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.


How to get a great letter of recommendation

Apr 1
Theresa Miller, Academic Advisor, Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics

I get asked to write a LOT of letters of recommendation. A LOT. As I write letters of recommendation I’d like to suggest some items for thought before you, as a high school or college student, ask someone to write you a letter of recommendation:

-Be sure to inform the letter writer exactly what this scholarship is for, and what qualifications they are seeking in their candidate. Do not just copy the website in, but go the extra mile to write one to two sentences that highlight the purpose of the scholarship or award you are seeking.

-Be very clear about your career goals, major in college and college choice to the recommender. If you’re not sure what you want to do, write down something to them anyway that reflects generally your direction. Scholarship app readers and recommendation writers want to see a goal oriented person with a purpose in life. That goal may change over time and that’s okay, but a career direction saying that you don’t know what you want to do in life doesn’t speak well to someone who you are asking to invest in you.

-Remind the writer of how you know them, and any special anecdotes about your relationship. “I was the person that created a fundraiser for the local food bank with your help and I was so glad to get to know you better through that process.”

-Think about the best person to write each letter, not just two or three people to write all your letters. This is an undue burden on the recommender, and doesn’t do you any favors either. I am much better suited to some industry letters of recommendation than others, and to evaluate certain traits than others (for example if I didn’t have a student in my class, and the scholarship wants letters to speak to their academic ability, then I’m not the right writer. This IS going to put a burden on YOU to go above and beyond and think about each application and the best person for that application specifically.

-Be sure you are asking someone to write you a letter that will give you a great recommendation. So that means going the extra mile to get to know your teachers, advisors, and others in circumstances other than the norm. Just sitting in a class, and never engaging with the teacher is not going to create a relationship or impress anything on that person that will create a great letter.

-Give TIME allocated for each letter to be written and submitted. Trust me, even though you don’t think it will take long for multiple letters to be sent, they do. Better letters are personalized to the scholarship, and each scholarship in this electronic submission world we live in has its own system that I must use to log in, answer questions, and then submit using their specific requirements. This takes time, so please respect that.

A letter of recommendation is a privilege, not a right.  It should be a reflection and extension of your resume or application, not a regurgitation of it. Making those kinds of letters happen is a result of what you do during high school or college to make you different. Be sure to engage with different people, employers, teachers and others during high school and college that will help you have those types of people that will write you GREAT letters, not lukewarm ones. The worst for me is to receive an email request for a letter of recommendation from someone I can’t bring to mind right away. That’s not going to be a great letter from me, and that’s a disservice to the student.

Happy scholarship season!

typing a letter

It's time

Mar 31
Marla Todd, Associate Director of Advancement Communications

Guest blog from Caitlin McClure, Junior in Agricultural Communications

It’s time again, ACES! It’s time for what?
Now on its third year, the annual I Pay It Forward (PIF) campaign is back, and aiming to be better than before. The PIF campaign embodies the phrase “students helping students”. Each April, the Student Advancement Committee leads a massive fundraiser to create scholarships for students who may not be able to stay at the university for financial reasons. In 2015, twenty $1,000 scholarships were distributed to College of ACES students.

Okay, cool. But why should I donate?
It’s easy to say donate because it’s the right thing to do, or maybe because it makes you feel like a good person. However, unlike other fundraisers, PIF is about so much more than you donating to a cause you’ll never see actual returns from. Students affected by this scholarship aren’t just a face you might pass on the quad. These are our friends and fellow ACES family. The return from your donation is immediate, and makes a visible difference in the college. With the funding of MAP grants still up in the air, these scholarships are more important than ever!

Get excited!
Not only is Pay It Forward for a good cause, it’s a blast, too! There will be events hosted all month long that give you a chance to get more out of the campaign than just a sense of pride.

Pay It Forward kicks off tonight, March 31, at 5:30 PM in the Stock Pavilion. Come join us for dinner and a celebration of students helping students. Plus, we will be introducing you to a few thankful scholarship recipients.

Later this month, SAC will be hosting a volleyball tournament. Sigma Alpha and 4-H House will be hosting their annual date auction, Save the Date, and SAC will be visiting classrooms and RSO meetings.

How do I donate if I don’t go to an event?
Donate here: http://ipayitforward.aces.illinois.edu

How do I find out about events or what’s going on with the campaign?
Like us on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/iPayItForwardACES/?fref=ts

It’s time to step up, ACES. As College of ACES students, we are the best of the best. I truly believe we’re the most elite students at the university, not just because we’re smart and accomplished, but because we care. We truly understand the meaning of teamwork and friendship. So get excited ACES, it’s time to once again, show the world who we are.

