Considering the C in ACES

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

My name is Theresa Miller and I'm an academic advisor in the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics.  Yes, CONSUMER! I actively advise students in one of the oldest degrees at the University of Illinois, consumer economics and finance (CEF).

Consumer economics takes the theories of economics, business and finance, and applies those theories to practical economic problems in the consumer sector.  If you purchase anything, eat anything, or partake in any service, you are participating in this sector of business. 

I mentioned that this major is one of the oldest at the university.  Consumer Economics is today’s version of a very old discipline, that of home economics at the University of Illinois.  Women and men have majored in consumer economics to assist homemakers, families, and small businesses in making home and business decisions since 1874.  Bevier Hall, named after one of the pioneers in what was called “domestic science” and home economics, Isabel Bevier, is a reminder of the University’s role in establishing the discipline of managing personal wealth and family economics as one of importance. 

Today, consumer economics looks very different, and very similar.  Students take jobs in retail banking, in financial advising and consulting, in agencies in Washington D.C. in consumer affairs, in retail management, and in financial education.  They are actively sought by companies such as Kohl’s, Target, CME Group, JP Morgan, and Wells Fargo, but also by small entrepreneurial companies wanting someone who understands small business economics.  It’s an intriguing field, and something that more than 120 of our students in ACES are pursuing today.

Alums of CEF:  We’d love to hear from you and help you share your stories with current students.  Next spring, we will take some CEF students on an immersion trip to explore career opportunities in the Chicago area and the implications of consumerism on Chicago’s business landscape.  It’s an exciting future, with an Illini tradition in its past.

ACE students in front of the CME group on an immersion trip to Chicago.

Our State Fair is a Great State Fair!

Aug 20
Brianna Gregg, ACES Coordinator of Transfer Recruitment

If anyone grew up in a musical loving household like me, you'll be able to name that one right away! State Fair! Roger and Hammerstein were able to capture the Iowa State fair in about 90 short minutes, but the romance and excitement of the Illinois State Fair cannot be fully captured or appreciated until you experience it firsthand. Last Tuesday was Agricultural Day at the 2014 Illinois State Fair and the College of ACES at Illinois was invited to participate in the festivities.

We celebrated the sesquicentennial and centennial farms, hung out with some furry and scaly creatures, listened to the legend, Orion Samuelson speak in his radio voice, sampled fruits from the Illinois soil and congratulated the many members of the agricultural community that have contributed to its success over the past year. I may have also taste tested an elephant ear…“may” being the optimal word.

The best part of the day was seeing all of the people that were excited about all of the many aspects of life agriculture touches- from food, human development, sustainability, international markets, conservation, health and safety. Agriculture is everywhere we look and I was pretty lucky to be part of this celebration.

Brianna with her childhood hero, Smokey the Bear! Remember, only you can prevent forest fires!

Wright Family Creates ACES Legacy Display Case

Aug 18
Kimberly Meenen, Senior Director of Advancement

Earlier this summer, 40 descendants of the Corbly and Mary Melcena Wright family attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony and reception to dedicate a new legacy display case in the College of ACES Library, Information and Alumni Center. This proud Illini family has deep roots with 32 family members who have either graduated, attended, or are attending the University of Illinois. That’s nearly 100 consecutive years of students!

The legacy display case, generously funded by 13 branches of the Wright family tree, will feature rotating historical exhibits and keepsakes from ACES alumni and families for years to come. The case currently contains a magnificent collection of Wright family history and Illini memorabilia. Please stop by the atrium and see it for yourself.

In 2013, the descendants of the Corbly and Mary Melcena Wright family were the recipients of the prestigious College of ACES Family Spirit Award. We are grateful for their continued generosity.

The Wright grandchildren pulling the drape off of the new legacy family display case during the ceremony.

What is a Great River?

Aug 11
Manuel Colón, NRES Student Recruitment Coordinator

This summer, I had the amazing opportunity to visit the Field Station of the National Great Rivers Research and Education Center (NGRREC) in East Alton, IL. NGRREC is (per their website) a collaborative partnership between the University of Illinois, the Illinois Natural History Museum, and Lewis and Clark Community College. It is dedicated to the study of great river systems and the communities that use them.

Prior to this summer, my experience with NGRREC has mainly been to advertise their summer internship program. Students are assigned a variety of different river research projects, field experiments, and other data/specimen collection techniques.  The 2014 interns were located along waterways that included here in Urbana, to Wisconsin, Iowa, and even Mississippi.  However, my trip there this summer was for their “Day of Science” seminar. Researchers from all three of their collaboration units, a couple from NRES, presented their recent work and findings that are contributing to the NGRREC’s mission and goals. 

