Morocco Rocks!

Feb 12
Wendy White, Crop Sciences Undergrad Recruiter

As a both a first time traveler to Morocco and first time chaperone for a Study Abroad trip, I must say the experience not only exceeded my expectations, it was AWESOME!!! The country, culture and people of Morocco are both fascinating and enchanting. What added to the total enjoyment of the trip was to experience not only my personal sense of wonderment but in sharing that with the best group of students ever! Please check out the great trip summary below authored by Sarah Reising-Rechner.

“Markets, Oranges, and Camels”

This winter break Professor Mosbah Kushad and recruiter Mrs. Wendy White took eleven students abroad to study horticulture crops and the beautiful culture of Morocco. After a nine-hour flight from O’Hare airport in Chicago we arrived to Marrakech, Morocco.  The minute we stepped off the airplane it was a gasp of excitement and anticipation.  The weather was perfect that day, a mere 70 degrees and a sun so warm – we were overdressed to be in this gorgeous weather!  We were able to take a walk to the Marrakech market that evening and experience the hustle and bustle of a Moroccan market.  When we arrived to the market we all stood in awe of the amount of people present.  It was so overwhelming! The amount of people and things for sale was almost scary, but so exciting and different from the culture in America.
We traveled around almost the entire country to visit different farms, markets, and agricultural businesses. The staple crop of Morocco is wheat. Wheat was just beginning to grow when we arrived so we looked at a few other crops that Morocco has to offer.  We visited an orange farm where there were miles of orange trees with beautiful bright orange coloring on them.  As we walked through the farm Professor Kushad translated with the farmer about his crops and how he grows his oranges. The orange farmer was very insistent that we eat as many oranges as we wanted to. This was a both blessing and a curse because many of the students ate multiple pounds of oranges that day. We also visited olive plantations, a vineyard, apple orchard, sugar beet and carrot field, and much more!

While we were studying abroad we noticed a lot of differences in not only the way they farm in Morocco, but the culture as well! We till, plant, and harvest a field with tractors in America. But in Morocco they use horses, mules, and donkeys to till and harvest their fields.  Most of the farmers then hand plant their crops. The farms are much smaller in Morocco and this is due to the lack of tractors, and people simply do not own more than on hundred acres or so.  The people of Morocco were so genuine, nice, and welcoming to not only their country but their farms. They saw how interested we were in their crops that they wanted to give us all the information they could about their farms.

Overall, this study abroad tour was not only a great learning experience, but also an eye-opening experience.  We learned about so many different crops and how to grow, harvest, and store them that we could have never learned in a classroom. The time we spent in Morocco showed us just how people live and survive in different countries.  Also, what other time would we have been able to ride camels in the Sahara desert?


The group of ACES students pose for a picture in front of a beautiful Moroccan landscape.

ACES Summer Programs

Feb 2
Manuel Colón, NRES Student Recruitment Coordinator

As an employee of an educational institution, I often get questions about how great it must be to have my summers off. However, that’s not true at all. As an Undergraduate Recruiter, summer is a very popular season for outreach programming. In fact, The College of ACES offers a variety of summer programs that last from one week to an entire month. Some are ran autonomously by the different units, others are in collaboration with multinational corporations and federal agencies. With a background in conservation education and outreach, our summer programs are a great opportunity to connect with youth that are interested in science and excited about exploring the career and educational options available to them. Below, I’m going to highlight some of the programs that I have worked with in the past and are currently open for applications from high school students.

Illini Summer Academies
June 21 to 24, 2015

The Illini Summer Academies is a four-day event which gives high school youth the opportunity to explore career opportunities at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana. Youth who attend will explore the University of Illinois campus, study potential career opportunities, build their leadership skills, engage in fun activities and meet youth from across the state. Academies are open to ANY Illinois youth who are currently in eighth to twelfth grade. They must be an incoming high school freshman to graduating senior this summer and must fall within the 14-18 age range as of September 1 of the year in which ISA is being held. This is a live-in academy program; delegates will not be allowed to commute to the campus for daily activities. More information here!

