Jun 25
Kendall Herren, Senior in Agricultural Communications

What’s the best thing about internships? Being able to apply the things I have learned in the classroom.  I grew up just west of Sandwich, in the small town of Somonauk, Illinois. I was not raised on a farm, but grew up in the middle of a field that we cash-rent to a local farmer. I was a 4-H member for 11 years and watched friends show their livestock. My sister and I have shown rabbits and sheep for the past few years, and I occasionally helped hold the grand champion chickens at the 4-H livestock auction. We also took photos during the summer in the fields surrounding my house when the corn quickly grew over my five-foot frame. Despite all of this, I never knew much about agriculture until I went to college.

At school I live in 4-H House, a very ‘farm oriented’ sorority. Within my first few weeks, I realized that EVERYONE had showed some type of livestock and everyone lived in the middle of a corn field and I couldn’t help but think how cool that was. At that point, I was hooked. I got involved with the Collegiate Farm Bureau and the Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow Club, amongst many others, and immersed myself in the industry. I loved it! I became obsessed with attending conferences and seminars, and I loved social media. Every conference I attended I tweeted facts and quotes from well-known agricultural communicators like Holly Spangler and Katie Pratt. Everyone seemed SO passionate!

It was those events that made me realize how much I loved agriculture and how badly I wanted to be a part of this industry. Several conferences and seminars later, I am constantly trying to educate myself. My father laughs at me when I start rambling off facts and information I’ve learned. I get so interested in things like Monsanto’s seed chipper, or asparagus being part of the sunflower family or cattle being habitual animals.

This summer I am the Cook County Farm Bureau Ag in the Classroom Intern—I love it! Last week I had the chance to take part in our first Summer Ag Institute (SAI) for the summer. We had 20 teachers from Cook County take part in tours from the Volkening Heritage Farm to Davidson’s Pasteurized Eggs to Smits Greenhouse and more. Personally, my favorite stop was with the Chicago High School for Ag Sciences.

During the SAI I learned many more facts and found myself once again thirsting for more information. It was a chance for me to take those fun facts and the knowledge I have gained these past few years and apply my communication skills when talking to the teachers. It was great watching them take notes, ask intriguing and hard questions, and more than anything, just learn. I wasn’t the teacher by any means this week, but even as another student of this industry, it has been so REWARDING to watch them absorb all of the information they learn on these tours. They were continuously asking questions about how to incorporate this information into lesson plans and where to find more information. They were taking the information they learn to heart and are beginning to understand the importance of our industry, and the love and passion that all of us in agriculture have for it.

It is moments and opportunities like these that make me love agriculture and the things we do as an industry.

Picture of the binders Kendall put together and a few Illinois Ag in the Classroom Ag Mags.

A History of Excellence

Jun 23
Regan Emkes, Senior in Agricultural Communications

Last week, I got to experience my first real taste of what being on ACES Student Advancement Committee is all about. It was my honor to give a campus tour for a visitor with a few other students. As I was brushing up on my knowledge of the buildings, I learned a lot about this campus that I know and love which only made me love it more. A lot of the buildings that I walk past every day without really thinking anything about are the very buildings that house the conversations, materials, and memories that shape the entire university.

For example, I have probably walked past the Mumford House a hundred times and I never had a clue what it was. I always wondered why, when there are all these big, brick buildings surrounding both quads, is there a lone white house in the middle of the South Quad? Once I learned what it was this past week, I couldn’t imagine this university without that house and all that it represents. This same mindset applies to many different places on campus because they're all significant in the history of the university.

It is a very humbling experience knowing the history of the landmarks to say the least. It also makes being able to share my experiences and knowledge of the college that much more exciting. The people behind making this university so great sure knew what they were doing, and it certainly does not go unnoticed.

I still have a lot more to learn, but this tour has sparked an interest in learning a little more about the university’s landmarks throughout my last year as a student. I can’t wait to begin my senior year learning at this university and I plan on taking full advantage of learning outside of the classroom (and probably a little about the actual classroom, as well!).  

Mumford House
View of the front of the Experiment Station Farm House (later named Mumford House) courtesy of the University of Illinois Archives.

ACES in China

Jun 9
Leslie Sweet Myrick, Office of International Programs Media Communications Specialist

A major U.S. newspaper recently asked for some examples of ACES’ current collaborations with Chinese colleagues for potential use in a future feature story. Because the scope and status of our international activities are constantly evolving, I set out on some quick detective work to confirm the current status of several projects, both existing and new.  

What I found was truly impressive. Though the newspaper may not end up profiling all of these projects; they are all newsworthy, so I wanted to share the updates I collected:
•    Prof. Don Bullock and agronomist Bob Dunker (Crop Sciences) are now in their sixth year of a project to assist China’s Jilin province with implementing improved technologies to increase corn yields. Work such as this is imperative if China hopes to ensure food security for its growing population.
•    Prof. Hong Chen (Food Science and Human Nutrition) is working with collaborators at China Agricultural University to look at the effects of traditional Chinese herbal medicines, specifically Ginkgo extract, to combat colon cancer.
•    Profs. Angela Lyons and Yilan Xu (Agricultural and Consumer Economics (ACE)) are working with a Chinese research center to study micro-level data on the finances of Chinese households with the goal of proving insight into the Chinese emerging middle class’s demand for credit and investment opportunities.
•    Prof. Hope Michelson (ACE) is working with Chinese colleagues to analyze Wal-Mart’s fresh produce supply chains in China with a focus on implications for small farmer participation and food quality and safety.