I Pay It Forward crew

Women Celebrating their Face in Agriculture

Mar 24
Brianna Gregg, ACES Coordinator of Transfer Recruitment

A few weeks ago I was fortunate to be able to attend the “Women Changing the Face of Agriculture” conference held at Illinois State University. It was amazing to see so many high school girls interested in learning about the many different careers and organizations related to agriculture. On my way home, I began to think about my personal perception of the Face of Ag. If you asked me 15 years ago what does ag look like to me, I’d say it would be my father working in the fields while my mom manages and balances the books. NOW (after being exposed to many opportunities and people- I’m old!) I’d say it is Kathy Novotney working hard to support ag instructors across the state-- Dr. Christine Cord teaching meat and food science in the college classroom-- Jean Drasgow connecting students to careers in agriculture -- Ellen Gregg helping farm families achieve their financial goals (shameless plug to the mother-in-law!). Heck, I would even say it is Diana Gray who was inspired to become an obstetrician by assisting in the birth of a calf when she was little. This is just a minuscule sample of my perception of ag today. So while the Face of Agriculture is ever changing, I believe another great name for the Women Changing the Face of Agriculture conference would be “Women Celebrating their Face in Agriculture.”

Women in Ag Facts

Show us your 4-H green

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

There’s a new campaign to grow 4-H membership to 10 million kids by 2025. Grow True Leaders also aims to collect the names of 1 million 4-H alumni. Can we count on you?

Whether your 4-H experience was speaking to legislators, whipping up a nutritious meal, leading your 4-H club meeting, spending summers at the county fair, or teaching STEM experiences, we want to hear your story so it inspires the next generation of True Leaders.

Here’s all it takes:

Step 1: Go to 4-h.org/4Hgrowshere-alumni/ and register as an Illinois 4-H alum.

Step 2: Any time you want to show others what 4-H has done for you, use the hashtag #thats4H. That’s Illinois’ exclusive tag for everything we do.

Step 3: All year long (but especially April 10-17), use all your social media platforms to give “shout outs” to your friends who are examples of True Leaders. Be sure to use both the #TrueLeaders and the #thats4H hashtags. If you’re okay with it, use geolocation to show you’re part of the Illinois team! Need ideas? Your shout out may read “#TrueLeaders like @Kaity teach showring etiquette to today’s #4H members. #thats4H”

Step 4: Watch April 12 for an announcement by 4-H spokesman Jennifer Nettles during the National 4-H Youth Rally in Washington D.C.

Step 5: Follow @Illinois4H on Facebook and Twitter.

Step 6: Help us tell the 4-H story by telling your story at 4hfoundation.illinois.edu/former-members.

4H Girl Painting

4H Boy

4H Stem person


ACES 101: Generosity

Mar 15
Kendall Herren, Senior in Agricultural Communications

If there’s one class students in the College of ACES don’t need to take, it’s a class on generosity. ACES students are top-notch at helping those around them. For example, throughout the past two years, our students have gone above and beyond with the I Pay it Forward campaign raising more than $20,000 in scholarships for their peers.

And this week is no different as ACES students live out their generosity. Today, students can register as a bone marrow donor in memory of former crop sciences student, Jon Hustedt, at the ACES Library from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. or the Illini Union, Room 104, from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Jon was diagnosed with Aplastic Anemia and Paroxysmal Nocturnal Hemoglobinuria. After battling his disease for two years, Jon had a match on the bone marrow donor registry, and received a bone marrow transplant in June of 2015. Unfortunately, a month after the transplant, Jon was diagnosed with Graft Versus Host Disease where the donor white blood cells began attacking the rest of Jon’s body. Jon passed away on August 29, 2015, at the age of 23 from this unforeseen complication of the transplant. The Field & Furrow Club is hosting this event today in honor of their former classmate.

Tonight, FarmHouse Fraternity is helping community members affected by cancer, including their house cook Jenny Goin’s husband. The fraternity is hosting an All-You-Can-Eat Taco Benefit Dinner to help support this family, including Jenny’s three young children. The event is from 5 to 8 p.m. at FarmHouse Fraternity.

Join in and help make a difference today!

Be the one to save a life

Mar 10
Amber Adams, Crop Sciences Marketing

As president of the Field and Furrow Club, Kris Heller is always looking for volunteer opportunities for members. Last fall, Kris learned of an opportunity that hit close to home and knew the club had to get involved. Field and Furrow has collaborated with Be The Match On Campus, a student organization dedicated to raising awareness about bone cancer, to sponsor a bone marrow registry drive in memory of fellow crop sciences student Jon Hustedt. Jon passed away from complications of a bone marrow transplant – a situation Jon’s parents believe could have ended differently. Read Jon’s story below. 