Amid all the scientific progress and excited conversation, I was most enamored with the actual facility we were sitting in. NGRREC’s field station is located strategically off the bank of the confluence of the Illinois, Missouri, and Mississippi Rivers. The building actually blends in very well with the horizon as its stacked stone walls and gardened roof are shaped to mimic mounds characteristic of the prairie ecosystem.  Not only is the Field Station aesthetically pleasing, but it also houses some really fun innovations that have contributed to its LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. Chief among them are a solar water heater, permeable pavement, grey water recycling system, and SolaTubes! Now, I’ve seen some pretty cool sustainable designs before, but I had never seen a SolaTube and I’m still just as impressed today about them as I was when I took the tour of the station. SolaTubes passively capture sunlight from the roof and bring it into the building through reflective tubes. They save electricity by reducing the amount of electric light needed to illuminate a room during the day. What a great invention!

I learned a lot during my time during the “Day of Science” and I’m looking forward to keeping a closer eye on the work that NGRREC is doing and its contributions to the positive experiences of our students. I’m not able to fully explain the magnitude and majesty of NGRREC and their Field Station in just one blog post, so I encourage everyone to head on down to East Alton and check it out. And if that’s too much trouble, you can take the virtual tour located here:

A photo of the SolaTubes at the NGRREC Field Station

Proving Grounds Event

Aug 7
Marise Robbins-Forbes, ACES Director of Development, Crop Science and NRES
What a glorious, sunny day we had with alum Ron Lloyd (MS '01) at Gregg Sauder's Proving Grounds event in Tremont, Illinois.  Even the previous night's storms and heavy rains couldn't put a damper on the excitement surrounding Gregg's new venture. We are proud to have so many Illini working for 360 Yield Center!
From left to right: Kimberly Meenen, Ron Lloyd, and Marise Robbins-Forbes

Sea of Blue and Gold

Aug 6
Regan Emkes, Senior in Agricultural Communications

It’s not every day that you see blue corduroy jackets cover the sidewalks on campus. However, on Friday, blue and gold graced much of the south quad for the 2014 FFA Communications Summit, hosted by the College of ACES and the Illinois FFA Association.

The summit brought high school FFA members from across the state of Illinois to learn new ways to communicate about agriculture and what their chapter is doing, and maybe even get a little taste of what a career in agricultural communications is like. These students were bused in during the wee hours of the morning to spend a whole day walking around the ACES campus, networking with students and professionals in the industry.

Multiple workshops, a lunch, and an opening and closing session made up this year's summit. Workshops included newsletter design, photography, social media, and broadcast. Students moved around from classroom to classroom, with the help of the Illinois FFA state officers, to listen to professionals in the industry give them tips and tricks to making the most of their FFA experience.

As a high school student involved in FFA, I was always eager to go to things where I would be interacting with college students and professionals. Having served as my chapter’s president and reporter some time ago, I enjoyed learning new things that would make my chapter stand out a little more. I saw a lot of bright-eyed students much like myself when I was sporting FFA official dress. Some of my greatest memories were lived out in that blue corduroy jacket.

I loved seeing the next generation of agricultural advocates on the campus that I know and love. They all have such bright futures ahead of them and I hope that each and every one of the students learned something they can use to maximize their FFA experience. It was a great day for everyone and I hope that one day soon I’ll be one of the professionals coming back to share my experiences.

FFA members making their way into the ACES Library on Friday

Road Less Traveled

Aug 5
Debra Korte, Teaching Assistant Professor, Agricultural Education

In elementary school, my English teacher made me read, “The Road Not Taken,” by Robert Frost. Admittedly, I did not enjoy the assignment at the time, but now I consider the message of this poem to be quite impactful. In his writing, Frost reflects on choices he has made throughout his life and how sometimes taking the road less traveled can result in life-changing experiences and perhaps unexpected paths in life. Today, I chose to walk the path less traveled on campus and was reminded of the magnitude of this prestigious university.

After spending some time at the Activities and Recreation Center (ARC), I chose to take a different path to return to my office in Bevier Hall. Although I have walked past the Krannert Art Museum more times than I can possibly remember, I chose to take a few minutes to walk through the museum today. What an amazing display of artwork! This seemingly-small building has two floors completely devoted to a variety of art exhibits, and is the second largest general fine art museum in Illinois.

My next stop was at the courtyard area within the Architecture Building. After walking through the archway, it felt as though I had been transformed into a peaceful and serene area in the middle of campus surrounded by nature.

After leaving the courtyard, I noticed a small house near the ACES bell tower. Formerly known as the Experiment Station Farm House, the Mumford House is a national historical landmark that lays claim to the oldest building on the UIUC campus.

With all I had already experienced, I decided to walk a bit farther through Illini Grove to the Arboretum. Again, this was a place I had never visited but had driven by several times. In one word – AMAZING. If you have never visited the Arboretum and the Miles C. Hartley Selections Garden, take the time to enjoy this experience.

