Oct 26
Manuel Colón, NRES Student Recruitment Coordinator
At the start of the semester, I read an article on Huffington Post about “things first generation college students should know” and it made me think about what are some unique aspects and nuances to our campus that might be helpful for first generation students here. So, like any good millennial who wants to crowdsource information, I decided to create a hashtag (#ILLINOISfirstgen) and reach out to my friends. I wanted to cast the net wide and see what advice our first generation alumni had for students here on campus.

The results were amazing and went above and beyond what I expected. I obviously knew the friends who I invited to participate, but faculty members joined, other campus units and staff participated, and it still continues to be a semi-active thread. People shared advice, their experiences, tips for success, and more importantly – they shared themselves! I think a lot of first generation college students fear that they are out of place and that no one will understand their situation, when that’s not true at all. In fact, the Class of 2019, our incoming freshman, are nearly 20% first generation students – 1 in 5 are the first in their family to come to college – you are definitely not alone!

I’m the youngest of three children who all graduated from college, so I often forget that I’m technically a first generation college students, since my parents don’t have degrees. And I think I credit that a lot to the wealth of resources, information, and mentorship I received from my peers, my siblings, and people who were just generally invested in my academic success. So, if you haven’t already – definitely go to Twitter, check out the thread, and please do contribute!

Celebrating 90 years of progress

Oct 26
Theresa Miller, Academic Advisor, Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics

Today I was teaching in 313 Mumford. Left on the instructional media cabinet is a program from the 1974 50th anniversary banquet of the Farm Business Farm Management Association (FBFM). I waxed nostalgic. . .

FBFM is now celebrating its 90th year in existence, an impressive feat. This organization of staff and farmer members provide business analysis services for farmers across the state of Illinois, allowing farmers in Illinois to make better business decisions about their farm. The program is alive and well and farmer members assist in program development and recruitment of field staff. And its home, where the analysis of data take place, is right here in Mumford Hall, in the ACE Department.

Farm records were first gathered in 1910 by Ag Econ professor Handschin, who gathered livestock production records from Illinois farmers to help him organize a first-of-its-kind class in farm management. When he saw the various ways farmers kept books, he came up the idea of creating a standardized farm record book to meet the needs of farmers in Illinois. The Illinois Farm Record Book was used for many years pre-personal computer.  But this still wasn’t enough. Farmers using the books wanted help with analysis, and the Agricultural Economists in Illinois began holding schools for farmers to interpret their books. 

Woodford County farmers organized further to create associations to supervise the analysis of these records and encourage farmers to pay for this service, and the first FBFM association was born. Dean Mumford named the program, born in El Paso, Illinois, the Farm Business Farm Management association. 

When I see a document lying around a classroom in this building, I can’t help but stop to appreciate the rich history of agriculture that was commissioned inside of the walls of the building I work in every day. The leadership by the Agricultural Economists of yesterday mean a robust means of managing the most productive farms in the nation today, and the professors that worked RIGHT HERE in Mumford saw the vision that is now a reality.


The October 4, 1974 50th Anniversary Banquet Program for FBFM.




Who knew Extension did disaster work?

Oct 22
Rick Atterberry, ACES Media Communications Specialist

In what is known as “The Great Flood,” the Mississippi River and its tributaries experienced severe flooding in 1993. That flooding impacted no fewer than 7 states and what was then commonly called the Co-operative Extension Service at the Land Grant Universities in those states was called on to provide information about cleanup, restoration of flooded fields, drinking water wells, financial matters, family anxiety and more.

Those states quickly realized they were duplicating efforts and, in the best tradition of Extension, started to share resources. Recognizing that a more formal relationship would benefit Extension Educators around the country, representatives of those founding states, including Illinois, met in 1994 to establish the Extension Disaster Education Network, often referred to as EDEN.

From this modest ad hoc start, EDEN has grown to include Extension organizations in all 50 states including the 1862 Land Grants, the 1890 historically African American colleges, the 1994 Tribal colleges, Sea Grant (a cooperative venture of USDA and NOAA), institutions in the territories and a growing international relationship with the Philippines. EDEN’s organizational efforts are supported by modest funding from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), the current incarnation of the Co-operative Extension Service. Some funding for specific initiatives is also provided by NIFA Special Interest Grants.

