Heading west

Jan 22
Steve Loerch, Head of the Department of Animal Sciences

I love hearing stories of the great opportunities our students have in the Department of Animal Sciences. Last week, two of our graduate students were selected to attend the International Livestock Forum in Fort Collins, Colorado, to discuss global livestock and meat production.

Our students, Alyssa Clements and Josh McCann, had the opportunity to tour the JBS Beef Packing Plant in Greeley, Colorado; the Cervi Cattle Company Feedlot, and the Harper Sheep Feedlot. They listened to speakers from the U.S. Red Meat Export Federation and Paul Genho, the retired President of Farmland Reserve. They were able to work in some fun, too, and attended the PBR Bull Riding event at the National Western Stock Show.

To be selected to attend the conference, students submitted resumes or CV’s, provided GPAs, and answered multiple writing prompts covering their involvement in the agriculture industry, the benefit of attending the conference, and their goals or future career plans. Alyssa and Josh were selected as 2 of the 28 students that attended the conference from a large applicant pool, including students from multiple countries with degrees ranging from B.S. to M.S. and Ph.D. to DVM.

Congrats to Alyssa and Josh – what a great accomplishment!

International Livestock Forum participants

ACES Award of Merit winners

Jan 21
Tina Veal, Director of Alumni Relations

Happy New Year! With the start of a new year behind us, it is also one of my favorite times of the year as we announce new College of ACES Alumni Award winners. The ACES Award of Merit award is the highest recognition given to a college of ACES alumnus from the ACES Alumni Association. The Award of Merit recognition recognizes alumni that bring honor to themselves and their alma mater by demonstrating outstanding professional achievement and outstanding leadership or service that has enhanced or improved the lives of others. This year, the ACES Alumni Board, had an opportunity to review one of the highest number of application pools for this award nomination and selected five alumni to recognize in 2015.  

We are proud to announce the 2015 Award of Merit winners are:
•    Dan E. Hoge, B.S. '66 Animal Sciences, M.S. '68 Animal Sciences of Cambridge, IL
Dan is a Professor and Livestock Judging Coach at Black Hawk College, East Campus

•    Susan L. Johnson, Ph.D. '93 Nutritional Sciences of Louisville, CO
Susan is Professor and Director of the Children's Eating Labratory at the University of Colorado

•    Daniel R. Kittle, Ph.D. '80 Plant Pathology, M.S. '78 Plant Pathology of Carmel, IN
Dan is the Global Vice President of Research and Development at Dow AgriSciences LLC

•    Gregory R. Oltman, B.S. '72 Ornamental Horticulture of Barrington, IL
Greg is the Owner of GRO Horticultural Enterprises, Inc.

•    Kenna B. Rathai, B.S. '93 Ag Communications of Saint Anne, IL
Kenna is the Owner of Kenna B. Rathai Communications and serves as a Public Relations Consultant and Freelance Writer

These award winners will be recognized on Monday, April 13, 2015 at the I-Hotel and Conference Center during the ACES Award of Merit luncheon as well as the college FUNK Banquet that evening. All are invited to attend the ACES Award of Merit Luncheon and can register online to help us celebrate these outstanding ACES Alumni and their contributions to their professions and the College of ACES.

The College of ACES Alumni Association also sponsor the ACES Outstanding Young Alumni and ACES Family Spirit awards. These applications are now available online and are due May 15, 2015. These winners will be recognized at the ACES College Connection event on Friday, September 11. Mark your calendars!

We look forward to recognizing outstanding College of ACES Alumni this year!


