You never really leave

Oct 28
Judy Mae Bingman, 4-H Media & Marketing

Be prepared. This campus will always hold special memories for you. As a young graduate, I would stop by campus on my way through from where my first job took me to where I was born. After marriage and babies, I would still stop, toddlers in tow, to show them the quad, Assembly Hall and Morrow Plots.

Illinois, where I got locked in the graduate library stacks one night.
Illinois, where I watched a football referee die on the field during a game my freshman year.
Illinois, where there were five times as many people in my dorm as my home town.
Illinois, where I met the woman who would become my best friend.
Illinois, where I was introduced to the band Pork and the Havana Ducks (Google it... it will be an experience).
Illinois, where I missed earning Bronze Tablet status by one spot.

I admit to being a little devastated that neither child chose my alma mater to be their alma mater. And, yet, they both carry a little bit of Illinois with them … as 4-H members. University of Illinois, as Illinois' land grant university, is home to Illinois 4-H. My job is to make sure every 4-H member knows they have a place waiting for them at Illinois. Like a parent welcoming home a child, U of I is home to every 4-H member.

Two great traditions … Illinois and 4-H.


Stories that matter

Oct 27
Jennifer Shike, Director for Communications and Marketing

"I’ll never forget you, Hunter. Promise me that you will never forget me.”

As I watched Willard pull my 8-year-old son close for a hug and whisper these words to him, I couldn’t help but feel a little overwhelmed by the moment. And that was just one of many I experienced last Sunday where I was reminded of the power of one small voice.

The story actually starts two years ago, when my now 10-year-old daughter, Olivia, went with her 4-H club to put on a fun carnival for the residents of Maple Point Assisted Living Facility in Monticello. I remember spending most of that day keeping our baby occupied while the kids played games with the residents. However, in the chaos, I did notice that Olivia had a particular gift for connecting with the residents. So much so that she told me that she didn’t want that to be the last day that she saw her new friend, Paula. She wanted to go back and write her letters.

So she did. I watched a special bond form between the two as they shared their love for animals. We stopped by on occasion and sent letters. During that same first year of 4-H she took a project called “Walk In My Shoes” where she learned about the differences between her generation and older generations. She chose to do her project on her great grandma, Ruthie. Around this time, Grandma Ruthie had to give up her independent living on her own to move into a nursing home. This was a difficult time in Grandma Ruthie’s life and Olivia was very worried about her great grandma.

Getting to know new friends at Maple Point helped both of us adjust. And it reminded me of the important job that we have to take care of the elderly. During her second year of 4-H, Olivia took the Service Learning: Agents of Change project and decided to find a way to help her friends out at Maple Point even more – beyond the annual carnival.

She wanted to make blankets for everyone at Maple Point to remind them that others care for them. And in the process, help connect at an even deeper level with the residents there. She created a plan…a plan that cost nearly $500 and would require many hours of work. Realistically, she would need help to complete it. With support from her 4-H Youth Development Educator Jamie Boas, she made a pitch for financial support to the Champaign County Extension Education Foundation and was overjoyed when they donated $250 to her “Blanket Buddies” project. She then asked her 4-H Club to help with the remaining costs to make the blankets and assist in the blanket-making and distributing effort.

After completing 34 blankets last May, Olivia helped organize a one-hour event at Maple Point this fall to present the blankets. With the help of Stacy Cribbs, Maple Point’s activity director, and her fellow 4-H club members, they had a special 4-H display the week before the event to showcase their projects and bring a little “county fair” to the residents.

In addition to giving the blankets out at the event, 4-H members also shared about their projects that had been on display, served cookies and punch to their new friends, and simply spent time visiting and getting to know them.

As a mom, there is no greater feeling than to see your children love on others. I watched Olivia lead the presentation, speaking with such grace and compassion for her age. She floated around the room engaging the residents and encouraging some of her friends who were a little nervous at first, but quickly warmed up and made new friends. My son met a true friend in Willard who had a fantastic time telling Hunter old stories. The smiles on both of their faces were priceless. And perhaps one of my favorite memories of the day was watching my husband take our 2 ½-year old daughter, Harper, over to spend time with Helen. Helen was a sweet lady that we had met when Olivia first met Paula. She is blind, so understandably some of our activities were harder for her to experience in the same way the others did. Harper sat by Helen and stroked her hand. They even held hands for some time. Dan said Helen couldn’t get over how soft and little Harper’s hands were.