Each participating institution has complete autonomy as to if and how it participates in disaster preparedness, response, recovery and/or mitigation. In most instances Extension educators are NOT first responders but provide education and information to help people prepare for and recover from disasters in their communities. Extension personnel may facilitate organizing faith-based and other organizations active in disasters. Subject matter specialists provide research based information on the issues mentioned above.  EDEN has its own focus in each institution.  

University of Illinois Extension is fairly typical in that EDEN delegates (the institutions are technically the members) represent a variety of subject matter expertise in the core program areas supported. We may be asked for information on removing tornado debris from farm fields, restoring garden plots flooded by an overflowing creek, helping underinsured families recover from a disaster, assisting children traumatized by an event, preparing small businesses and non-profits to remain in operation after a disaster, assisting county government in preparing mitigation plans and in many more areas.

Even though Illinois was a founding member of EDEN, we’ve never hosted the annual meeting until now. That will be corrected in 2017 when 70 or 80 EDEN delegates gather in the Quad Cities. The conference is being organized by Carrie McKillip, an Extension Community and Economic Development educator in West-central Illinois, and also by your author.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am the immediate past chair of EDEN and am immensely proud of that organization. In only one or two cases around the country is an educator doing disaster work full time. Nearly all of the other delegates have volunteered their special knowledge and skills out of a passion for this work. It’s the Extension network of people at its best.

Gifford Damage

NRES to host Paddy Woodworth on Nov. 3

Oct 20
Manuel Colón, NRES Student Recruitment Coordinator

Acclaimed author, journalist, lecturer, and tour guide Paddy Woodworth is coming to the College of ACES to present a seminar on Tuesday, Nov. 3 at 3 p.m. in the Monsanto Room of the ACES Library! Woodworth has reported for Vanity Fair and BBC, written two acclaimed books, and is a research associate at Missouri Botanical Garden as well as an adjunct senior lecturer at UCD.

The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences has brought in Woodworth to address “Ecological restoration: Key conservation strategy or nostalgic anachronism in our climate change century?”

“Our planet’s future may depend on the maturation of the young discipline of ecological restoration,” says a 2009 Science editorial. But that maturation is proving problematic, Woodworth says. Many advocates argue that the science and practice of restoration is achieving better results than ever, over a wide range of ecological and social systems across the globe. But some leading figures in the field claim that the triple challenges of climate change, invasive alien species and land degradation make the classic target of restoration towards an historical reference ecosystem is often no longer feasible in many situations, and soon perhaps in most.

Woodworth, who reports on restoration projects from five continents in his book, “Our Once and Future Planet,” accepts that these challenges are often daunting. However, he argues that the main barrier to successful restoration is not such challenges in themselves, but is the continuing unwillingness of most societies to invest sufficient resources in this increasingly necessary environmental strategy.

Visit www.paddywoodworth.com for more information. And don’t miss his seminar coming up on Nov. 3! Everyone is invited to attend.

Science described Woodworth's recent study of ecological restoration projects worldwide, "Our Once and Future Planet: Restoring the World in the Climate Change Century" as “highly readable…valuable access to the central topics, key developments, and contentious issues bound up in the young and evolving field of ecological restoration.”

Paddy Woodworth is a Research Associate at Missouri Botanical Garden, Adjunct Senior Lecturer at UCD, and founder member of the Irish Forum on Natural Capital.

Financial Planning reaches Boston and beyond

Oct 19
Theresa Miller, Academic Advisor, Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics

I accompanied eight students to the Financial Planning Association BE Conference in Boston last month. These students raised their own cash to represent the University of Illinois as interns at this, the largest national conference for financial planners in the U.S. The students worked registration tables, helped with attendance at sessions, and assisted attendees with finding things like lunch tables and general sessions.

But beyond those “duties” that these eight students participated in, these U of I Financial Planning students networked with some of the leaders in the field they want to join. They met people, talked about what it’s like to be a financial planner, interviewed with leading firms in the field, and attended receptions with different planners who want to help students enter their profession. As I watched and assisted these students, I was amazed by their professionalism, their willingness to go above and beyond to find the right type of job for them, and to learn more about what the field of financial planning entails. It was awesome to be a part of and something I was excited to see. 

These types of opportunities available to students like our financial planning students abound, but it takes students willing to take the leap and do the work to go to them. These students exemplified this, and used the opportunity to the fullest. That is what sets U of I students apart from their peers, and what employers see and want to hire.

