Meeting the challenges of the dairy industry

Apr 21
Walt Hurley, Professor of Animal Sciences

Sitting in a classroom, soaking up great knowledge and wisdom from an instructor is something our students do a great deal. Applying that knowledge to real-life situations in order to address serious challenges and problems, and then sharing their findings with the experts, presents our students with unique learning opportunities, as well as testing their ability to think critically and make knowledgeable presentations. Recently several Animal Sciences students did just that when they participated in the North American Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge contest in Syracuse, New York. They were competing against 31 other teams from around the country in the demanding two-day event. The team members were Alyssa Brodsky, Claire Nkhikhssi, Samantha Ropp, and Erik Sheppelman, with Courtney Schumacher as an alternate, and coached by Animal Sciences professor Dr. Phil Cardoso, and assisted by graduate student Katie Haerr. Neither Claire nor Alyssa had any previous dairy experience before starting in their animal sciences program. The event challenges the students to analyze and evaluate all facets of a modern working dairy farm and make a comprehensive presentation of their findings and recommendations to a panel of expert judges. No pressure there!

And, how did the team do?  They placed second!  CONGRATULATIONS to the team members and to their coaches.

Dairy students in animal sciences

Certainly looking forward

Apr 15
Shelby Cooper, Senior in Agricultural Science Education

I like to look ahead. I keep dates and assignments in my calendar year-round, and I love having something to look forward to. This summer I’m looking forward to a great job with National Association of Agricultural Educators (NAAE) and traveling with Agriculture Future of America. After that, the next big thing is student teaching in the spring of 2016, and along with that comes a lot of uncertainty.

Every teacher goes through student teaching, the process of preparing lesson plans and assessments, organizing content for a semester of various ag classes, and developing materials to teach science and leadership to classes of high school students. For me, I feel the professors in Agricultural Education have done a great job of preparing my class of students thus far in curriculum, analysis, and reflection. However, there’s only so much they can do. At a certain point, it’s up to us to take on an agriculture program of our own.

That’s where a lot of my uncertainty comes in. Not having come from an agricultural background, it’s true there’s a great deal that I don’t know within the agriculture industry. In terms of teaching, I’ve never taught a semester-long class before, much less 4-6 classes in various agriscience topics. Will I be able to balance my time? Will I be a credible role model for students? Will I ever learn how to weld or judge a dairy cow??

Even with all of the uncertainty that comes with student teaching, I am comforted by my fellow classmates going through the same process. We share the desire to teach, and to teach not only content, but to also inspire purpose and passion for the future of agriculture. I know that when I leave campus to student teach, I will be prepared for the position of ‘Ms. Cooper’ and all the responsibility that comes along with it. The industry relies on educators to prepare the next generation of great minds in innovation and agricultural technology. It’s going to be my job to make connections from agriculture to applicable events in daily life, and create meaningful experiences for high school students. I’m looking forward to it; that, I am certain of.

Honoring the best of the best

Apr 14
Jennifer Shike, Director for Communications and Marketing

I’ll admit it. I was taken aback when I walked into the beautiful Pear Tree Estate last evening for the College of ACES and Paul A. Funk Recognition Awards event. The atmosphere was incredible and the efforts of the many people who helped make this event happen did not go unnoticed. Kendra Courson and her special events team did a wonderful job of creating a memorable event to recognize our ACES family.

I was fortunate to sit with two ACES Award of Merit winners who have had a great impact in my life, both personally and professionally – Dan Hoge and Kenna Rathai. Watching them receive their awards and be recognized for their achievements was inspiring.

The videos created by our ACES video team were incredible and provided us a glimpse into the lives and careers of those being honored last evening.

A special congratulations to our Paul A. Funk Recognition Award winners Elvira de Mejia of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Brian Diers of Crop Sciences, and Alan Hansen of Agricultural and Biological Engineering; our Faculty Award for Global Impact winner Karen Chapman-Novakofski of Food Science and Human Nutrition; and the Spitze Land-Grant Professorial Career Excellence Award winner Scott Irwin of Agricultural and Consumer Economics.

