Getting a Leg Up

Feb 19
Kathy Partlow, Research and Grant Development Specialist

I’m one of those people that likes to use sayings without knowing the origin of the meaning.  Luckily, according to Google “getting a leg up” refers to getting a boost or advantage and originates from receiving help to mount a horse, where the helper would cup their hands in order to provide a foothold.  One goal of the Office of Research is to provide these “footholds” in research to ACES students, staff, and faculty.  We recently launched the 6th ACES Research Academy sponsored by the Office of Research.  This year the Academy is comprised of 13 junior faculty from not only within ACES, but also the College of Veterinary Medicine and for the first time the School of Social Work.  The goal of the Academy is to provide “a leg up” to these junior faculty and help ensure their future success.  As the junior faculty come together weekly this semester, they will get a chance to receive wisdom from some of the most successful faculty in our College, gain firsthand experience in grant preparation and writing, and travel to Washington, DC to meet one-on-one with federal funding agencies.  Over 60 faculty have participated in the 5 years of this program.  As I looked across the crowd at the opening reception, where past and present members came together, I noticed that this program imparted more than just knowledge.  It also provided the opportunity to develop lifelong friendships among colleagues.  You can learn more about the ACES Research Academy on our website. 

RAP's 25th Anniversary

Feb 18
Jesse Thompson, Assistant Dean, Academic Programs

As we celebrate Black History Month and the meaning of Inclusive Illinois, we also remember and celebrate the diversity of talented students who have come through the College of ACES.  As Assistant Dean with responsibilities for diversity and outreach programs over the past 25 years, it has been my joy and privilege to help bring together students of differing cultures, races, and geographical backgrounds and watch them grow, share, and learn from one another. This exchange of viewpoints, opinions, cultures, and life experiences has served to stimulate creativity, broader thinking, and acceptance, both on and off campus, while enriching the lives our students, the College of ACES community, and the public that we serve.

 I am excited to share with you an upcoming event that helps mark one of the most exciting accomplishments and the inclusive environment of the College of ACES, an inclusive environment which has endeavored to bring together some of the most diverse talented young people in the world. We will be celebrating the 25th year of the longest-running and one of the most successful programs in the nation. This program has had impacts on the careers of hundreds of culturally diverse students, engaging them in their high school years, during their college experiences, and into their professional careers. These students are now scientists, managers, engineers, technicians, and supervisors throughout government and industry, impacting our global society.

Please join us on Saturday, August 2, 2014, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Research Apprentice Program (formerly Minority Apprentice Program) at the University of Illinois College of ACES.

Won’t you please join me? It will be an event to be remembered by all.

FFA Week

Feb 17
Debra Korte, Teaching Assistant Professor, Agricultural Education

This week, high school FFA chapters across the United States are celebrating National FFA Week. Several students and faculty have strong connections to this special organization. Each year, students from the College of ACES earn American FFA Degrees and compete for national awards during the convention in October. The University of Illinois can proudly boast home to the previous two American Star Farmer award recipients, with Tyler Loschen in 2013 and Clayton Carley in 2012, both earning this prestigious award. The College of ACES is also home to several past state FFA officers, section presidents, state proficiency award winners, and state or national CDE participants. The university continues to show their support for these individuals by providing scholarships to students who have held officer positions at the section and state levels, or have earned a state proficiency award.

Any person who was fortunate enough to be a part of the FFA knows it is much more than just earning awards or competing against other members. As the organization’s mission statement says, “FFA makes a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth, and career success through agricultural education.” No matter your level of involvement, many of us can attest to the value of this agriculture youth organization, and recognize it as a major factor in our personal growth and development.

As we watch current and past members of this wonderful organization share memories and photos through social media this week, let’s also reflect on those individuals who shared in the experience with us. Fellow members, parents and family, and perhaps most importantly our agriculture teacher(s) were all important people in our “FFA lives”. Agriculture teachers serve unselfishly and contribute significant time outside of the classroom to encourage students to pursue their goals, strive for their dreams, and experience personal growth through leadership opportunities. For many of us, our agriculture teacher not only helped as grow as individuals, but also helped us learn the value and importance of agriculture.

