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.

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.