Increasing international impacts

Feb 1
Leslie Sweet Myrick, Office of International Programs Media Communications Specialist

Improving crops in Nepal, developing nutrient supplements for India, and protecting habitats for migratory birds.

You may assume I’m referring to our wonderful ACES faculty, but these activities are just some of the recent contributions ACES graduate students have made towards addressing global challenges.

The Office of International Programs supports an internationalized graduate education in many ways; one important and somewhat recent initiative is the ACES international graduate grant program. For the past two years, our office has administered funding for international activities that contribute to dissertation research, thesis research, and other research projects. We are now accepting applications for the third round.

Read more about this program and the impacts our ACES graduate students are making around the world.

ACES international graduate grantee Alex Park with farmers and villagers in Bihar.
ACES international graduate grantee Alex Park with farmers and villagers in Bihar.

Did I give it my best today?

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

At the door of my gym is a small machine with a sign which reads “How satisfied were you with our service today?” followed by four buttons. If I felt the service from staff was great that day, I touch the BIG SMILING FACE button as I walk out the door, and it records my rating. On any given day, I may rank the gym anywhere from excellent (big smile) to poor (big frown).

I always push a button. Always. Every day. If they’re willing to ask, I’m going to tell them. I like a company that is confident enough in their business and staff to put their reputation on the line every day. I assume if they receive repeated hits on the big frown button, they use that to help identify problems. Customer opinion drives excellence.

As students and staff, we also put our reputation on the line every day. We may not offer any buttons for people to rate us, but they are doing just that. With every encounter, every transaction, every assignment, every lecture, we are receiving a performance rating from those we meet. Those daily encounters add up and form the basis for whether people see us as hard working, dependable, trustworthy, and honest. Employers look for staff who repeatedly earn big-happy-face ratings from their clients and customers.

Which button would people press to rate your interaction with them today?

Making the most out of every opportunity

Jan 20
Nicole Chance, Sophomore in Agricultural Communications
School is back in session and it is back to the reality of being a college student. But being a college student has its perks. College provides you with opportunities to meet different people that share the same interests and passions as you. For example, I was able to participate in a great networking opportunity over winter break—the National Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow Professional Development Conference at Oklahoma State. I wanted to share just a few of the things I was able to take away from this experience!

1.    “When you enjoy what you do, you do a better job.”
That is a direct quote from Kelly Barnes, the kickoff speaker of the conference. Not only reassure me that I was in the right place, but also that the degree I have chosen to pursue is a 100% the right choice for me! I love to write and communicate with others. That passion and desire has really helped me to apply myself and have an eagerness to learn more about the industry I represent. If you do not enjoy what you are doing, then the passion and desire is not there and the willingness to learn and succeed is not present. Find something you enjoy and give it 110%!

2.    Don’t be afraid to meet new people—expand your horizons.
You can never know too many people. College is the best to time to meet people that share the same interests and passion as you possess. Through this experience, I became close with many other ag communications students from multiple universities. Specifically, I have gained close relationships with girls from THE Ohio State University (they get mad if THE is not at the front). I was intrigued to learn about their goals, internship experiences, and what they hope to do in the future and I know they will go far. Meeting peers like that inspires me. Who knows…one day I could be working alongside one of them!

3.    “Your knowledge is nothing if your knowledge does not serve.”
This really spoke to me. As college students sometimes we get so caught up in life. We ask ourselves questions like “What am I going to wear?” or “What does she/he think of me?” We get so caught up in a me-focused society that we don’t take time to think of others. The agriculture industry provides us with the perfect opportunity to serve those who need it most. We have the ability to produce, provide, and educate others about food production in a world today that needs it more than ever! Our responsibility is to use our knowledge to serve those who need it most, not use it for our own selfish ambitions.
Whenever you are given the opportunity to learn outside of the classroom throughout your college career, I suggest you take it! What you learn and the relationships you make are memorable experiences that you won’t forget.

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, 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

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