As we celebrate National FFA Week, let us all continue to strive to live out our belief in the value and future of the agriculture industry “with a faith born not of words, but of deeds”.


Soybeans in Africa

Feb 12
Leslie Sweet Myrick, Office of International Programs Media Communications Specialist

Understandably, when a research team receives big news from an agency like the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), much celebration and congratulation ensues. This story played out late last semester when a consortium led by ACES was awarded a $25 million federal grant to establish sustainable production and utilization of the soybean in Africa. Writing a successful proposal that includes such a huge scope of work is an accomplishment in itself.

Twice recently, I have had the opportunity to talk with Dr. Peter Goldsmith, an agricultural economist who is leading this project referred to in short as the Soybean Innovation Lab (SIL). We spoke once shortly after the project was awarded and again after his team returned from their first official project trip.  

After getting the news, Goldsmith was thrilled, obviously. In addition to praising his team and their qualifications, he credited the many people in ACES history before him who put in hours and years that led up to this new project.

During our second more recent meeting, I found his level of excitement for the project to be even higher. He and his team had just returned from Sub-Sahara Africa where they met their African partners and assessed the current situation for the soybean.   

No doubt, he said, the work will be challenging because soy is unlike other crops grown in Africa. He left Africa extremely optimistic, however, because he saw firsthand that what is needed there is exactly what was proposed, and further he was able to confirm that the project directors support his team in answering the necessary fundamental questions first.   

So, during the next five years, the SIL team will answer questions like what is the ideal planting depth, row widths, fertilizer level etc. in Africa. They will then get this information to the people and organizations who support Africa’s farmers with the end goal of using the soybean as an economic engine to reduce poverty.

I look forward to following their progress and sharing their stories.

Read my most recent interview with Dr. Goldsmith here:

Student Teaching

Feb 11
Debra Korte, Teaching Assistant Professor, Agricultural Education

Five agricultural education students in the Agriculture Sciences Education (ASE) concentration are participating in the student teaching experience this semester. Those students and their cooperating schools are:

  • Kirsten Blackford, Tri-Point High School
  • Liz Harfst, Taylorville High School
  • Bryanne Kalous, Sullivan High School
  • Kiersten Kasey, Carlyle High School
  • Mark McKown, Waterloo High School

During this on-the-job experience, students assume all the roles of a typical high school agriculture teacher and FFA advisor. When asked about the experience thus far, Kirsten Blackford said she is enjoying every minute! “I am realizing more and more each day how much I love to be in the classroom. My favorite part of teaching, so far, is working with the students. Whether we are working on lab or having a class discussion, the students and I are learning together.”

In addition to classroom responsibilities, Kirsten also assists with all aspects of the Tri-Point FFA Chapter. “Recently, we had two students finish their state degree interviews and they are now getting ready for proficiency awards. I am looking forward to the remainder of the semester.”

All of the student teachers are working hard to learn as much as they can from outstanding cooperating teachers who volunteer their time during this important step in the educational process. It takes a passion for agriculture and a desire to positively inspire others to be a teacher. Studying agriculture education in the college of ACES provides the opportunity to make a difference in students’ lives while simultaneously promoting the importance of agriculture


This photo is of Mark McKown teaching students. Photo was supplied by Tim McDermott, Waterloo High School agriculture teacher.

Voices Welcome Easter Home

Feb 10
Marla Todd, Associate Director of Advancement Communications

On Friday, January 24, the College of ACES welcomed “home” University President Robert Easter as the keynote speaker for An Evening with the Voices of Illinois Agriculture.  I found it particularly enjoyable to watch the generous attendees of this event enter in to welcome conversations with President Easter. Indeed, they were conversations amongst friends.