Research Apprentice Program I
July 5 to August 1, 2015

As part of the Research Apprentice Program (RAP), students will be assigned to small groups or teams where they develop a presentation based on a set of special learning activities. The RAP I activities require each team to demonstrate a basic understanding of the food supply chain, i.e., production, marketing, transportation processing, and advertising perspectives. A series of visits and seminars held at various businesses serve as a resource base for the information necessary to successfully complete this exercise. All RAP I activities emphasize teamwork, problem-solving, computer skills and presentation skills. At the end of the program, each team presents the outcomes of their assigned project activities. All students will be participating in a special hands-on mini-laboratory and science exercises developed to help them understand the application of math and science in various areas in the food, human and environmental sciences. The RAP I group will work on team projects co-designed by and co-sponsored by representatives from Kraft Foods Inc, Pioneer Hi-Bred International, PepsiCo (Barrington Group), John Deere, and Monsanto. More information here!

Research Apprentice Program II
June 14 to August 1, 2015

RAP II provides an intensive seven-week laboratory and academic enrichment experience for rising high school juniors and seniors with interests in further exploring science, technology, engineering and math related careers in the food, human and environmental sciences. Students are placed into laboratories where they conduct projects designed to build on interest in math, science, engineering and business. Some examples of laboratories in which students might be placed are plant genetics, animal physiology, plant tissue culture, nutritional sciences, food chemistry, food engineering, child development, agricultural marketing, computer imaging, and environmental sciences. Students with animal health interests will be placed in labs in Animal Sciences or Veterinary Medicine. Students with human health interests will be placed in laboratories within Food Science and Human Nutrition and the Division of Nutritional Sciences. The program is designed to focus on the application of math, science and communication skills, utilizing computers and technology to enhance the critical thinking abilities of participants. Students will participate in math and chemistry enrichment academic activities. A formal paper, oral presentation and a poster of each laboratory project are required of each student at the end of the program. More information here!

July 5 to August 1, 2015

Learn about career possibilities in the plant, animal and veterinary sciences, and learn how the USDA protects the American food supply. Over four weeks, students will live on the University of Illinois campus and have hands-on experiences in animal and plant laboratories, conducting small laboratory exercises under supervision of plant and animal scientists, and veterinarians, employed by the University and USDA. Field trips will be to USDA facilities, agricultural businesses, conservation areas, and zoological facilities to experience the vast aspects of the food and agriculture system. Students enhance academic skills in math, science and computers. More information here!

Below are just a few snapshots from the fun we had in ACES last summer!

ACES Summer Programs

ACES Summer ProgramsACES SUmmer programs 3

Heading west

Jan 22
Steve Loerch, Head of the Department of Animal Sciences

I love hearing stories of the great opportunities our students have in the Department of Animal Sciences. Last week, two of our graduate students were selected to attend the International Livestock Forum in Fort Collins, Colorado, to discuss global livestock and meat production.

Our students, Alyssa Clements and Josh McCann, had the opportunity to tour the JBS Beef Packing Plant in Greeley, Colorado; the Cervi Cattle Company Feedlot, and the Harper Sheep Feedlot. They listened to speakers from the U.S. Red Meat Export Federation and Paul Genho, the retired President of Farmland Reserve. They were able to work in some fun, too, and attended the PBR Bull Riding event at the National Western Stock Show.

To be selected to attend the conference, students submitted resumes or CV’s, provided GPAs, and answered multiple writing prompts covering their involvement in the agriculture industry, the benefit of attending the conference, and their goals or future career plans. Alyssa and Josh were selected as 2 of the 28 students that attended the conference from a large applicant pool, including students from multiple countries with degrees ranging from B.S. to M.S. and Ph.D. to DVM.

Congrats to Alyssa and Josh – what a great accomplishment!

