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

Greenhand Conference 2015

Oct 5
Shelby Cooper, Senior in Agricultural Science Education

Lead. Teach. Inspire. This is a common theme for agricultural education students at the University of Illinois, and it’s certainly not limited to classroom learning. On September 23rd, the University of Illinois Collegiate FFA and Agricultural Education Program hosted the annual Illinois Greenhand Conference on the College of ACES campus. Hundreds of high school students from the area attended three workshops built to introduce them to FFA principles and leadership, interact with Illinois State FFA Officers and ACES students, and begin a four-year journey as a member of the National FFA Organization.

Preparation for this event began last spring, with a committee of students and faculty booking rooms, building a theme, and designing a schedule. Efforts continued into the fall semester when pre-service teachers from AGED 421 helped to develop the content for the workshops. ACES students from all majors volunteered to facilitate these workshops, as well as lead student groups in icebreaker activities and reflection. A group of 75 college students gave their time and energy to this event to make it a success for more than 400 high school freshmen. The majority of these leaders have backgrounds in FFA and understand the importance of being involved with the organization early in a member’s FFA career.

Greenhands are first-year FFA members enrolled in an agriculture class at their high school. For many students, this was their first FFA event. The content for the workshops worked with the theme, “Catching Fire”. The students were split into groups and participated in three breakout sessions focusing on spark, fuel and oxygen. At the end of the conference, three Illinois State FFA Officers concluded the night with the importance each of these components hold to creating that fire for FFA.

The annual event continues to have a great turnout from students and teachers alike. We are proud to host active and engaged FFA members for Greenhand Conference every year, and to have willing and excited ACES students to encourage growth and learning. We hope to recognize those who attended Greenhand Conference at the College of ACES in four years when they return to continue their leadership in the agricultural industry. See you next year for Greenhand Conference 2016!

Greenhand Conference 2015

End of summer

Sep 30
Richard Vogen, Director, Planning and Research Development
Last week, the autumnal equinox marked the change of season from summer to fall. But aside from some of the distracting background noises of budget woes and controversies, this has been a pretty fabulous start to the fall semester. What a beautiful September it has been, and I wish it would stay this way. Students are outside in droves, the air is warm and balmy, the grass is still lush and green, and we even got to see the super moon in full eclipse. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, from day to day, the changes of fall are coming though. On the drive into Champaign-Urbana, farmers are rapidly mowing through harvest fields, and soon the vistas will be clear of tall corn stalks. On campus, the outdoor swimming season has finally come to an end, too bad, because it’s still warm enough. And as the air becomes a little brisker, and the leaves begin to fall, fewer souls will be enjoying the fresh air. But enjoy this present moment—the University of Illinois is an inviting spot on the planet during this extraordinary time of the year.
End of summer

The importance of internships

Sep 22
Sara Tondini, Animal Sciences graduate student

Internships are a great way for students to apply the knowledge they receive in class to hands-on experience. They prepare students for real life situations and can open up many doors. I just completed an 11-week internship over the summer with the ACES Office of Research where I was able to work full-time on a University of Illinois beef cattle farm and conduct my own research project. This was a great experience, and I want to share the highlights of my internship with you!

This summer I gained knowledge, worked hard, faced challenges, and made great friends. I learned how to work cattle through the chutes, vaccinate, fly tag, artificially inseminate, and ultrasound. A little part of my day, every day, was spent with the cattle, which I enjoyed. Along with animal handling, I also learned how to fix and build fences, maintain the pastures, and drive a tractor. I was challenged, daily, to use critical thinking and problem-solving skills when working on the farm and these are attributes that I find applicable to my everyday life. The research aspects were my favorite parts of this internship.

Working in the lab and seeing the statistical results of a project that I worked on for months, and then being able to share those results and practical applications with the public, was very satisfying. Before this summer, I wanted a career that would allow me to work with beef cattle, and this internship reaffirmed my career path. Seeing the ins and outs of a beef cattle research farm made me more knowledgeable about all the work it takes to keep a farm running, and I can now see myself being an important part of this industry.

I highly recommend students participate in at least one internship during their college career to gain hands-on experience in their field and expand their networking prospects. I am very grateful for this opportunity and glad that the College of ACES provides experiences like these for their students!