I often hear prospective students express concern about the large size of our university. My response – the College of ACES provides a family atmosphere, where the physical size of the university becomes irrelevant. After taking “the road less traveled” during my walk today, I may include additional information for my response to this concern. Yes, the University of Illinois is large – large enough to provide a world-class education, groundbreaking research, Olympic-level fitness and training facilities (where you can also get a massage in the same visit), historical landmarks (Mumford House, The Morrow Plots, and the Round Dairy Barns just to name a few), a fine arts museum, internationally recognized libraries, and a 57-acre, magnificent arboretum.

As you get ready for the beginning of the semester – whether you are a new student to campus, returning student, or faculty – take a different path outside your usual routine. When applied to life decisions or simply your walk to the bus stop after class, take the road less traveled; it’s a decision you will not regret!

A path through the University of Illinois Arboretum

Celebrating Agriculture

Aug 4
Kendra Courson, Director for Special Events

As I sat in the audience at Thursday’s State Fair Preview/Media Day, I could not help but think of all the events scheduled to celebrate agriculture in the next few weeks!

August is going to be a busy month saluting the ag industry and the State Fair is a great place to start. This year’s theme is “Making Memories” and with all they have planned, I believe anyone who attends the fair will be able to do just that. The 4-H Family Event is Saturday, August 9th, on the Director’s Lawn at 4:00 p.m. This annual event is to honor all of our friends in 4-H throughout the state as well as honor the 4-H Family Spirit award. Agriculture Day is Tuesday, August 12th. From the Luncheon on the Director’s Lawn to the Sale of Champions Auction, and everything in between, there is something for everyone.

September is also a great month to come out and support the College of ACES in acknowledging how important agriculture is in our state and to our college. On Friday, September 5th, the Round Barn Society will host its annual recognition reception and pinning ceremony. This highly-anticipated event is followed by College Connection which connects our Illinois 4-H program with the College of ACES Alumni Association. On Saturday, September 6th, the annual Salute to Ag Day event will take place from 9:00-10:30 a.m. in the orange and blue striped tent directly across from Memorial Stadium off of First street. This pregame celebration allows us to salute the Farm Family of the Year, raise funds for the 4-H and FFA through a live auction, and just spend time connecting with family and friends.

All of us in the College of ACES hope you make time in your hectic schedules to come to one or ALL of the upcoming events. We look forward to seeing all of our friends, alumni, producers, and stakeholders in the next few weeks.

State Fair Manager Amy Bliefnick addresses those attending this year’s State Fair Preview/Media Day.

Good Things Come to Those Who...Ask?

Jul 31
Kathy Partlow, Research and Grant Development Specialist

Thanks to the initiative of two junior faculty members in ACES, the entire college now has access to the powerful survey/questionnaire tool from Qualtrics. Qualtrics is a web based tool for creating, distributing, and analyzing survey data. Brenna Ellison (Assistant Professor in Agricultural and Consumer Economics) and Erica Thieman (Assistant Professor in Agricultural Education) both had an interest in utilizing Qualtrics for their research; however, they realized that the college could purchase an organizational site license and reach far more people, than if they subscribed individually.  So they brought the benefits of this tool to the attention of the Office of Research, who has now purchased a subscription that can be utilized by all ACES faculty, staff, and students.  This Spring Drs. Ellison and Thieman held a seminar to demonstrate some of the useful features of Qualtrics, including the ability to use various and unique question formats, collaborate during survey preparation, control distribution, and export data.

Faculty, Staff and Students have already begun using Qualtrics in the following ways:

  • Gathering survey based research data
  • Delivering information quizzes to make sure training materials are effective
  • Collecting registration information for events in real time using mobile devices
  • Satisfaction surveys
College faculty, staff or students that want to create an account and learn more about Qualtrics can find more information about how to get started here (
Brenna Ellison and Erica Thieman at the Qualtrics Seminar

Because policies matter

Jul 25
Paul Ellinger, Head of the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics

If you’ve followed agricultural policy stories on the farmdocdaily website, you’ll recognize similarities in look, feel, and function of a new website called Policy Matters. It can be found at website. The parallel sites have a similar purpose–the difference is the content. Policy Matters was created as a new way to deliver discussions and analysis about policies that affect our state, country, and world.

Although there may be times when a story will appear on both sites, Policy Matters was created as a place primarily for nonfarm policy discussions. Policy Matters will provide research-based economic policy to help inform policy and policy makers on a wide variety of topics.

The site originated in and will be maintained by a team of University of Illinois economists in the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics. The Department of ACE has a rich history in analyzing the economic effects of domestic and international policies on consumers, producers, agribusinesses, and the environment. And although the site originated in ACE, it includes posts from faculty across the university.

Like farmdocdaily, you can subscribe to receive postings via an RSS feed or an email. Visit and click on the RSS or email icons located near the top right corner of the homepage.

Policy Matters