Extraordinary students...extraordinary results

Jan 14
Marise Robbins-Forbes, ACES Director of Development, Crop Science and NRES
This Friday is a special day. We will celebrate philanthropy in the Champaign-Urbana community as the East Central Illinois Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) honors significant volunteers and philanthropists through its National Philanthropy Day event. As a past- President of the ECI AFP, this event is always near and dear to my heart. This year will be particularly special as we celebrate the ACES Student Advancement Committee winning the ECI AFP Outstanding Youth Fundraiser award. So extraordinary was the SAC accomplishment that in my opinion, if this were an ongoing competition, SAC might well hold on to this award for decades to come. This award is being given to ACES SAC to honor the path-breaking, student-led efforts of ACES students last April through the “I Pay it Forward Students Helping Students” campaign. This scholarship campaign broke not only the student giving record for the college, but also the campus. More than 1,100 donors (of which 900 were students) raised $17,000 in one month! The passion exhibited by all involved (including Stacey Cole as their tireless facilitator) set the standard for student philanthropy across the campus. The impact was immediate. In August 2014, 17 students received their ACES Student-funded scholarships of $1,000. A quick turnaround and true testament to students caring for students. Way to pay it forward ACES students! 

What’s the next best food idea?

Jan 5
Marla Todd, Associate Director of Advancement Communications

Low sodium.  Containing by-products. Energizing capabilities. Heart healthy claim. These are just examples of the parameters students received for their semester projects in the food product development course. FSHN 466 is the senior capstone course in the food science concentration.  Students work in teams to develop a new product, using the knowledge and experiences from their previous course work.

Instructors provide the students with a product category, consumer demographic and just a few product attributes that they must meet. Then, the creativity kicks in. Students encounter technical challenges along the way, which contribute to their learning experience in the course.

On Thursday, December 19, the students presented their products to a team of judges, as well as the general public. The judges were alumni and friends with varied professional experiences in the food industry. Nearly 75 guests partook of samples the students prepared. The winning team received the stylish #10 can trophy, a special tribute to the food industry! We won’t be revealing their product here on the blog because it will advance to the national Institute of Food Technologists student product development competition.

Maybe we’ll see some of the products developed in the course on our grocery shelves in the future.

FSHN 466 new product development

Join us for ACES Family Academies

Dec 22
Tina Veal, Director of Alumni Relations

Are you a College of ACES alum with a young grandchild, niece, nephew or friend, who’s looking for an opportunity to return to campus? If so, mark your calendars for July 9-10, 2015, and register now for the all-new ACES Family Academies.

ACES Family Academies is a new program from the ACES Alumni Association that will offer classes from each ACES academic unit, geared to children ages 8-12 years. The alumni and youth will attend classes together, experience dorm living for a night, and attend a family friendly college tailgate/dinner. More than 30 hands-on educational classes are slated for the program, taught by our outstanding College of ACES Faculty!

Alumni will have an opportunity to share their campus memories of living in a dorm, eating in the dining hall and going to class!  We are thrilled to see alumni and their grandchildren or family members relive their college days and create new memories!

Registration is now open, at the official ACES Family Academies website, and will close by April 1, 2015. Registration numbers are limited; cost is $195 per person.

"With the holidays so near, I think it would make a great gift - for the grandparent or the grandchild," says ACES Alumni Board President Kenny Eathington. "With a little Illini gear, it could be a lot of fun on Christmas morning."

For more information, check out the official ACES Family Academies website, and follow along on the ACES Family Academies Facebook page.


ACES Family Academies coming in July 2015!

Take a break - you’ve earned it!

Dec 16
Jason Emmert, Assistant Dean, Academic Programs

My job involves working with prospective students and often times their parents, in a variety of settings ranging from conventions, to office meetings, to ACES-related recruitment events (like Explore ACES, March 13-14, 2015 - #shamelessplug). But as someone with a high school junior in my house, I’ve gained a newfound appreciation for the hard work and determination that goes into preparing for college. It’s a process that can be difficult, rewarding, exhilarating, and even frightening, with so many factors that are out of your control. But in the long run, what could more worth it – preparing for a career in which you can hopefully make a difference in the world!

I never fail to be amazed at the accomplishments of our prospective students, but what I find just as inspiring is the fact that they typically don’t simply rest on their past accomplishments once they start college. They stay involved, just like in high school, but they also add study abroad experiences, internships, leadership positions in a variety of activities, and often a number of service-related projects. Of course we know these activities help prepare for the next stage of life (gainful employment)! But I don’t want to overlook the tremendous amount of dedication and perseverance it takes to continue to work hard. 