International Livestock Forum participants

ACES Award of Merit winners

Jan 21
Tina Veal, Director of Alumni Relations

Happy New Year! With the start of a new year behind us, it is also one of my favorite times of the year as we announce new College of ACES Alumni Award winners. The ACES Award of Merit award is the highest recognition given to a college of ACES alumnus from the ACES Alumni Association. The Award of Merit recognition recognizes alumni that bring honor to themselves and their alma mater by demonstrating outstanding professional achievement and outstanding leadership or service that has enhanced or improved the lives of others. This year, the ACES Alumni Board, had an opportunity to review one of the highest number of application pools for this award nomination and selected five alumni to recognize in 2015.  

We are proud to announce the 2015 Award of Merit winners are:
•    Dan E. Hoge, B.S. '66 Animal Sciences, M.S. '68 Animal Sciences of Cambridge, IL
Dan is a Professor and Livestock Judging Coach at Black Hawk College, East Campus

•    Susan L. Johnson, Ph.D. '93 Nutritional Sciences of Louisville, CO
Susan is Professor and Director of the Children's Eating Labratory at the University of Colorado

•    Daniel R. Kittle, Ph.D. '80 Plant Pathology, M.S. '78 Plant Pathology of Carmel, IN
Dan is the Global Vice President of Research and Development at Dow AgriSciences LLC

•    Gregory R. Oltman, B.S. '72 Ornamental Horticulture of Barrington, IL
Greg is the Owner of GRO Horticultural Enterprises, Inc.

•    Kenna B. Rathai, B.S. '93 Ag Communications of Saint Anne, IL
Kenna is the Owner of Kenna B. Rathai Communications and serves as a Public Relations Consultant and Freelance Writer

These award winners will be recognized on Monday, April 13, 2015 at the I-Hotel and Conference Center during the ACES Award of Merit luncheon as well as the college FUNK Banquet that evening. All are invited to attend the ACES Award of Merit Luncheon and can register online to help us celebrate these outstanding ACES Alumni and their contributions to their professions and the College of ACES.

The College of ACES Alumni Association also sponsor the ACES Outstanding Young Alumni and ACES Family Spirit awards. These applications are now available online and are due May 15, 2015. These winners will be recognized at the ACES College Connection event on Friday, September 11. Mark your calendars!

We look forward to recognizing outstanding College of ACES Alumni this year!


Extraordinary students...extraordinary results

Jan 14
Marise Robbins-Forbes, ACES Director of Development, Crop Science and NRES
This Friday is a special day. We will celebrate philanthropy in the Champaign-Urbana community as the East Central Illinois Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) honors significant volunteers and philanthropists through its National Philanthropy Day event. As a past- President of the ECI AFP, this event is always near and dear to my heart. This year will be particularly special as we celebrate the ACES Student Advancement Committee winning the ECI AFP Outstanding Youth Fundraiser award. So extraordinary was the SAC accomplishment that in my opinion, if this were an ongoing competition, SAC might well hold on to this award for decades to come. This award is being given to ACES SAC to honor the path-breaking, student-led efforts of ACES students last April through the “I Pay it Forward Students Helping Students” campaign. This scholarship campaign broke not only the student giving record for the college, but also the campus. More than 1,100 donors (of which 900 were students) raised $17,000 in one month! The passion exhibited by all involved (including Stacey Cole as their tireless facilitator) set the standard for student philanthropy across the campus. The impact was immediate. In August 2014, 17 students received their ACES Student-funded scholarships of $1,000. A quick turnaround and true testament to students caring for students. Way to pay it forward ACES students! 

What’s the next best food idea?

Jan 5
Marla Todd, Associate Director of Advancement Communications

Low sodium.  Containing by-products. Energizing capabilities. Heart healthy claim. These are just examples of the parameters students received for their semester projects in the food product development course. FSHN 466 is the senior capstone course in the food science concentration.  Students work in teams to develop a new product, using the knowledge and experiences from their previous course work.

Instructors provide the students with a product category, consumer demographic and just a few product attributes that they must meet. Then, the creativity kicks in. Students encounter technical challenges along the way, which contribute to their learning experience in the course.

On Thursday, December 19, the students presented their products to a team of judges, as well as the general public. The judges were alumni and friends with varied professional experiences in the food industry. Nearly 75 guests partook of samples the students prepared. The winning team received the stylish #10 can trophy, a special tribute to the food industry! We won’t be revealing their product here on the blog because it will advance to the national Institute of Food Technologists student product development competition.