Working with cattle at Orr Beef Research Center.

Performing Acid-Insoluble Ash Analysis on composites.

Blogging about blogs

Sep 18
Manuel Colón, NRES Student Recruitment Coordinator

To me, blogs are like Pringles; once you pop, you can’t stop! That is, if you are avid reader of Voice of ACES, you’re likely reading plenty of other blogs out on the web too. So, I wanted to share with you a few other blogs that I think are pretty informative, entertaining, and just generally a nice way to pass time.

NRES Career Information Blog
NRES used to offer a bi-weekly Career Bulletin, which has been recently phased out in favor of the blog format. Instead of having students wait two weeks for up-to-date information on volunteer opportunities, internships, and job postings, we want to provide them with these opportunities real-time updating as soon as we get the information. The blog is public and anyone can subscribe by following the “Subscribe” button located at the bottom of the page. From a quick skim of what’s on their right now; I see information about current employment vacancies, a Forest Service webinar, and upcoming career fairs. There are different categories that you can search through to shuffle through only the information you want to see; grad school, jobs, video, research, volunteer, etc. It’s a great resource to see the current availabilities in our field and also start getting an idea of the skills and experiences that are in-demand for our industry.

University of Illinois Office of Undergraduate Admission
Casting the net a little wider, I really appreciate the content that comes from our Office of Undergraduate Admission’s blog. Similar to the Voice of ACES, they have a diverse cast of bloggers that really contribute to the breadth and scope of information being shared. They range from current students here on campus, admissions counselors, and even Sassy the Squirrel! In my official role as an Undergraduate Recruiter, the blog provides some great information and advice in terms of application deadlines, personal statements, and other pertinent information for prospective students. However, I think the most powerful content comes from the students and their experiences. There are several posts right now about “campus secrets”, finding roommates, and what it’s like to just be a student. All around, a great bog!

Smile Politely
Technically, Smile Politely is an “online magazine” – but what is a blog, really, anyway? I often get asked about what the life and culture is like living in Champaign-Urbana and Smile Politely is a great resource to view all of the great local music, art, culture, sports, and food activity going on in town. You can browse events and article based on the previously mentioned categories and there are even countless sub-categories within those. The contributors to Smile Politely are also a diverse cast of characters from undergraduate students to “fifty-somethings” which provides great content variety of a wide-range of interests. Anytime I start thinking to myself of how I’m bored and nothing is going on in town, I frequently turn to Smile Politely to see just how much is really going on and I’m missing out on!

Sassy the Squirrel


Sep 17
Kendra Courson, Director for Special Events

Salute to Ag Day has always been a special event for alumni, family and friends to reconnect and salute agriculture in the state of Illinois as well as the College of ACES. Saturday’s event was another example of connections for many people.

The Burrus Hybrids and Illinois AgriNews Farm Family of the Year was the Lamoreux Family of Carroll County. This family had several generations of College of ACES alumns present to accept the award. From folks who have farmed the family land for many decades to two newborn baby girls attending what looked to be their very first tailgate, over 20 family members were on hand to celebrate this wonderful recognition together.

Melissa Fairbanks of Lakeland, Florida, attended Salute to Ag Day with her parents, Bob and Janet Dailey of Rochester Hills, Michigan. This was a family reunion weekend as Melissa’s sister, Megan Dailey, is an Assistant Professor in Animal Sciences. This was Melissa’s first Salute to Ag Day and a memorable one to say the least. She took part in the annual auction and was the highest bidder of the Illinois State Fair prize-winning cheddar cheese block. Once the cheese arrives in Florida, Melissa plans to share with her family and, of course, have a wine and cheese party with close friends!

I could go on and on about the connections that Salute to Ag Day fosters each and every year but there are too many to choose from. I am always beyond delighted and surprised that a tailgate event of over 600 people could end up being something very personal and far reaching.

A special thanks to the generous sponsors who support this event, including the Illinois Corn Growers Association, the Illinois Corn Marketing Board, the Illinois Farm Bureau, the Illinois Soybean Association, and Premier Cooperative, Inc.

Salute to Ag Day