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!”

A New Face in the College of ACES

Dec 10
Laurie Kramer, ACES Associate Dean of Academic Programs

I am delighted to announce that Mr. Cory Ohms is now serving as the new Assistant Dean for Admissions and Records with the College of ACES Office of Academic Programs. He joined the ACES family on December 1. Cory will take responsibility for overseeing our undergraduate admissions process, maintaining student records including degree certification, reviewing student petitions, coordinating summer registration, and supporting departmental advising. He will also represent ACES on select campus committees.

Cory came to us from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, where he served as the Associate Director of New Student Advising since 2008. Previously, he served as Program Coordinator for the University of Illinois Social Justice and Leadership Education initiative, which gave him the opportunity to teach a section of the Agricultural Education course, Leadership and Social Change.  Cory also has had vast experience in student affairs at the Iowa State University and the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

Cory earned his bachelor’s degree in Sociology (with a minor in Biology) and his master’s degree in Education (College Student Development and Administration) from the University of Wisconsin- La Crosse. He tells us that his first passion as an undergraduate was in food microbiology and so a move to ACES at this point in his career is a logical progression.

Cory is well-recognized on campus as an outstanding contributor to student advising, student success, and diversity initiatives.

Please join me in welcoming Cory to his new home in ACES.


Cory with his son, Ben, at the Bears camp.

We can make a difference

Nov 7
Jacob Dickey, Senior in Agricultural Science Education

The Agricultural Education program was privileged to host the United States Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Krysta Harden earlier this week. Harden was gracious enough to devote a portion of time, while visiting Illinois, to see the U of I campus, tour the newly renovated agricultural education classroom, and most importantly, talk to students about the importance of “sharing their story” with future generations.

“You are the ones the next generation will be watching,” she said. “They will listen to you tell the story. When you are in the classroom, you’ll have their attention. You can waste that opportunity or use it.”

In addition to working directly with students in the classroom, she also encouraged them to have conversations with those outside of the agriculture industry about challenging and controversial topics. Instead of just talking about what needs to be done to educate people about important agriculture issues, she challenged students to engage in conversations with those who have different assumptions and potential misconceptions. She said to listen to them, address their concerns, and help provide a more structured framework of understanding for which they can build new knowledge.

“It’s our job to connect the dots and be thoughtful listeners,” Harden said. “You have the power to make a difference.”

It’s a great feeling to know that our industry recognizes the importance of agricultural education and the role it will have in training future generations for the joys and discomforts we find in agricultural life. The University of Illinois is helping me define and share my story, take leadership role in the agriculture industry, and challenge the future generation to meet the needs our world faces.


Agricultural Education program was privileged to host the United States Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Krysta Harden
Agricultural Education students met with U.S. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Krysta Harden on Monday.


Oct 24
Tina Veal, Director of Alumni Relations

Illinois has a strong tradition for Homecoming. It has been consecutively held since it's inception in 1910,  expect for 1918 when it was cancelled due to the influenza scare. Many traditions surround Homecoming including football, the parade, the alumni band playing at halftime, a royalty court and many reunions to reconnect with friends and campus. It is a time for alumni to reminisce, share their stories of being an Illini with each other and also their next generations! And  it is a time for proudly wearing your orange and blue!

The College of ACES has over 33,000 alumni! This is a special time for us to recognize their contributions and passion that have for Illinois and our college! We are very fortunate to have many alumni engaged throughout the year with the college, our students, the alumni association and college events. We often hear the phrase, "We are an ACES Family" from our students and many alumni. Many colleges look to us and wonder how do you keep everyone so connected? I am reminded often how our connections continue to expand and run deep with our orange and blue ties. We are a family that cares about agriculture, the environment, food security, natural resources and each other!

I hope you take the time with 2014 Homecoming around the corner to stop and think about your connections to the College of ACES, the College of Agriculture or the School of Human Resources & Family Studies/Home Economics. Whatever college you graduated from, you are part of our ACES family today! 

Learn more about the University of Illinois Homecoming history at the U of I History Traditions project.

To learn more about 2014 Homecoming activities visit

We hope to see you wearing your Orange and Blue - near or far!  Share photos #ILLINOIShomecomingACES

Go Illini!

Mark your calendar for Explore ACES!

Oct 23
Lucas Frye, Senior in Agricultural and Consumer Economics

Planning for the 10th year of Explore ACES is underway. Be sure to mark the weekend of March 13-14, 2015, on your calendars and share the date with students in your area who are beginning to think about college. The biggest recruiting weekend of the year, the doors of our college will be open to thousands of students from across the state to get a better feel for what an educational, involvement, and overall everyday life experience will be like in ACES.  