Maybe we’ll see some of the products developed in the course on our grocery shelves in the future.

FSHN 466 new product development

Join us for ACES Family Academies

Dec 22
Tina Veal, Director of Alumni Relations

Are you a College of ACES alum with a young grandchild, niece, nephew or friend, who’s looking for an opportunity to return to campus? If so, mark your calendars for July 9-10, 2015, and register now for the all-new ACES Family Academies.

ACES Family Academies is a new program from the ACES Alumni Association that will offer classes from each ACES academic unit, geared to children ages 8-12 years. The alumni and youth will attend classes together, experience dorm living for a night, and attend a family friendly college tailgate/dinner. More than 30 hands-on educational classes are slated for the program, taught by our outstanding College of ACES Faculty!

Alumni will have an opportunity to share their campus memories of living in a dorm, eating in the dining hall and going to class!  We are thrilled to see alumni and their grandchildren or family members relive their college days and create new memories!

Registration is now open, at the official ACES Family Academies website, and will close by April 1, 2015. Registration numbers are limited; cost is $195 per person.

"With the holidays so near, I think it would make a great gift - for the grandparent or the grandchild," says ACES Alumni Board President Kenny Eathington. "With a little Illini gear, it could be a lot of fun on Christmas morning."

For more information, check out the official ACES Family Academies website, and follow along on the ACES Family Academies Facebook page.


ACES Family Academies coming in July 2015!

Take a break - you’ve earned it!

Dec 16
Jason Emmert, Assistant Dean, Academic Programs

My job involves working with prospective students and often times their parents, in a variety of settings ranging from conventions, to office meetings, to ACES-related recruitment events (like Explore ACES, March 13-14, 2015 - #shamelessplug). But as someone with a high school junior in my house, I’ve gained a newfound appreciation for the hard work and determination that goes into preparing for college. It’s a process that can be difficult, rewarding, exhilarating, and even frightening, with so many factors that are out of your control. But in the long run, what could more worth it – preparing for a career in which you can hopefully make a difference in the world!

I never fail to be amazed at the accomplishments of our prospective students, but what I find just as inspiring is the fact that they typically don’t simply rest on their past accomplishments once they start college. They stay involved, just like in high school, but they also add study abroad experiences, internships, leadership positions in a variety of activities, and often a number of service-related projects. Of course we know these activities help prepare for the next stage of life (gainful employment)! But I don’t want to overlook the tremendous amount of dedication and perseverance it takes to continue to work hard. 

And you know what? This type of behavior usually doesn’t stop at graduation. Our students become leaders in their organizations and communities. They’ve learned to lead, while continuing to prepare for the future; harnessing their energies and utilizing their skills and knowledge. I guess it’s a habit, and thank goodness for that. 

Wherever you are in this process – preparing for college, pursuing your degree, or hard at work in the “real world,” my hope for you in that over the holidays you get to take a break and reflect on the great things you’ve accomplished. I believe this will give you energy to move forward and continue to learn and prepare for the wonderful opportunities the future has in store. And if you have time, take a moment to do a cartwheel in the snow (or like in my case, watch someone younger and in better shape do a cartwheel!). 

this sums up the winter break pretty well! (in the ACES Library)
This sums up the winter break pretty well! (in the ACES Library)

Rural kids in Chicago

Dec 15
Kendall Herren, Senior in Agricultural Communications

Rarely do you see many farmers walking the streets of Chicago, but this past weekend rural America stormed the windy city for the Illinois Farm Bureau (IFB) 2014 Annual Meeting. As I hopped on the train last Friday morning, I saw Pioneer and Monsanto hats, dress boots, and agriculturists from across the state eager to discuss agriculture

This annual meeting brings in farmers and agriculturists from across the state to discuss the latest happenings in the industry, talk with politicians about legislation, and meet up with old friends in the industry. I went to Chicago with 10 fellow Illini Collegiate Farm Bureau members, as well as friends from across the state that attend Western Illinois University, Illinois State University, and Southern Illinois University, to learn more about IFB and partake in the weekend’s events.

