Food assistance critical for millions

Sep 24
Craig Gundersen, Executive Director of the National Soybean Research Laboratory and Soybean Industry Endowed Professor of Agricultural Strategy

While food insecurity in America is by no means a new problem, it has been made worse by the Great Recession. And, despite the end of the Great Recession, food insecurity rates remain high. Currently, about 49 million people in the United States are living in food insecure households. In a forthcoming article in Applied Economics Policy and Perspectives, I provided an overview of Map the Meal Gap, a tool that is used to establish food insecurity rates at the local level for Feeding America, the umbrella organization for food banks in the United States.

In this article, myself and co-authors Elaine Waxman and Emily Engelhard, both from Feeding America, describe the methods underlying these estimates, followed by answers to the following: What are the state-level determinants of food insecurity? What is the distribution of food insecurity across counties in the United States? How do the county-level food insecurity estimates generated in Map the Meal Gap compare with other sources?

To go along with this paper, Waxman, Amy Satoh, and myself created a post on the London School of Economics, USAPP– American Politics and Policy Blog. Along with reviewing Map the Meal Gap, we discussed ways that policies can and are being used to reduce food insecurity in the United States.

Learning by Doing

Sep 23
Kathy Partlow, Research and Grant Development Specialist

This August the ACES Office of Research Summer Internship Program completed its 7th year.  So far, 70 undergraduates have gained the experience of taking a research project from concept to completion addressing real problems in Illinois and beyond.  Originally just taking place at the Dixon Springs Agricultural Center, the program has expanded to three additional sites over the last three summers, including the Orr Agricultural Research and Demonstration Center, University of Illinois Extension in Chicago, and St. Charles Horticulture Research Center. Starting in the spring semester, the interns work closely with their faculty advisors on campus, mentors at the research sites, and stakeholders in the surrounding communities to design their experiments and prepare for the 11-week internship. 

This summer 14 interns not only gained a one-of-a-kind experience, but also in just a short time were able to make a contribution to the communities each site serves.  Those impacts wouldn’t be possible without the time and input from the faculty advisors, mentors, and stakeholders that are the foundation of the program.  The students were able to share their results in various venues including on-site for mid-term presentations and field days, as well as on-campus for the final presentation.  Neal Merchen, Associate Dean for Research, told the interns that there is no better way to learn than by doing.  The experience is a unique way for them to become well-rounded, develop skills outside of book learning, and make a contribution to some of the College’s off-campus activities. 

You can find more details about the research conducted over the summer in our newsletter and about the program in general on our website.  We will have information sessions about the program on Oct. 8th and 15th and applications for next summer will be due Oct. 31st.

ACES Office of Research 2014 Summer Interns

Spreading Your Wings and Flying

Sep 22
Theresa Miller, Academic Advisor, Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics

I have been an academic advisor for four years now, so the first incoming freshmen that I met at summer registration four years ago just spread their wings and headed out to the real world!  I had the privilege to know these students for four years, and truly enjoyed watching them grow from a high school student with an inkling of a career path to a mature, college senior with aspirations, goals, and a resume to knock potential employers’ socks off.  My students ended up this May in every type of business, from a small family owned financial planning firm to a major Fortune 50 company, and everywhere in between.  And each student’s individual decision about where they want to work is exactly been that – individual.

Last week I found one of these students on the job. Meggan Carroll, a 2011 alumna of the Financial Planning Program, found happiness in her career at MPS Loria, a small financial planning firm in Burr Ridge.  Meggan was instrumental in organizing a Financial Planning Club while a student here, and used her free time during her college years networking with other students, as well as professionals, in the field she wanted to work in.  Her duties are exactly what she envisioned when she was a student; working with clients to create a financial plan for their personal use or small business, pour over investment strategies that fit a client’s needs, and develop a career that will allow her to really utilize all the skills she used in coursework here at the University of Illinois.

Seeing Meggan find her place in a career gives me goose bumps as an advisor.  She is just one of many examples I can find when I go out of Mumford Hall, and all of them are equally as heartwarming.  I’m so glad I had a chance to get to know them, and be a small part in helping them get to their goal.

Celebrating a Century of FarmHouse Fraternity!

Sep 18
Kendall Herren, Senior in Agricultural Communications

Being the emotional, sentimental girl I am, especially after this past spring when I lost my grandmother, I have had a stronger yearning to visit with older generations. This past weekend at the centennial celebration of FarmHouse Fraternity was no different.

Saturday night I had the chance to attend the formal anniversary banquet. This banquet was put on by FarmHouse men and had many tasteful occurrences such as a dinner, some heartfelt speeches from past members, and a panel discussion of four men spanning across the history of the fraternity; one from the 40s, 70s, 90s, and the 10s.

Of all the stories about networking, older faculty and administration, the stories from the man of the 70s was my favorite. For those that don’t know, streaking was “in” during that time and yes, we heard all about it.

A close second had to be the ‘05 graduate. So often we discuss the family in ACES and U of I, but for those of us in fraternities and sororities, those are our best families on this campus. Not only do we live in the same house and complete the regular cooking and cleaning duties, we form friendships that aren’t always comparable to the regular college friendship. When this man’s father died months after graduation, his brothers rallied around him, and provided that close-knit family all of us in our houses have come to know and love.

I am not a member of FarmHouse fraternity, but I could feel the friendship and true “bonds of brotherhood” when surrounded by these individuals this weekend. So in toasting spirit, here’s to another 100 years of FarmHouse Fraternity; here, here!

Kendall with Darren Riskedal, a current member of FarmHouse Fraternity, at the celebration.

Cowboys, secret agents, and ag engineers

Sep 11
Jennifer Shike, Director for Communications and Marketing

At first, he dreamed about being a cowboy. Then he wanted to be a secret agent. This summer, he decided he wants to be an agricultural engineer when he grows up. My 6-year-old son, Hunter, has a long ways to go before he needs to think about career choices, but I was excited to let him know this week that the University of Illinois Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering was ranked #1 this year (tied with Purdue University) by U.S. News and World Report.  Congratulations ABE – the College of ACES is proud of your success. (And your future students are noticing!)


ABE ranked #1
Hunter didn't want to leave the displays organized by ABE at ExplorACES.

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