To see a complete list of winners, check out the award website. Videos and photos will be uploaded soon, too!


Funk Awards banquet 2015

Congratulations to State FFA Awards Day Participants

Mar 31
Debra Korte, Teaching Assistant Professor, Agricultural Education

Last weekend, the College of ACES and the Agricultural Education Program hosted 250 of the best and brightest Illinois FFA members for the state record book competition, otherwise known as the State FFA Awards Day. FFA advisors, parents, and volunteers evaluate students’ record books in more than 50 proficiency areas including topics that range from traditional livestock and agronomic enterprises to Agriscience research and sales/entrepreneurial projects. After reviewing the students’ record books, each FFA member is interviewed about their specific project. Following the evaluation process, the judges select the winner in each proficiency area.

Whether they are selected as top individual or simply have the opportunity to participate in the State FFA competition, it is a very rewarding to be part of this experience. For many students, competing as one of the top five individuals in their proficiency area is the culmination of two or three years of work related to a Supervised Agriculture Experience (SAE) program.

SAEs, along with many other FFA opportunities, are part of what make this organization so impactful for more than half a million students nationwide. An FFA member’s SAE is part of the “complete” experience as an FFA member; the other two components are the classroom/laboratory experience and FFA involvement through student, chapter, and community activities.

As I reflect on my years as a high school agriculture teacher, some of my most rewarding memories are when my students competed at the State FFA Awards Day. In a few cases, I was fortunate to see some of these students win their areas and compete on the national level.

Aside from the thrill of competition, it is important to understand there is a story behind every student’s SAE project – a story about their personal background and experiences, a story about their interests and passions, and a story about their future career and aspirations. Even more importantly, behind every FFA member’s story is a young adult who is learning about agriculture, learning the value of serving others, and learning more about themselves as an individual and a future leader.

Career Services

Mar 30
Manuel Colón, NRES Student Recruitment Coordinator

During my presentation to prospective students I always include what I jokingly refer to as my “parent slide”. It’s the slide that includes information on the various career services support we provide for our students. While this is something I know that many parents have on their mind regarding their child’s selection of a major and ,more importantly, the jobs that they’ll have after college, I really think it’s something that all of students should be thinking about regardless of parental pressures or not. Illinois is unique in that we offer many “decentralized” support systems, meaning that students can get campus-level services from University-wide units, but also right here in the home departments and at the College of ACES there are resources.

The Career Center

715 S Wright St

Champaign, IL 61820

The Career Center at Illinois the University-level career support office that manages a wide variety of services for our students. They manage all campus career fairs, provide resume writing/critique services, mock interviews, and specialized support for pre-professional track students. Their services take form in drop-in office hours, specific events, and a program that will cater to an event request by a student club, professional society, or an organized group of students.

College of ACES Career Services

115 ACES Library

1101 S Goodwin Ave

Urbana, IL 61801

ACES Career Services is overseen by Director Jean Drasgow (, an ACES alumna herself, and also offers a diverse range of services for students that need some career counseling and support. Express Career advising is offered via drop-in hours (full schedule on their website), tutorials for how to use I-Link, the online job board and career services system used by Illinois, job shadowing events with potential employers, and much more. I encourage all of our students to meet with Jean and start the career counseling conversation early.

NRES Career Bulletin, LinkedIn, and NRES108

Even here at the Department level, we do our part in providing our students with information on employment and career opportunities. Bi-weekly, the NRES Career Bulletin is sent to our students (and interested parties) about a plethora of scholarship information, volunteer opportunities, internship opening, and employment listings related to the NRES field. Additionally, we also host and manage a LinkedIn Group for the greater NRES community (current and past students in addition to faculty and staff) to post relevant opportunities for students and engage with one another; CLICK HERE if you want to join. And if our students need a little more structure than that, we offer an online course every spring titled “Careers in Natural Resource Management and Environmental Sciences” (NRES108). Students will improve understanding of their career goals, expand their knowledge of careers available in the NRES field, improve their job searching skills, and develop a plan for pursuing a career. 