In the meantime, 11 academic departments, 40 student organizations, and 15 dedicated steering committee members will be collaborating on how to best showcase all of the opportunities available in the areas of Agriculture, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences to prospective students and their families. We hope you will be able to join us next March as we challenge the next generation of Illini to imagine their future in the College of ACES.  

For more information visit

Explore ACES Steering Committee
The Explore ACES Steering Committee working on plans for the 2015 event.

Transforming lives

Oct 22
Meg Cline, Associate Dean of Advancement

Each and every day I am reminded of the phenomenal impact our donors have on the lives of people they may never know.  One of these many stories involves Mrs. Arlys M. Streitmatter Conrad.  Recently, the University of Illinois Foundation prepared a video to highlight the impact of Arlys’ gift.  As I watched this video, it brought back a flood of warm memories of time spent with Arlys. 

Arlys was quite a lady.  I will remember her as one of the finest individuals I have had the privilege to know in my professional career.  While Arlys lived in a high-rise condo overlooking Navy Pier in Chicago in the heart of a bustling metropolis, her heart never left the family farm she was raised on in central Illinois.  She was passionate about agriculture, was a tough critic of the use of the English language in its most appropriate form, a staunch advocate for Illinois, and saw the possibilities of how she could make a difference to others through an investment in higher education.   

Arlys’ commitment to her parents, her roots, and acknowledgement of the role Illinois played in shaping her life live on today through her generous support.  Because of Arlys, numerous young people have received scholarships to attend the University of Illinois, have had the opportunity to travel the world,  and experienced  an education they never thought possible.  Faculty in ACES are doing critical work to shape our world that would not have been done without Arlys’ financial support, and faculty and students in the humanities are able to further their scholarship.  

Thank you Arlys, for making a difference.  You did not make a gift – instead, you transform lives every day and your legacy lives on in the hearts and minds of the faculty and students who benefit.

Brooks gives "Floating Leaf" photograph to new Ag Comm suite

Oct 21
Kimberly Meenen, Senior Director of Advancement

Richard E. Brooks, a fine art photographer, designer, and marketing consultant in Chicago, was recently on campus to present his first ag photography scholarship and to give one of his prized photographic works to Dr. Lulu Rodriguez, director of the Agricultural Communications Program. “Floating Leaf” was taken by Brooks in Allerton Park in Monticello, Illinois in 1967. It will reside in the Ag Comm Program’s new suite on the second floor of Bevier Hall.

A native of Jerseyville, Illinois, Brooks graduated in 1967 with an Agricultural Communications degree from the University of Illinois College of Agriculture (now ACES).

“’Floating Leaf’ has been published several times and is always a favorite at gallery exhibitions,” said Brooks. “It is my distinct honor to donate my "Floating Leaf" photograph to the program's décor.”

The image was featured in a coffee table book for former University of Illinois President John E. Corbally in 1977. The image was treated with a tight crop and appeared on the front and back of both the hard cover sleeve and the book itself. It was repeated as a duotone for each chapter page.

Please stop by to see the print in the Ag Comm Program’s suite. Say hello to the faculty while you are there.

Richard Brooks holding the donated photo with Ag Comm director, Dr. Lulu Rodriguez

FARM Illinois and the Vision for Illinois Agriculture

Oct 14
Richard Vogen, Director, Planning and Research Development

Statewide strategies for Illinois’ all-important food and agriculture industry continue to unfold with the recent initiation of FARM Illinois: A Partnership for Competitiveness and Sustainable Growth in Food, Agriculture, and Agribusiness. FARM Illinois is bringing together Illinois’ top agricultural, business, and economic leaders to develop and advocate for the implementation of a comprehensive and integrated strategic plan for Illinois and the Chicago region to ensure that Illinois is meeting the 21st Century challenge of global food security.

Sponsored by the Searle Funds at the Chicago Community Trust, in partnership with the Illinois Farm Bureau and the Vision for Illinois Agriculture, FARM Illinois is led by Dr. Robert Easter, President of the University of Illinois, and overseen by a high-level Leadership Council comprised of more than 25 experts and distinguished leaders with renowned experience in agriculture, international markets, global food security, sustainability, conservation, community development, and related issues. At the first Leadership Council meeting on September 29, Dr. Robert Thompson, professor emeritus of the University of Illinois, laid out the case for strategic action to achieve global food security, with Illinois playing a crucial role.