At the end of the month, more than 60 students will go to Chicago for another networking opportunity made possible by students, Financial Planning Day. This annual event at the Illini Center in Chicago allows students in financial planning to meet leading financial planners in the Chicagoland area, and learn about what’s new in the field. This year, the subject of technology in financial planning takes center stage, and students will have a chance to meet more than 17 firms one-on-one through intensive networking called “speed dating.” Opportunities like these help students find their perfect job, and help employers in this growing field meet the next generation in financial planning. We are excited for what the future holds for these students and the ones who come after them.

More than 75 schools from more than 12 universities worked as interns at the FPA BE Conference in Boston, the largest gathering of financial planning professionals in the country.

A happy ACES homecoming

Oct 15
Leia Kedem, Agricultural Communications Instructor

I opened one of the heavy double doors at the entrance to Bevier Hall and was met with a blast of cool, refreshing air. As I walked into the building and up the staircase, the atmospheric scent was immediately familiar and comforting. “It’s almost like I never even left,” I thought.

I’d spent countless hours in the ACES area of campus during my graduate studies – sitting in class, studying in the library, and writing my Master’s thesis “in the lab.” Even before that, much of my undergraduate career was spent on the Main Quad and in the Illini Student Union.

Sure, I’d had somewhat of a break from campus during the four years that I worked for University of Illinois Extension as a Nutrition & Wellness Educator, but I’d often made trips to campus – and Bevier Hall – for meetings and professional development opportunities.

So on my first day as Instructor in the program of Agricultural Communications, it did (and does) feel like I never left.

This sense of déjà vu is something that many alumni feel when they return to campus, whether they’re attending homecoming, visiting friends, or for any number of other reasons.

Plenty of grads keep the ACES spirit alive from afar, too. Did you know that the College of ACES has one of the largest and most active alumni networks in the world?

You don’t need go so far as to work for the college (as I have) in order to give back. Through the College of ACES Alumni Association, there are lots of ways to stay involved.

1. Network at local, district, or campus events.

2. Complete an alumni profile online to share your story with current students.

3. Provide internship opportunities for students.

4. Serve on an advisory committee.

5. Support the College of ACES with a financial contribution.

Check out the College of ACES Alumni Association website for even more great ideas!

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t recommend visiting for the U of I’s Homecoming Weekend (October 23-25). There will be plenty of events to bring out that Fighting Illini spirit.

I’m lucky enough to experience an ACES homecoming every day I come to work, but you, too, would be amazed at quickly how the scents, sounds, and sights of campus can bring back memories of college life. So if you’ve been thinking about visiting or giving back to the world-class university that helped jumpstart your career, there’s no better time than now.

Leia Kedem comes home to ACES!
Figuring out the technology in my classroom for the Fall 2015 semester.

FARM Illinois moves ahead on Illinois Council for Food and Agriculture

Oct 14
Richard Vogen, Director, Planning and Research Development

Last week, the leadership council for the FARM Illinois project met at McCormick Place in Chicago. Chaired by U of I President-Emeritus Robert Easter, the council grappled with next steps following the statewide rollout of the plan this past summer. FARM Illinois (Food and Agriculture RoadMap for Illinois) is intended to advance economic development in the food and agriculture sector of Illinois, strategically positioning Illinois and Chicago as the global hub of markets and investment.

The Rauner administration has voiced support for the plan, as have important business and civic leaders in Chicago and downstate. Governor Rauner and Commerce Director Schultz joined the discussion to gain input on the state’s potential role in the process. The Governor emphasized the essential contribution of the agriculture and food sector to the growth and success of Illinois and the need to take these industries to the next level, despite the political impasse in Springfield. He implored the leadership council to take specific actions to drive specific results.

The leadership council endorsed the recommendation to establish the Illinois Council for Food and Agriculture. The Chicago Community Trust, the primary funder of the project, agreed to provide additional seed money to set up the new organization. A goal was recommended to secure sustainable funding by the end of the year. 

As it gains momentum, the University of Illinois has large potential roles for leadership, particularly in areas related to innovation and education. The strategic recommendations of FARM Illinois fall into six categories, all of which should involve the University of Illinois to some degree.

FARM Illinois Moves Ahead on Illinois Council for Food and Agriculture

What’s a chair?

Oct 13
Marla Todd, Associate Director of Advancement Communications

Interim Chancellor Barbara Wilson recently announced the establishment of permanent endowment fund that will create the Robert A. Easter Chair in the College of ACES. This announcement prompted me to reflect on the many academic titles and accomplishments that are familiar to many on campus but may be less understood by those not neck-deep in academia.