These are just some examples of how ACES faculty is currently involved in China, but they do a great job of representing the scope and diversity of ACES’ international influence.

ACES in China
Bob Dunker (in orange hat) with faculty and students of Jilin University during harvest.

New scholarship to encourage enrollment in ACES

Jun 2
Nancy Moriarity, ACES Alumna and RAP 25th Anniversary Planning Committee Member

In 2014, the College of Agriculture, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) is celebrating the 25th anniversary of its Research Apprentice Program (RAP). Founded in 1988, RAP is a campus-based summer program uniquely designed to expose high school students from ethnic minority and low socioeconomic backgrounds to educational and professional opportunities in food, human, and environmental sciences. Dr. Jesse C. Thompson was instrumental in establishing the program and has been leading it since. RAP I, aimed at students in their first two years of high school, is a four-week team experience, with projects developed through close partnership of ACES with the sponsoring companies.  RAP II provides older high school students an eight-week experience performing a science-focused research project under the guidance of ACES faculty and graduate students.

RAP I and II encourage development of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM)-related skills and interests while showcasing related academic and career opportunities enabled through the College of ACES. The program successfully targets underrepresented students and attracts them to ACES-related STEM disciplines. RAP’s success is demonstrated through years of data. Between 1988 and 2011, 1,066 students participated in RAP I and II. Of these, 61 percent were African Americans and 28 percent Latinos. Of RAP II seniors, 548 of 566 enrolled in a four-year college following graduation; 464 students selected a math, science, or engineering-related field as their college major. After high school, 30 percent (319) of RAP I and 52 percent of RAP II participants enrolled at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, with 82 percent of these selecting majors in ACES.

One reason often cited by previous RAP participants who didn’t select the University of Illinois is they were offered more substantial scholarship opportunities elsewhere. The basis for the new Jesse C. Thompson Scholarship fund is to provide more scholarship monies for RAP graduates wanting to enroll in ACES programs. Since Dr. Thompson contributed to the creation of the RAP program in 1988, he has worked his entire career to build it and other diversity programs in ACES to what they are today. This scholarship program honors his success and the success of all RAP students by providing funding for today’s and tomorrow’s RAP graduates to attend and succeed in ACES programs and STEM-based careers.

Individuals and organizations desiring to contribute to the new fund, please visit; indicate as you proceed that you wish to support the JCT Scholarship Fund.

Student Sustainable Farm

May 27
Manuel Colón, NRES Student Recruitment Coordinator

Sponsored, in part, by the College of ACES (Department of Crop Sciences), the Student Sustainable Farm is a small-scale vegetable farm located on 10 acres of land at Lincoln and Windsor Road, just south of campus. The farm functions in many capacities; providing locally grown, low-input sustainable food to our University residence halls and as a living laboratory to connected students and community members to food systems.

In fact, there are also volunteer opportunities available if you are interested. The farm gates are open from 8 a.m. to noon and again from 1 to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and depends on volunteers throughout the year. More information on volunteering can be found HERE.

Currently, the farm operates between 45-48 weeks per year, occupying 6 acres for outdoor field production and nearly 10,000 square feet of year-round high tunnel production. In addition to selling the majority of our produce to the residence halls, they also market their produce directly to consumers on the quad. This past Thursday was the first farm stand of the season, so I stopped by to take a few photos to share with you all.

Their Farm Stand takes place on Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Anniversary Plaza behind the Union. You can find weekly updates on their website  regarding what produce they will have available and the price. For those who are interested in leading a more sustainable life and connecting with their food from farm to fork, this is a great opportunity we have right here on campus!

For more info, visit


Student Sustainable Farm Stand

Celebrating 25 years of excellence

May 19
Craig Slaughter, RAP corporate sponsor and mentor with Kraft Foods

The College of ACES RAP—Research Apprentice Program—is celebrating 25 years of developing underrepresented students for excellence. During my six years as a RAP corporate sponsor and mentor with Kraft Foods, it has been an honor to spend time with the RAP students over the summer. To see students at such a young age have so much enthusiasm about the food industry is exciting! As these high school students are making their transition to universities, I believe that the RAP program offers invaluable lessons that can be applied regardless of career choice. My goal/hope is that these students remain in the food industry, but my overall passion is to see them graduate from college and chase their dreams.

Having come from the same environment as a majority of RAP students, this program holds a special place in my heart. I am humbled to be given the opportunity to provide students insight on the work of a product developer and to offer them my advice. I would like to thank my company and the university for continuing to focus on keeping RAP an annual event. Look forward to another 25 years of success and many more!

