find the things that make you happy, and if you have a heart for helping then you’re in the right place.

Don’t be afraid to expand your horizons

Apr 7
Nicole Chance, Sophomore in Agricultural Communications

Grain merchandising isn’t exactly what I have always wanted to do. But after I heard about the Scoular job shadow, I knew that grain merchandising was something that I definitely was interested in learning more about. I love to write. There is nothing that I enjoy more than having the ability to share or tell a story through words. But I also know that I cannot tell a good story if I am not well educated about the industry I want to represent. The Scoular job shadow provided me with this opportunity.

Boarding a private plane to fly to Overland Park, Missouri, was a bit intimidating at first. It was nice to know there were people on the plane with me who seemed to feel the same way at first. After our landing, we drove to the hotel and then to dinner where we met with Scoular employees to talk about what having a career at Scoular is like. It’s interesting to learn about the different dynamics of grain companies. Scoular has three corporate offices located in Minneapolis, Omaha, and Overland Park with approximately 1,200 employees. Compared to Cargill or ADM, this is a smaller company, but it was so neat to hear people say they knew the CEO or the Vice President of their company on a first-name basis.

The next day we had the opportunity to visit the corporate office at Overland Park, as well as tour an elevator in Adriane, Missouri. We shadowed merchandisers to learn how they handle buying and selling grain via rail, freight, etc.  It was interesting to see how they must solve problems and communicate with customers on a daily basis. For instance, they may have to deal with a load of grain getting rejected at an elevator or a late or early arrival of a rail car. Problem-solving skills are necessary in this profession as problems must be handled quickly and properly.

This experience taught me more than just how to buy and sell grain. It taught me about the diversity and the complexity of the agriculture industry. There are both smaller and larger businesses contributing to the production, processing, and the distribution of what is grown across the globe on a daily basis. Having the ability to see what one part of such a vast and complex industry does really teaches you a lot.

Don’t be afraid of the ability to step out of your comfort zone and learn something new. You may not have the same amount of experience that others ahead of you do, but don’t hesitate to ask questions to get it right. Experience and communication is key in a complex industry like agriculture, and gaining a deeper understanding for what you want to talk about is beneficial to you and the industry you represent.