So, what’s a chair?

A named faculty chair is the highest honor the University of Illinois can confer on prominent faculty members. This honor, and the associated funds, help attract and keep faculty members who are extremely accomplished in their fields. The dedicated chair funds support the faculty member or administrator (as is the case with the Robert A. Easter Chair) to excel in their scholarly activities. This might include partial salary support, laboratory equipment, staff or students, or other research expenses.  

The College of ACES is home to numerous named endowed chairs made possible by private support from individuals, organizations, and corporate partners.  To learn more about endowed chairs or other forms of faculty support, contact the College of ACES Office of Advancement.

Dr. Bob and Cheryl Easter

Study Spots: College of ACES Edition

Oct 7
Sara Tondini, Animal Sciences graduate student

Midterms have begun, and this marks a stressful week for U of I students. If you’re responsible, you may have started studying last week or even the week before, but if you’re like me, you may have let procrastination get in the way. (Don’t worry. It gets the best of us.) Sometimes you just need the perfect spot to get in the right mindset for a study session. Since this is the ACES blog, I’m going to share some ideal study locations on our side of campus.

ACES Library: This is my favorite library on campus, and I’m not just saying that because I work there! It’s much cozier than the other ones and has all of your studying amenities. You can study among the books at a huge table with built in outlets for your laptop or in the basement in the computer lab next to the vending machines (whenever you feel the need for a snack). If you want a more private space, you can even rent a study room with some friends!

The South Quad: Everyone will be on the main quad this week trying to soak up the last bit of this glorious weather we’re having, and that can sometimes be distracting. If you want to enjoy this weather but stay focused, grab a blanket and pick a spot on the south quad! There is way less traffic over here and some perfect shade trees.

Array Café: This is my number one study spot and one you may have never heard of before. It’s located in the lower level of the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology, right next to the Morrow Plots. You can stop in for some food or a drink and hang out inside, or sit on the patio at one of the shaded tables. If I’m not at class or home, I’m probably here!

Check out one of these spots or find your own, and get to studying. Good luck!

Study Spots: College of ACES Edition

Developing Leadership Skills

Oct 6
Lisa Burgoon, Director, Minor in Leadership Studies

Can any student be a leader or is leadership only available to a select few with special charisma and talents?  I am solidly in the camp that says all students have the potential to develop leadership skills and become leaders. I have seen students who initially lacked confidence in their ability to interact with others become strong and effective communicators, emerge as leaders in their organizations, and secure fantastic jobs upon graduation.  

I talked recently with Tim Callahan, junior in Agricultural Education concentrating in Agricultural Leadership Education, about the skills he is developing through course work and internships at Illinois. I have known Tim since his freshman year when he started out undeclared and quickly found his passion for leadership education and transferred to Agricultural Education after one semester. Tim was an undergraduate intern with me last spring and summer semesters helping me evaluate AGED 260 Introduction to Leadership studies and develop new content for an online component of the course. Here is a brief summary of our conversation.

When asked about specific leadership skills he has developed in his first two years at UI, Tim replied “perhaps one of the most important skills I’ve learned while at U of I is adaptability. Being able to satisfy job/internship requirements is important. However, it’s the unexpected or new opportunities that truly allow you to make an impact.” I experienced firsthand Tim’s use of adaptability when he created a learning module that integrated diversity education into the global cultural leadership topic in AGED 260. Tim had to assess his own knowledge and experiences with multiple dimensions of diversity before he could create a meaningful online learning experience for students in the course. This was something he had not spent a lot of time thinking about before I asked him to create this module. Tim reported feeling more confident in his ability to interact with others and communicate his ideas effectively now that he has completed two years at UI which include his AGED 260 internship and multiple part-time jobs on campus and in the community.

Tim came into the large lecture classroom in AGED 260 this fall to share the many leadership educational experiences available to students through the Illinois Leadership Center and the Minor in Leadership Studies. He was confident, articulate and engaging in front of 180 students as he shared the benefits of taking leadership courses and co-curricular leadership programs offered on our campus. “I feel more confident when it comes to winning others over and communicating my ideas. For that, I can thank my leadership classes, and the countless networking opportunities U of I has provided.”

Tim Callahan, junior in Agricultural Education concentrating in Agricultural Leadership Education