And you know what? This type of behavior usually doesn’t stop at graduation. Our students become leaders in their organizations and communities. They’ve learned to lead, while continuing to prepare for the future; harnessing their energies and utilizing their skills and knowledge. I guess it’s a habit, and thank goodness for that. 

Wherever you are in this process – preparing for college, pursuing your degree, or hard at work in the “real world,” my hope for you in that over the holidays you get to take a break and reflect on the great things you’ve accomplished. I believe this will give you energy to move forward and continue to learn and prepare for the wonderful opportunities the future has in store. And if you have time, take a moment to do a cartwheel in the snow (or like in my case, watch someone younger and in better shape do a cartwheel!). 

this sums up the winter break pretty well! (in the ACES Library)
This sums up the winter break pretty well! (in the ACES Library)

Rural kids in Chicago

Dec 15
Kendall Herren, Senior in Agricultural Communications

Rarely do you see many farmers walking the streets of Chicago, but this past weekend rural America stormed the windy city for the Illinois Farm Bureau (IFB) 2014 Annual Meeting. As I hopped on the train last Friday morning, I saw Pioneer and Monsanto hats, dress boots, and agriculturists from across the state eager to discuss agriculture

This annual meeting brings in farmers and agriculturists from across the state to discuss the latest happenings in the industry, talk with politicians about legislation, and meet up with old friends in the industry. I went to Chicago with 10 fellow Illini Collegiate Farm Bureau members, as well as friends from across the state that attend Western Illinois University, Illinois State University, and Southern Illinois University, to learn more about IFB and partake in the weekend’s events.

We engaged with the Illinois Young Leaders, Illinois Farm Bureau members, and watched a presentation given by Captain Richard Philips, whose boat was taken over by Somali pirates. All of these events were fun, especially since I met up with friends from across the state and former co-workers from my internship. Amongst all of the great fun, the most exciting part of the trip was watching the discussion meets.

Farm Bureau discussion meets are competitions that members can take part in, that is essentially a competition on how to discuss topics in agriculture. Each meet is comprised of 4-6 individuals, depending on which round they are in. They are judged on how well they compromise with others, the knowledge and information they present, and their public speaking skills.

I enjoy watching these competitions because they make you question your own thoughts and ideas on different topics in agriculture, whether it pertains to livestock, grain operations, or agricultural education. Many different viewpoints are brought into the discussion and valuable information is shared as well.

We learned a lot from our trip to the city, in hopes of bettering our industry for the world.

Rural kids in Chicago
ACES students met up with President Easter at the Illinois Farm Bureau Annual Meeting in Chicago

Student teachers prepare to test out the real world

Dec 12
Jennifer Boberg, Senior in Agricultural Education

We’re finally here! We’ve come to the point in our college career that we have been diligently studying and working towards for the past three and a half years -- we’ve made it to the beginning of our student teaching experiences! The twelve of us—Jeff Reale, Amanda Goin, John Andress, Josh Evans, Malory Hughes, Brandyn Smith, Nic Turner, Brianna Harmon, Sarah Moore, Jacob Dickey, Claire Geiger, and myself—have been through a lot together these past couple of years, working towards a common goal, building on our experiences to better ourselves for a career (or at least a degree) in agricultural education. I don’t know about the others, but for me, it’s a bittersweet feeling to know that our time here at the University of Illinois is coming to a screeching end. This next semester is our time to test out the real world—to see what it really takes to be an agriculture teacher. It’s going to take a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to get through these next few months of our lives, but I have full confidence in each and every one of us and I know we will succeed. 

I also know that the “Real World of Teaching” sounds an awful lot scarier than what we’ve read or discussed. This is our final step. We’re leaving our close-knit family that we have found in the Agricultural Education Program and into the world that our teachers, advisors, and friends have prepared us for. There’s no telling what will stop us now! As my final semester on campus comes to an end, I look back at the first day of this semester. I remember being excited and ready for student teaching, counting down the days until the semester would come to an end and I would officially be in the classroom every day. I and the other student teachers in my class have hit a lot of obstacles since that first day of school. We’ve been frustrated, discouraged, ready to pull our hair out, and asked ourselves many times, “why am I doing this?!” During the moments of calm—when we weren’t writing assessments, completing AGED 350 requirements, rummaging through our brains for a piece of memory that contains a learning theory definition, or trying to figure out that edTPA thing—we’re able to take a moment to remember what brought us to Agricultural Science Education in the first place—a passion for agriculture, a teacher that saw something in us that no one else saw, a desire to share agriculture and inspire students.