The events for the evening kicked off with a cocktail hour and dinner prepared by students in the Hospitality Management program, and concluded with an Agricultural Outlook Panel sharing their thoughts on the upcoming growing season. Diners offered a milk toast, homage to the agriculture focus of the evening, in celebration of the evenings’ festivities.   

This special event was held in support of the ACES Hospitality Management undergraduate program at the University of Illinois as well as the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences scholarship program, which benefits students by providing an investment into one’s education. We thank the generous donors, “Todd Gleason and Friends,” who made this event possible once again.


Jan 24
Kendall Herren, Senior in Agricultural Communications

Will these temperatures ever become manageable? I often pride myself with the fact that I was born during a late February blizzard. Not long after my birth, my dad went home to fetch some belongings and discovered the only way to get back to the hospital was via snowmobile! My mother was not amused. I also find little humor in the weather today, as I pile on multiple layers to confront the elements. It is unfriendly, cold and miserable outside. And instead of bundling up to walk multiple blocks to class, I would rather cuddle-up on my comfy couch with a hot beverage and a good book in hand.

With that being said, I know that cold weather can translate into poor classroom attendance. No one enjoys walking to class under such raw conditions. Professors and our attendance accounts may not like this, but for the students that are diligent enough to appear in class, we love the fact that the hallways are less crowded and treasure the one-on-one time with professors. These are the opportunities that help students get ahead in our classes and form relationships with our teachers so that we can succeed and excel.

So as these temperatures continue to show no promise of rising above 40 degrees in the near future, I urge you to try hard to keep with it and go to class. I challenge you to not give-up quite yet. It is only the beginning of the semester and the goal of reaching that GPA target is still well with-in reach. Stay-focused and remember: we are all fortunate to be students attending a world-class institution. Just never mind the tundra like qualities here in the prairie state, as the month of May and finals will be here soon enough!

Illinois, It’s Transfer Application Time!

Jan 23
Brianna Gregg, ACES Coordinator of Transfer Recruitment
With below freezing temperatures, a snow covered quad and bitter winds it must mean only one thing, the transfer application is open and ready for students to apply.

The University of Illinois College of ACES is currently accepting transfer applications for the summer and fall semesters. So if you’ve ever thought of making Illinois your home for a few years, we’d love to have you apply! A wise man once said, “I guarantee you won’t be admitted if you never apply.” So fill out that application by March 1st (February 1st for priority)!

If you are hesitant about applying or wondering what the requirements are to get into the College of ACES, please feel free to shoot me an e-mail ( .  I’d be happy to walk you through the process. More information on the application process can be found at the website below.

Until next time, stay warm Illinois.


Jan 22
Kendra Courson, Director for Special Events

Last week I was immersed in the role of a Family Cluster Facilitator for the 20th LeaderShape Institute (LSI) at the University Illinois.  The history of this program goes back to 1986 when the Institute held its pilot program at the Allerton Park Conference Center near Monticello.  Over 70 institutions held sessions of the LSI for their campuses or organizations in 2013.  To date, over 50,000 participants from colleges, universities and corporations from around the world have attended The LeaderShape Institute.

I have to admit, being away from the office for an entire week, plus an additional day of training, was a time challenge which gave me pause.  But, many ACES students were involved in this six-day conference and I was extremely interested in learning right alongside of them.

Out of the 60 students, I spent the majority of my time with 10 students in my family cluster, including two ACES students: Abby Marten and Tessa Cowser.  Getting to know these two young ladies and the other students in my family cluster made the 12-15 hour days worth every minute.

LeaderShape defines Leadership as:

“Leadership involves living in a state of possibility, making a commitment to a vision, developing relationships to move the vision into action, and sustaining a high level of integrity.  Effective leadership takes place in the context of a community and results in positive change.”