We engaged with the Illinois Young Leaders, Illinois Farm Bureau members, and watched a presentation given by Captain Richard Philips, whose boat was taken over by Somali pirates. All of these events were fun, especially since I met up with friends from across the state and former co-workers from my internship. Amongst all of the great fun, the most exciting part of the trip was watching the discussion meets.

Farm Bureau discussion meets are competitions that members can take part in, that is essentially a competition on how to discuss topics in agriculture. Each meet is comprised of 4-6 individuals, depending on which round they are in. They are judged on how well they compromise with others, the knowledge and information they present, and their public speaking skills.

I enjoy watching these competitions because they make you question your own thoughts and ideas on different topics in agriculture, whether it pertains to livestock, grain operations, or agricultural education. Many different viewpoints are brought into the discussion and valuable information is shared as well.

We learned a lot from our trip to the city, in hopes of bettering our industry for the world.

Rural kids in Chicago
ACES students met up with President Easter at the Illinois Farm Bureau Annual Meeting in Chicago

Student teachers prepare to test out the real world

Dec 12
Jennifer Boberg, Senior in Agricultural Education

We’re finally here! We’ve come to the point in our college career that we have been diligently studying and working towards for the past three and a half years -- we’ve made it to the beginning of our student teaching experiences! The twelve of us—Jeff Reale, Amanda Goin, John Andress, Josh Evans, Malory Hughes, Brandyn Smith, Nic Turner, Brianna Harmon, Sarah Moore, Jacob Dickey, Claire Geiger, and myself—have been through a lot together these past couple of years, working towards a common goal, building on our experiences to better ourselves for a career (or at least a degree) in agricultural education. I don’t know about the others, but for me, it’s a bittersweet feeling to know that our time here at the University of Illinois is coming to a screeching end. This next semester is our time to test out the real world—to see what it really takes to be an agriculture teacher. It’s going to take a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to get through these next few months of our lives, but I have full confidence in each and every one of us and I know we will succeed. 

I also know that the “Real World of Teaching” sounds an awful lot scarier than what we’ve read or discussed. This is our final step. We’re leaving our close-knit family that we have found in the Agricultural Education Program and into the world that our teachers, advisors, and friends have prepared us for. There’s no telling what will stop us now! As my final semester on campus comes to an end, I look back at the first day of this semester. I remember being excited and ready for student teaching, counting down the days until the semester would come to an end and I would officially be in the classroom every day. I and the other student teachers in my class have hit a lot of obstacles since that first day of school. We’ve been frustrated, discouraged, ready to pull our hair out, and asked ourselves many times, “why am I doing this?!” During the moments of calm—when we weren’t writing assessments, completing AGED 350 requirements, rummaging through our brains for a piece of memory that contains a learning theory definition, or trying to figure out that edTPA thing—we’re able to take a moment to remember what brought us to Agricultural Science Education in the first place—a passion for agriculture, a teacher that saw something in us that no one else saw, a desire to share agriculture and inspire students.

Each of us who are preparing to test out the real world have a similar passion that has sparked a bond between us. We’re all going to be far away from campus, from our family and home we have found in the Agricultural Education Program at the University of Illinois. I look at a map of Illinois and I see the small towns where we are all student teaching. We are preparing to branch out across Illinois—some 2 or 3 hours in every direction—and I see the branches of our passions and our love for agriculture and students spread like a web across the state as well. We’ll be working with cooperating teachers who share a similar passion and who care about preparing the next generation of agriculture educators. I think I speak on behalf of us all when I say that we’re proud of how far we’ve come and we’re excited to take this next step into the real world and put all that we’ve learned to the test. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but I know it will be beyond rewarding. I’m already excited about coming back to campus in April to share my story and to hear the stories of my fellow student teachers—to laugh and even grumble a little about all of our student teaching experiences.  I know each us has the motivation and the heart to be an incredible teacher. Good luck and have fun in the “real world!”