Each of us who are preparing to test out the real world have a similar passion that has sparked a bond between us. We’re all going to be far away from campus, from our family and home we have found in the Agricultural Education Program at the University of Illinois. I look at a map of Illinois and I see the small towns where we are all student teaching. We are preparing to branch out across Illinois—some 2 or 3 hours in every direction—and I see the branches of our passions and our love for agriculture and students spread like a web across the state as well. We’ll be working with cooperating teachers who share a similar passion and who care about preparing the next generation of agriculture educators. I think I speak on behalf of us all when I say that we’re proud of how far we’ve come and we’re excited to take this next step into the real world and put all that we’ve learned to the test. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but I know it will be beyond rewarding. I’m already excited about coming back to campus in April to share my story and to hear the stories of my fellow student teachers—to laugh and even grumble a little about all of our student teaching experiences.  I know each us has the motivation and the heart to be an incredible teacher. Good luck and have fun in the “real world!”

A New Face in the College of ACES

Dec 10
Laurie Kramer, ACES Associate Dean of Academic Programs

I am delighted to announce that Mr. Cory Ohms is now serving as the new Assistant Dean for Admissions and Records with the College of ACES Office of Academic Programs. He joined the ACES family on December 1. Cory will take responsibility for overseeing our undergraduate admissions process, maintaining student records including degree certification, reviewing student petitions, coordinating summer registration, and supporting departmental advising. He will also represent ACES on select campus committees.

Cory came to us from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, where he served as the Associate Director of New Student Advising since 2008. Previously, he served as Program Coordinator for the University of Illinois Social Justice and Leadership Education initiative, which gave him the opportunity to teach a section of the Agricultural Education course, Leadership and Social Change.  Cory also has had vast experience in student affairs at the Iowa State University and the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

Cory earned his bachelor’s degree in Sociology (with a minor in Biology) and his master’s degree in Education (College Student Development and Administration) from the University of Wisconsin- La Crosse. He tells us that his first passion as an undergraduate was in food microbiology and so a move to ACES at this point in his career is a logical progression.

Cory is well-recognized on campus as an outstanding contributor to student advising, student success, and diversity initiatives.

Please join me in welcoming Cory to his new home in ACES.


Cory with his son, Ben, at the Bears camp.

We can make a difference

Nov 7
Jacob Dickey, Senior in Agricultural Science Education

The Agricultural Education program was privileged to host the United States Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Krysta Harden earlier this week. Harden was gracious enough to devote a portion of time, while visiting Illinois, to see the U of I campus, tour the newly renovated agricultural education classroom, and most importantly, talk to students about the importance of “sharing their story” with future generations.

“You are the ones the next generation will be watching,” she said. “They will listen to you tell the story. When you are in the classroom, you’ll have their attention. You can waste that opportunity or use it.”

In addition to working directly with students in the classroom, she also encouraged them to have conversations with those outside of the agriculture industry about challenging and controversial topics. Instead of just talking about what needs to be done to educate people about important agriculture issues, she challenged students to engage in conversations with those who have different assumptions and potential misconceptions. She said to listen to them, address their concerns, and help provide a more structured framework of understanding for which they can build new knowledge.

“It’s our job to connect the dots and be thoughtful listeners,” Harden said. “You have the power to make a difference.”

It’s a great feeling to know that our industry recognizes the importance of agricultural education and the role it will have in training future generations for the joys and discomforts we find in agricultural life. The University of Illinois is helping me define and share my story, take leadership role in the agriculture industry, and challenge the future generation to meet the needs our world faces.


Agricultural Education program was privileged to host the United States Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Krysta Harden
Agricultural Education students met with U.S. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Krysta Harden on Monday.