Before we left, we encouraged the 4-H members to be pen pals with one of their new friends they had met that day. Nearly 2/3 of the residents were paired up with a 4-H member who will write them letters and invest in their lives in some small way. I watched kids step out of their comfort zone and connect with these elderly friends in ways I never imagined. It was a day full of huge smiles, lots of laughter, a few tears, and experiences that will touch these childrens’ lives forever.

I think the best part of 4-H is that it opens doors, creates opportunities, and helps our young people do things they may never do otherwise. That $250 investment from the Champaign County Extension Education Foundation did far more than bless 34 residents of Maple Point on Sunday. I’m not sure anyone walked away unchanged.

PS – We will never forget you, Willard. Your letter is on its way. Thanks for caring about my son and showing him that his story matters. Yours does, too.


Hunter and Willard
Hunter Shike presents a blanket from the Sadorus All-Stars 4-H Club to his new friend Willard.

Dan and Harper and Helen
4-H alum Dan Shike and his future 4-H'er, Harper, spend time with Helen.

Olivia shares her "Blanket Buddies" story with the residents of Maple Point Assisted Living Facility.


You don’t have to hold up the world today

Oct 25
Paige Jones, Junior in Agricultural Communications

The subject of time is one that has been constantly on my mind lately. I find myself constantly searching for more time: more time for homework, more time to spend with my friends, more time for work, more time for sleep, and more time to stress about how I don’t have any time. No matter how much I let my mind spin, I have never been able to add any more hours to the day. So what do we do? How do we cope with the stress of our daunting tasks? What do we make time for and what do we give up?

In high school, I was involved in every club I possibly could be. Not only was I involved, but I took my involvement one step further and took on leadership roles. I played two sports, took the hardest classes, and taught a class at my church on Sundays. I felt like I was always treading water, trying to keep my head above the waves. The worst of it all was that I didn’t do all of these things because I enjoyed them; I did them because I felt like I was expected to. My dad would always have to remind me, “Paige, you don’t have to hold up the world today.”

As I transitioned to college, I learned the importance of my father’s reminder, and I learned the importance of finding my passion. Finding your passion leads you to the clubs, classes, and people where your time is best spent. Spending your time on valuable things that you enjoy doing means you’re no longer treading water and trying to keep yourself from drowning. You’ve finally remembered how to swim.

I wish I had a better answer for your time management problems. I wish I had a checklist template or a time management strategy I could offer, but I don’t. The best advice I can give you is the simple reminder that you do not have to hold up the world today. The world will keep spinning if you have to skip a club meeting to finish a paper, it will keep spinning if you are a couple minutes late to a group meeting because you were on the phone with your mom, it will keep spinning if you need to take a break from studying to spend an hour with your friends. Let go of the expectations you think that people have of you and stop searching for more time because you do not have to hold up the world today.



Oct 24
Steve Loerch, Head, Department of Animal Sciences

Change. This time of year makes me acutely aware of change. The leaves are changing. The temperature is changing. Daylight savings time is changing. The fields have changed from pre to post-harvest.

Change is evident on the University of Illinois campus, too. The College of ACES will be changing leadership at the end of the month. Robert Hauser will retire from his role as Dean and Dr. Kimberlee Kidwell will resume that role on November 1. Dean Hauser has served the College of ACES for 35 years and his leadership will be missed. He has been a consistent advocate for the Department of Animal Sciences and his support is greatly appreciated. Fortunately, the college and department will be in good hands when the change of deans occurs. Dean Kidwell is already actively engaged in college activities and she is off to a fast start as our new leader. I urge everyone to give her a warm welcome when she arrives.

When you get to the heart of it, change is what we do at this institution. We are in the business of changing people’s lives. This occurs through the students we teach and mentor and through the discoveries we make. Looking forward to the great changes ahead!

Fall leaves

Tips for overcoming life’s hardships

Oct 20
Ariel Majewski, ACES Marketing Intern & junior in journalism with a minor in music

Midterm season is at its peak—an exam tomorrow, papers due Friday, an online class starting today…

And then I get the phone call. 