ANSC students participate in “Speed Interviewing”

Mar 18
Jean Drasgow, Director of Career Services

Many senior animal sciences students indicate that they need/want more opportunities to practice their interviewing skills. With a course of about 70 enrolled students, it is challenging to offer one-on-one interviews. So, we developed a "speed interviewing" exercise to give them practice being interviewed; to learn how to interview; and to learn how to provide constructive feedback. The exercise, designed by Dr. Hurley, was conducted with the ANSC 498 Integrating Animal Sciences course and offered each student the opportunity to be interviewed twice, as well as to interview six other students. Students rotated each round to ensure different individuals were taking the roles of interviewer and interviewee. After each interview round, the three interviewers would give feedback to the interviewee. At the end of the eight fast rounds, the students were asked to reflect on the exercise. They commented about the good tips that they got from their peers; shared how to better answer challenging questions; and shared particularly good responses and described why they felt so.

The exercise was originally created after a student based survey indicated Animal Science students wanted more practice interviewing.

ANSC students participate in “Speed Interviewing”
Students pictured L-R are: Jacob Standard, Kathryn Polkoff and Taryn Bashing. The student being interviewed is Hayley Cooper.

Countdown to Pay it Forward 2015

Mar 16
Kendall Herren, Senior in Agricultural Communications

As many of us are dreaming of spring break and being able to sleep in, hang out on a beach, or travel somewhere for an alternative spring break, I can’t help but think about the ACES I Pay It Forward campaign beginning April 1.

This year, the Student Advancement Committee is planning things bigger and better than ever! Below is a list of events for this year’s campaign.

April 1: Kickoff dinner

April 14: Sand Volleyball tournament

April 30: Save the Date Auction

The Pay It Forward Scholarship Campaign is money raised by students, for students. Last year, we raised $15,000 and the money was divided into 15 $1,000 scholarships for ACES students.

For more information about the I Pay It Forward Scholarship campaign, visit

ACES professor to provide lecture on reducing food insecurity

Mar 11
Marla Todd, Associate Director of Advancement Communications

At some point over the past year, more than 50 million American households faced not having enough food for all their family members. This is the definition of being food insecure. Food insecurity rates remain at historically high levels and contribute to numerous health consequences. This is a major concern in regards to the health and wellness of the American population.

Multiple departments in ACES are addressing food insecurity, in part because it is a complex issue with topics relevant across multiple disciplines. International Food Security at Illinois (IFSI) is bringing together these efforts to support application of cutting-edge science in a food systems framework to help secure abundant food for everyone.

The University of Illinois is excited to bring attention to the issue of food insecurity at the next presentation in the Illinois Lecture Series taking place in Chicago. Dr. Craig Gundersen, professor in ACE, is an internationally recognized expert on food insecurity and the evaluation of food assistance programs. During a lunch lecture on March 19, Dr. Gundersen will provide an overview of food insecurity, its determinants and consequences, and what has proven successful in reducing food insecurity. The lecture will be held at the University Club of Chicago, at 11:30 a.m. and is open to public. Cost is $25 and includes lunch.

Register online

IL Lecture Series
Attend Dr. Craig Gundersen's lecture on Thursday, March 19 at the University Club of Chicago.

Hidden Campus Gems

Mar 4
Manuel Colón, NRES Student Recruitment Coordinator

For the number of collective years that I’ve spent on our campus as either a student or professional, I’m always really impressed when I found out about new places/services that I wasn’t already familiar with. In fact, I was just in the Main Library a few weeks ago and literally discovered entirely new rooms that I had no clue existed. So, I decided to compile some of my favorite campus “hidden” gems that I’m sure most students would appreciate learning about.

Post Office at Altgeld Hall
I know that with the digital age, we are increasingly sending less and less items through traditional postal mail. But, sometimes you just need to buy stamps or send a package and while there is a post office on Green and 3rd, we have one right here on campus! Per the Math Library website, “There is a United States Post Office in Altgeld, though due to the internal layout of the building, finding it can be difficult. The easiest way to get to it is to find the two blue mail boxes outside of Altgeld Hall on Wright Street. If you are already in Altgeld, exit the building at the main entraince on Green Street and turn left; turn left again onto Wright and look for the large blue mail box. Just behind the mail box is a door into the building; if you enter this door, you will walk right into the post office.” Location hours can be found on the USPS’ website.