In the summer of 2013, Jon Hustedt began his Junior year in the College of ACES with aspirations of becoming a plant breeder when he went in for a routine physical. Jon mentioned to his doctor that he had been easily bruising and blood work later revealed he had Aplastic Anemia and Paroxysmal Nocturnal Hemoglobinuria. Jon immediately began immunosuppressive drug therapy.

In April of 2015, Jon’s condition evolved into Myelodysplastic Syndrome (pre-leukemia) a fatal disease if left untreated. Jon’s treatment team decided he needed a bone marrow transplant as soon as possible.

In June of 2015, Jon received a bone marrow transplant from a donor – the single match in a registry of nearly 24.5 million donors. Initially, Jon seemed to be on the road to recovery. The donor’s cells had become Jon’s cells, which meant Jon was on his way to healing. Unfortunately, things took a turn when the donor’s white cells started attacking Jon’s body. On August 29, 2015 Jon passed away from Graft Versus Host Disease.

Jon’s family feels that he may have had a better outcome if there had been more than one match in the registry. Research shows the younger the donor, the better the outcome for the patient.

Joining the Be The Match bone marrow registry involves a simple cheek swab. To learn more about the bone marrow registration and donation process visit www.bethematch.org or sign-up to attend event here. You could be the one to save a life.

Be the Match flyer

Now's your chance...

Mar 8
Sara Tondini, Animal Sciences graduate student

“Oh, so you want to be a vet?” The most frequently asked question I get when I say I’m an animal sciences major. This is followed shortly by, “Wait, so have you stuck your hand in a cow’s stomach?” Before I attended Explore ACES, the summer before my freshman year at the University of Illinois, my answers to these questions were very different.

Explore ACES is this weekend, March 11-12, and it is an ACES-filled day for prospective and admitted students. This event allows students to check out all the opportunities that are available to them in the College of ACES. There are interactive exhibits and mini-classes put on by each major in the college, and organizations and offices have displays, dispersed throughout the ACES campus, with tons of information.

As an admitted animal sciences student, I explored my major at the Stock Pavilion, where I stuck my hand in a cow and then forced my dad to also stick his hand in a cow (hahaha). This experience along with many others, like speaking with faculty members, learning about the different RSOs, and touring the beef farm, changed my perspective on what my major had to offer. I had always wanted to be a vet, but when I saw all these new possibilities that intrigued and excited me, I knew there was much more to my major than I had originally thought.

Although the main audience of Explore ACES is prospective students, its displays and exhibits are open to the public. So, if you missed out on quad day or you’re hitting the weird quarter-life crisis where you think you’ve chosen the wrong major and have no idea what to do, take a deep breath and keep your eyes open this weekend for the Explore ACES events or check out the website. I’m grateful to be a part of a college that has so many opportunities for its students to explore and grow and learn.

Plus, if you haven’t stuck your hand in a cow, now’s your chance.  

Explore ACES
Students visit an agricultural and biological engineering display during Explore ACES.

Opportunity of a lifetime

Mar 3
Kendall Herren, Senior in Agricultural Communications

We talk about opportunities in ACES a lot. The hands-on, real-world experiences. Well last night I got the opportunity of a lifetime. I had the chance to watch the greatest miracle on Earth: a new life being born.

This semester I’m in the ANSC 199 class, also known as Foal Watch. You work six different shifts: three shifts from 6 p.m. to midnight, and three from midnight to 6 a.m. I won’t lie. The midnight to 6 a.m. shifts aren’t always the most fun.

But after last night, I don’t really care. Because I got to watch a mare foal the cutest brown and white faced filly! And I watched her take her first steps within an hour!

It was the coolest thing as some veterinarians came in and threw on some gloves and started helping her push. My friend Siera had to hop in the stall and hold the mare as she was pushing so the vets could help pull the foal out. It all happened so quick that it was hard to think about what was happening, you just wanted to yell push and have the baby fall out!

As soon as the foal hit the ground, the vets instantly started drying her off with towels and cleaning her up. They checked the sex and cleaned up where the umbilical cord was connected.

And then we all kind of just stood there in awe. We watched as the foal started moving around and tried to get up. I’ll admit, I was just kind of awestruck with the whole thing.

I watched for a good half hour as she tried standing up, and finally she did! It was so funny to watch her wobble and then fall back down.

Overall, this might be the highlight of my college career. How cool is it that I got to watch a horse give live birth?! And I was able to help! (Maybe just by handing towels to the vets and opening a bag that had blood on it. But I got my blood on my hands, so that means I really contributed, right?!)

Foal watch