My 12-year-old dog needs to be put down. That’s my baby, my best friend. Some breed owners say that bichon frises can live up to 18 or even 22 years old. But this high-spirited, bubbly bichon just happens to have that rare form of bladder cancer. The academic weight falls off my shoulders as I strap on the bigger emotional baggage. And I convince myself to keep my head up, so the tears will stay balanced at the tip of my eye. 

Hardships in college happen—they don’t wait for midterms to end. In fact, these troubles seem to come at the most inopportune times. Like the “I-just-purchased-five-Monster-Energy-drinks-to-pull-an-all-nighter-at-the-UGL” kind of inopportune times. And when you need the love and support of your family the most, the long distance—usually in the form of $60 roundtrip bus commutes—is just another hindrance.

So when you receive that phone call, finish a scathing argument, get struck with an illness or injury, or experience anything else that deeply troubles you, the self-questioning begins. How do I carry on throughout the day? How can I go back out on the quad, “smiling” and waving to my friends? How do I even pretend to listen to the rest of my lectures?

When time keeps ticking while your inner-clock has stopped, here’s a few comforting suggestions to keep in mind:

 It’s okay to cry—no really

Let it out, all of it. Don’t try to “tough it out”—that’s called suppressing your emotions, and it’s not healthy. Through the midst of your busy professional and academic careers, designate a time specifically to cry. Think of it as flushing away those mental toxins.

Talk to your friends

Friends do what they do best: support each other. Alone time is certainly needed when going through rough times. But all those buzzing questions and suffocating fears will be silenced by your friends, if you choose to let them out. They may give advice, or just let their silent, attentive presence do all the comforting. Either way, none of your friends want you to think you’re alone during this time.

Take a trip home for the weekend

It’s simple. Humans weren’t designed to excel at their best during their emotionally worst. We need time to recharge. Go home to the place that you feel most familiar and confident, the place where you can personally develop and grow. Spend time with family and bond together during this difficult scenario. A change in setting can really impact your healing process.

Don’t forget about the counseling center

If you absolutely can’t afford a trip home, the counseling center is always one call away. You may feel uncomfortable expressing your most personal concerns and emotions to a stranger.  But these experts constantly work with students—they’re ready with a list of resources, and they’re ready to just talk it out. You may use the counseling center once, or you may use it multiple times throughout the semester. Maybe you’ll never use it. Just know that the counseling center is always there for your benefit. Always.

Inform your teachers

If hardships are seriously affecting your academics, let your teachers know what’s going on. Even if the instructor doesn’t recognize you out the 200 faces during lecture, let him/her know that you’re dealing with a difficult situation and coping with it. It’s always good to establish relationships with teachers anyway.

Find another emotional outlet

Listen to music, draw, play an instrument, watch funny cat videos on YouTube. Do something that you like to do to keep your mind off the subject, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Mourning will become less draining if you keep yourself preoccupied with your favorite hobbies.

I’m going to try to remember these points as I spend one last weekend with my dog. 

I love you, Skipper. I’ll never forget you.

Being a part of Illini Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow

Oct 19
Nicole Chance, Sophomore in Agricultural Communications

Choosing to come to the University of Illinois was one of my best decisions. But being involved in the Agricultural Communications department and Illini Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow (ACT) at Illinois was what really reassured I had made the best decision.

The goal of ACT is to strengthen agriculture communications students through professional growth opportunities and educational programs. This has allowed me to build lasting relationships with other agriculture communication students across the country, grow in my writing and communication skills and improve upon my knowledge and passion for agriculture. A few of the places I have traveled because of ACT are Stillwater, Oklahoma, for the ACT Professional Development Trip; Kansas City, Missouri, for the National Association of Farm Broadcaster’s Conference; and St. Louis, Missouri, for Ag Media Summit.

Illini ACT is also involved in helping with Women Changing the Face of Agriculture (WCFA), an event that occurs every year and inspires young women in high school to get involved and see what the agriculture industry has to offer. During this event we take photos and video for promotional purposes, are active on social media and also design the brochure for the event. Assisting with WCFA allows us to put our skills and talents to the test in order to cooperatively work together to achieve a common goal.

Not to mention… Illini ACT has won Chapter of the Year two years in a row! So if you are looking to get involved on campus or really just want to know more about what agricultural communications is and has to offer, join us for our next meeting Wednesday, November 2, at 5:45 p.m. in the Sims Room of the ACES Library!

Illini ACT in action at the Women Changing the Face of Agriculture conference.