The Underground Tunnels
Contrary to popular belief, “the tunnels” are not just an urban legend. In fact, they are pretty common for such large campuses like ours for steam pipes and other utility services. Last spring, NRES professor, Dr. Bethany Cutts, was featured in the Daily Illini about her frequent use of them to and from her campus classes and her office here in Turner Hall. Similar to Dr. Cutts, my use of the tunnels extend from Turner Hall to the Institute for Genomic Biology and most importantly, which leads to my final hidden gem, Bevier Hall!

Bevier Café
Did you know that we have student-ran restaurant right here on our campus? As part of the Food Science and Human Nutrition program, students registered in FSH340 (Quantity Food Preparation and Service course) get real-life experience running a full-service restaurant. Much like many of the College of ACES departments, Bevier Café, offers our students a unparalleled experience that is hands-on and expands learning beyond the classroom. Bevier Café has hot breakfast from 8 a.m. - 10:30 a.m. and lunch from 11:30 a.m. - 1:00 p.m., their daily menu is available on their website.

Have fun exploring campus and getting to know my “hidden” gems a little better!

The Tunnels
"The Tunnels" graphic appeared in the Daily Illini - 3/11/2014

ACE students discover career opportunities in their own backyard

Mar 2
Theresa Miller, Academic Advisor, Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics

It has been said that the best education you will ever receive is through adventures. The University of Illinois is globally known for its world-class study abroad opportunities; however, what many do not realize is that it does not take a twelve-hour plane ride to see life in an entirely new light. In fact, the 20 ACE students that visited Chicago this winter break found out just how many opportunities were offered just outside their backyard.

The trip was the conclusion of the course ACE 398, Agribusiness and Financial Markets in Chicago, led by Jon Scholl, an ACE instructor.  As a part of the course, students were split into four groups: Commodity Markets, Agricultural Finance, Food Manufacturing, Processing and Service, and Local Food Production; each group researched issues surrounding these topics in the light of the companies visited on the trip.

The Commodity Markets group focused on the physical or virtual marketplace for buying, selling, and trading raw primary products. Students visited the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Demeter Capital Management, OSI Group, and Eli’s Cheesecake, allowing them the opportunity to ask questions of firms engaged in commodity trading first hand.  Seeing possible future professional outcomes, the students noted that interacting with successful professionals on this trip allowed them to build connections that could potentially assist them in future career searches.

Agricultural finance students investigated input supply, production, distribution, wholesale, processing, and marketing within the lens of firms such as The Private Bank, Demeter Capital Management-Highlights, Wirtz Distribution, and Northern Trust.  Scott Segobiano, senior in ACE, said the trip “was eye-opening to see how many paths [their future] could lead them down,” he said, “I learned that college majors are not cold cut, you can do what you want with your future”.

Learning about McDonald’s’ handshake agreements showed the Food Manufacturing, Processing and Service group on a quest to discover drivers for firms to source raw ingredients and follow the supply chain for major food companies. They were given a behind the scenes look at some of Chicago’s tastiest businesses, such as McDonald’s, Testa Produce, Wildfire Restaurant, and Eli’s Cheesecake Co. Preston Brown, Senior in ACE, noted, “many of these corporations base their company on loyalty, they knew every single producer they get their food from."

The Local Foods group targeted a goal of getting a ground floor view of local food movement in Chicago.  Visits to Windy City Harvest, Fresh Picks, and Local Foods allowed them to discuss controversial topics like organics, GMOs, and locally grown foods with owners of leading firms in the distribution of local foods in a major food hub.

Students were asked to consolidate their findings in a final powerpoint presentation to a group of professionals and professors at the conclusion of the trip.  The message?  Finding how agribusiness, food, and finance intersect in Chicago, and the presence of Illinois grads there to help students navigate some of the most important issues of the time in these industries, made for an exciting career development opportunity in the pupils’ hometowns.

ACE students discover career opportunities in their own backyard