Ready or not

May 8
Ellen Reeder, Senior in ACES

I just walked to my final class as an undergraduate student and to be honest I really thought it would be a different feeling. I thought I would feel liberated. I thought I would want to skip out of Greg Hall and throw all my old notes and homework assignments away. I thought I’d have a grin on my face from ear to ear that nothing could turn upside down.

Instead, it was quite opposite. I walked as slowly as possibly, gripped my Espresso Royale cup a little tighter, pulled my sunglasses down, and took in every beautiful part of that walk that I could.

I’ve never been a person who deals well with change, but I thought this would be a change that I’d be really excited about. I’ve got a great job to look forward to with John Deere, I’ve got an awesome new apartment, I’ve had a wonderful Illinois experience, and I’ve got all the tools to tackle the real world because I have a degree from the College of ACES.

However, I think in the last week I’ve discovered the real reason I’m not ready to graduate.

This place that I’ve called home for the last four years will never be the same again. I am positive that I’ll come back to alumni events, to sporting events, and maybe even with my own children on a college visit someday, but it will be different. This is the last time that all of my friends will ever live in the same place. This is the last time that I’ll be able to walk the halls of Mumford Hall and be known as an intern instead of an alum.

My friends and I will all go off to start our new jobs in different cities. It won’t be as simple as walking down the hall or sending a text to meet up. Catching up will require plane tickets, road trips, and real plans that don’t happen last second. Fashion advice will come via snapchat and facetime, I’ll look forward to those occasions where we’re all back together for weekends spent at friend’s weddings, and I guess I’ll have to get used to doing my own chores instead of sharing with roomies.

I know that all good things must end so that other good things can begin, but I never thought it would be this hard to leave my ‘home’ here in Champaign-Urbana.

There is about a week left until we’ll all walk across that stage and say goodbye. I’m going to enjoy every last second until I take that cap and gown off and officially become a proud alum. Representing the orange and blue in the ‘real world’ will be my next step on the road to graduation recovery.

Carlee Ellen and Madelyn

Summer's coming!

May 7
Lauren Redman, Academic Advisor for Animal Sciences freshmen and sophomores

The end of the spring semester is here and many of our students are off to complete internships and research projects this summer. Animal Sciences values these experiences and allows students to receive credit under ANSC 398: Experiential Learning. Our students are required to complete at least one experiential learning activity, but it has become quite common for students to complete several during their time here as an undergrad.

Every year, we have dozens of students who travel across the globe and some even stay here on campus to complete a variety of internships. This year, we have students interning in Florida, Virginia, Canada, South Africa, France, and even New Zealand. They focus on a variety of animal species and science disciplines. The internships our students complete gives them a real-world glimpse into a career they may or may not have considered.

We also have several students staying here in Champaign-Urbana or at Dixon Springs in Southern Illinois to conduct research. Like internships, these research projects often ignite a passion that may lead to graduate school and/or a career in research beyond their education. Many students are able to conduct their own research projects and may even get the opportunity to be published in a peer-reviewed journal.  

There is nothing more rewarding than getting out of the classroom and applying your knowledge in the real world. Whether it’s in your own backyard or half-way across the globe, these experiences stick with you.  

We receive pictures throughout the summer from our students and they are often posted on our Animal Sciences Facebook Page, so keep an eye out for them!  


Summer's coming for animal sciences students

Celebrating our emeriti faculty

May 1
Kendra Courson, Director for Special Events

May Day was the perfect day to celebrate our very special emeriti of the College of ACES. Many emeriti faculty returned early Thursday morning to enjoy breakfast with current faculty and department heads. Guests participated in lively conversations at each table during the breakfast sponsored by the Office of Advancement. Following breakfast, guests heard from Dean Robert Hauser on a brief state of the college update and thoughtful discussion.

Emeriti faculty breakfast

Dr. Paul Ellinger, Dr. Bob Spitze, Dean Bob Hauser, and Dr. Lowell Hill, all former professors in the Department of ACE, spend some time talking in the Spitze Room of the ACES Library under the Billy Morrow Jackson mural donated by Dr. Bob Spitze in honor of his late wife Dr. Hazel Taylor Spitze. (Billy Morrow Jackson reproduction by Chris Brown Photography;

RAP Makes a Difference

Apr 28
Tommy Amal, RAP Alum, Guest Blogger

RAP, the College of ACES Research Apprentice Program, introduced me to the world of agriculture! As a high school teenager, I was exposed by RAP to numerous corporations, resources, relationships, and experiences that helped not only to broaden my horizons but to set the course for my life's path.

Without RAP, I would never have found my passions of nonformal education and leadership studies. RAP has afforded me opportunities to travel the globe and be trained by some of the best educators in the world. Simply put, RAP changed my life!

I am so thankful for my RAP experience, and it is hard to underestimate the impact that the program has had on my life. Thanks, Dr. T [Assistant Dean Jesse Thompson, who has directed RAP and ACES’ other diversity initiatives for 25 years], for your undying commitment to the success of underrepresented students in agriculture.