FARM Illinois is an outgrowth of the Illinois Food and Agriculture Summit that was held a year ago by the Vision for Illinois Agriculture at the UIC campus. The Vision for Illinois Agriculture began in 2008 to develop a plan for growth in the food and agriculture sector of Illinois, outlining goals and significant steps to address human and capital resources, business environment, community vitality, innovation, and collaboration needs in Illinois. While tackling those issues, it became clear that civic and business communities throughout the state, especially in our major metropolitan areas, have common interests with the food and agriculture community. The current initiative was born out of that idea and championed by the U of I Board Chairman, Chris Kennedy, and participants in the original Vision for Illinois Agriculture.  

Stay tuned for progress in FARM Illinois. Likewise, revisit the original plan for the Vision for Illinois Agriculture.   


FARM Illinois: A Partnership for Competitiveness and Sustainable Growth in Food, Agriculture, and Agribusiness

4-H created lasting international bonds

Oct 10
Richard Vogen, Director, Planning and Research Development

For many years, 4-H sponsored international exchanges that brought young people to our shores and sent young Americans abroad, in many cases launching careers and certainly creating lasting friendships. One such exchange invited young agricultural professionals from Poland in the mid-1970s to work and live with American farm families. Earlier this month, Krzysztof and Urszula Stępowski, traveled from Warsaw, Poland, to relive the experiences that Krzysztof, we called him Kris, shared with our family for a year and half in Newark, Illinois. Kris also worked for the local FS cooperative, now GROWMARK / Grainco. It had been 37 years since Kris came to Illinois, but he and Urszula reveled in the memories of the Prairie State. As a side note, my uncle arranged for a Polish judge to marry them in Chicago when Urszula came to visit, just so they could say they were not married under the communist regime in Poland. That probably was not in the 4-H program guidelines, but it was life changing for them. We kept in touch with Kris throughout the period of martial law, the Solidarity movement, the collapse of the Soviet empire, and the reemergence of Poland as a full-fledged member of the European Union. Our lives intersected while I was on the 4-H Young Agricultural Specialists Exchange Program in Russia and on later occasions during our respective careers, both catalyzed by our international experiences with 4-H. Many 4-H alumni can relate similar stories of their international 4-H experiences, mainly under the banner of IFYE, and the lasting relationships are invaluable. Incidentally, my American colleagues from the 4-H YASEP program have met faithfully every five years for the past 37 years. We are looking forward to our 40th reunion! #thats4H


Because of 4-H

Oct 9
Jennifer Shike, Director for Communications and Marketing

I’m not exaggerating when I admit that I got a little misty-eyed when I heard my son, Hunter, recite the 4-H pledge at the beginning of his 4-H Cloverbuds meeting last night. It gets to me every time. There’s just something about my fourth-generation 4-Her…knowing he has unlimited opportunities before him to make a difference through a program that has made such a difference in our family.

I hope he will learn how to invest in others through his experience in 4-H. Growing up, I watched my grandparents and parents lead 4-H clubs. I think they are collectively up to 75 years of leadership and counting. That commitment to youth and developing young leaders is what 4-H is all about. To invest that much time into the next generation is inspiring to me and something I hope Hunter will value, too.

My grandpa, sheep show superintendent, walks by while I'm showing at the Washington County Fair.

I hope he uncovers his passions through 4-H. With all of the opportunities 4-H offers today, the options are endless! My husband and I both grew up showing livestock and began judging livestock through 4-H. That led our paths to cross at college where we judged on the same team for four years. Today Dan judges livestock shows all across the country because of the doors 4-H initially opened for him. And I had the privilege of going to work for the National Swine Registry for 10 years and developed the National Junior Swine Association based on my 4-H experiences.

My husband, Dan, showing an Angus heifer in 4-H at the Mercer County Fair.

Dan judging the Angus heifers at the National Junior Angus Show 25 years later.

Most importantly, I hope Hunter develops great friendships and has fun. 4-H brings people together and teaches kids how to meet people, work in teams, network, and engage with people of all ages. I traveled across the country because of 4-H. I learned how to win humbly and I learned how to lose graciously because of 4-H. I have friends all over the country because of 4-H. And I hope someday Hunter gets to enjoy life more fully like I do because of 4-H.

This week is National 4-H week.  It’s a great time to visit and “like” Illinois 4-H on social media, and You can tag your own 4-H pictures and memories with “#thats4H” to share them with the broader 4-H community.

Hunter and his friend, Lucille, show off the 4-H flag at their first Cloverbuds meeting of the year.