Illini ACT wins the 2016 National ACT Chapter of the Year Award for the third time in the past four years!



Oct 18
Stephanie Henry, ACES Media Specialist

If you spend time in Mumford Hall, and have made your way down the hallway on the second floor, maybe you’ve stopped to browse at the collection of newspaper and magazine clippings on the ACES’ News and Public Affairs bulletin board. It’s not uncommon to see clippings from the Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, Popular Science, The Atlantic, Shape or Good Housekeeping magazines, or from ag publications from around the state and nation, all featuring research or interviews from ACES researchers and faculty.

I was passing by this bulletin board one day, and it made me think of my refrigerator at home. My kids’ art work, report cards, drawings, A+ homework assignments, etc. have adorned the refrigerator over the years. I put their important papers there because I am proud of the work they have done. That refrigerator gallery is a great reminder to me, and to them, of all the progress they have made and all the interesting things they have learned.

Our bulletin board in the hallway sort of functions the same.

From interviews about herbicide resistance in crops, to articles highlighting ways ACES is exploring new therapies for diseases like cancer or diabetes, or how we are helping to strengthen families, our researchers are experts in their fields. They have made much progress over the years and they have learned a lot. To say we’re proud of the work they do is an understatement.

The next time you’re in Mumford Hall, stop by the second floor and read a few of the headlines, researcher quotes, and findings!


Focus on three

Oct 17
Debra Korte, Teaching Assistant Professor, Agricultural Education

I’ve noticed a trend. It’s about this time every year when I begin observing several changes. The days become shorter. Cooler temperatures have arrived with the Fall season. And small signs of stress are starting to appear on the faces of students and faculty. (Mine included!)

We’re at midterm. Finals are just a few weeks away. The majority of assignments are likely due in the last half of the semester. Advising appointments are (literally) happening on both sides of me every day. Students are making decisions for careers and classes. Faculty are providing support and advice. Summer internship opportunities and subsequent decisions are starting to surface.

So many things to do. So many decisions to make. So much to get done!

As my rule of thumb for many things in life, use the power of 3. When you start to feel overwhelmed with all the things that must be done, just make a list of three things. Only three. Three things which are realistic to accomplish in the day. Three things that need to be done. Three things that must be accomplished today.

Half of the Fall semester is completed, with the best half yet to come. Let go of the 300 things that will eventually need to be done. Take a deep breath of the cool, Fall air. Make a list of three things that must be done today. Do those three things.

May we all

Oct 13
Marla Todd, Associate Director of Advancement Communications

I have a new song stuck in my head and my co-workers are probably tired of me humming the tune. Florida Georgia Line and Tim McGraw partnered to make the version that keeps running through my brain. I’m adding a few stanzas to speak to time spent on the University of Illinois campus. (Disclaimer – these do not follow the tune, nor the format of the writing. I will never claim to be a musician.)

May we all:

  • Feel the spring breeze on our face while sitting on the quad.
  • Experience cheering on an Illini athletic team.
  • Know the connection with an instructor that goes beyond lectures and tests.
  • Expand our network and interactions to many types of people.
  • Leave the University of Illinois better than we found it!

Now, back to the professionals.

May we all do a little bit better than the first time
Learn a little something from the worst times
Get a little stronger from the hurt times

May we all…..

Throwback Thursday – I have fun memories of watching the Marching Illini perform at the Bowl in December 1999. Illini athletic events are some of my favorite experiences.

Fulbright program: beyond the mission

Oct 11
Leslie Sweet Myrick, Office of International Programs Media Communications Specialist

I recently witnessed everything the Fulbright program was designed to be – and more – as ACES said goodbye to eight scholars from Lebanon who spent ten weeks with us.

This is the boilerplate I was provided for the official article I wrote:

“The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.”

But what I witnessed at our closing ceremony was more than “mutual understanding” – I witnessed that true friendships and lifelong relationships were formed. I saw hugs and tears and genuine connections.

Although I didn’t spend nearly the time with the scholars as others in my office and their mentors did, I did get the opportunity to provide conversation practice to one scholar. Of course as these things go, I ended up getting as much or more out of these meetings as she did as I learned about her and her country and culture.

The scholars left with great experiences and memories and said they are now “ambassadors for Illinois.” But I can’t help but think we at Illinois benefited just as much as they did.

Read more here.