We spent many hours working on defining what leadership meant to each person as well as spending each day on themes that included building community, the value of one, the power of all, challenging what is and looking to what could be, bringing vision to reality, living and leading with integrity and staying in action.  This included vision exploration and refinement (which led to a poster session on “tomorrow’s headline” for each student), the dynamic of power and influence (including a difficult simulation illustrating both) as well as emotional intelligence, social awareness and relationship management.

I am always excited to learn more about leadership, but this was a different conference.  It wasn’t a quick one day or overnight conference with a lot of free time to socialize.  This was an all-consuming 6-day institute. The shortest day was 12 hours. The latest breakfast was 7:30 a.m. and the earliest bedtime was 11 p.m.

I have to be honest, at the beginning I really questioned why in the world I had committed to this Institute.  However, as Day 1 turned into Day 3 and as the relationships became closer and closer in the family cluster, I understood why it is important to be a part of something this special.  Thursday evening’s final family cluster was scheduled from 8-11 p.m.  Initially, I thought there was no way I could sit through a three-hour wrap up, but three hours turned to four and, before I knew it, midnight had come and gone and I still had 2 more hours of notes to write to each one of my students.

The students in my family cluster came from many different backgrounds, all different ways of life, different states, and even different countries.  They had MANY visions for where they wanted their lives to end up.  Some visions were as simple (if this is actually simple) as being a good father to being a Senator or Supreme Court Justice.  They had ideas that surpassed anything I could have imagined at age 42, let alone as a freshman in college.  While the days were long and my hours of sleep were less, it was hard to shut my mind off each evening. I couldn’t help but think of where they all had come from and where they all were headed.  It was more inspiring than I could ever write.

Robert Kennedy once said, “It is from numberless acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped.  Each time a person stands up for an idea or acts to improve the lot of others or strikes out against injustice, they send out a tiny ripple of hope, and those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

The conclusion of the institute was reading this quote, while each of us held a small pebble in our hands and then clasped hands.  While the lead facilitator was reading this quote, she asked us to open our hands at the end.  All of the pebbles scattered to the floor.  While it wasn’t an exact ripple and the pebbles weren’t thrown into a body of water, there were a bunch of watery eyes in the room thinking about the possibilities for all of these students… and all of us in general. 

Each one of us has the ability to make a tremendous difference in the world… one vision at a time.

Taking Advantage of Every Opportunity

Jan 21
Regan Emkes, Senior in Agricultural Communications

I kept getting notification emails back in November along the lines of “job shadow deadline approaching” and “sign up for job shadows” and I noticed them. So naturally, I went and signed up for as many as I was eligible to sign up for. I figured, like with everything else in my time at U of I, “Hey, why not?” Boom. Three weeks after signing up, I was notified that I was the candidate for four different job shadows with four different companies.

At first I was a little wary thinking, “What did I get myself into with this many job shadows?” These companies were all spread out and the last one I went to was even in Wisconsin. I was trying to work as much as I could over break to save up money and prepare for being poor again once the semester started so having to take off four days when I would otherwise be working was also a little tough for me to get a grip on.

Then I realized—I was selected for four job shadows. I have the chance to network with four different companies and to learn about opportunities present in the industry.

My first job shadow was not your run-of-the-mill experience. There was no big flashy office or a bunch of important people dressed up nicely. It was one man who took the whole day off to come to Champaign and meet me at the ACES library to talk to me about one of the most fascinating careers I have ever heard of! And he was just the start of my experience! Through my travels I shadowed 4 different facets of Agricultural Communications such as consulting, journalism, marketing, and advertising so I really feel like I got a feel of the whole industry that would have otherwise been missed opportunities had I not signed up for literally everything available to me.

This job shadow experience was absolutely awesome. Not only were these people friendly, they were also extremely knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and interesting. I am so happy to have had the chance to shadow these great people and hopefully made some lasting impressions on them so that we can all continue to network in the future. I encourage each and every student to take part in these job shadows. They are THE most worthwhile things I have done as a student of ACES/Media thus far.