"Living to Serve" in Washington, D.C.

Jul 9
Jacob Dickey, Senior in Agricultural Science Education

As a student enrolled in agricultural education in the College of ACES, I find myself loving the time I spend with students ranging in age from pre-kindergarten to high school.  In my time studying agricultural science education, I’ve discovered that my true passion lies in the overlap between agriculture and youth.  This summer I am living the dream in Washington, D.C., doing exactly what I love.  Each week I spend over 100 hours as a facilitator for the National FFA Organization’s Washington Leadership Conference.  The conference challenges students to become engaged citizens and committed, especially to the last line of the FFA Motto, “Living to Serve.”

Over five days, students explore citizenship, discover their strengths, passions and purpose, check out the power of ‘we’, take action and serve those in need in the District of Columbia.  They do so under the dome of the U.S. Capitol, beneath the shadow of the Washington Monument, and within the watchful eyes of Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Thomas Jefferson.  The final day of the week is spent packing over 55,000 meals for the District of Columbia Food Bank. These packaged meals are used the following week at the food bank.

While this conference definitely shifts students’ perceptions and changes lives, it has absolutely changed my life more and proved to me that I am where I need to be.  I sit here in D.C., ready for yet another week of 340 students to come through, but I am anxious to get back to the place that made it all possible for me—the University of Illinois.  The College of ACES and the agricultural education program have challenged and inspired me to continue to grow as a facilitator and an educator.  I know that I wouldn’t be living my dream in our nation’s capital today without the help of the professors and faculty who have invested so much into me.  Before long, I’ll find myself in their shoes through student teaching and beginning my career within the confines of agricultural education—helping youth learn, grow, and achieve, much like the educators I look up to have done for me.

Jacob's "selfie" with a few FFA members and the Capitol in the background.

2014 NACTA Conference

Jul 8
Laurie Kramer, Associate Dean and Professor, Office of Academic Programs

The College of ACES has returned from another spectacular North American Colleges & Teachers of Agriculture (NACTA) conference. The 60th Annual NACTA conference was hosted by Montana State University in Bozeman, Montana, on June 26-28.  In typical ACES fashion, our faculty was extremely well represented and came home with numerous awards.

Five ACES faculty members and two graduate assistants were among those honored at the 2014 conference. It is my pleasure to congratulate the following outstanding members of the ACES family:

                Sarah Scholl - NACTA Graduate Student Award Recipient

                Daniel Weber - NACTA Graduate Student Award Recipient

                Dawn Bohn - NACTA Teacher Fellow Award Recipient

                Jan Brooks - NACTA Teacher Fellow Award Recipient

                D. K. Lee - NACTA Teacher Fellow Award Recipient

                Robert Schooley - NACTA Teacher Fellow Award Recipient

                Paul Stoddard - NACTA Teacher Fellow Award Recipient

These professors, teaching associates, and graduate teaching assistants have gone above and beyond the call of duty to make a difference in the lives of their students and certainly make us proud in the College of ACES.

In addition, several ACES faculty members and graduate students presented their scholarship on teaching and learning at NACTA, including Professors Amy Fischer, Margarita Teran-Garcia, D. K. Lee, Soo Lee, Robert Schooley, and doctoral students Crystal Allen, Joseph Donovan, and Daniel Weber.

I look forward to another great year of excellence in instruction and student learning.

L to R: (Back Row) Daniel Weber, D. K. Lee, Robert Schooley, and Paul Stoddard. (Front Row) Laurie Kramer, Jan Brooks, and Dawn Bohn. (Not Pictured: Sarah Scholl)

FSHN makes BIG announcement

Jul 2
Marla Todd, Associate Director of Advancement Communications

During the University of Illinois reception at the Institute of Food Technologists meeting, the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition (FSHN) launched efforts to renovate the pilot processing plant facilities located in the agricultural engineering sciences building.

The current facility has remained essentially unchanged for over 25 years, despite rapid changes in technology, equipment, and safety standards. Renovations are essential to meeting student learning and training needs, and to facilitate student recruitment and job placement.

A few of the key improvements include:

  • Food grade suite – high level GMP area
  • Instructional suites – medium level GMP area
  • Industrial test kitchen/teaching lab
  • Food chemistry/analytical lab
  • Sanitary climate control (HVAC)
  • Improved availability of utilities
  • Designated space for receiving/storage
  • Designated space for gowning and equipment wash

The $3 million project will include $2.25 million for renovation of the facilities. The remainder will be allocated for equipment upgrades. FSHN, the College of ACES, and the university have committed to this project, but private support is needed to reach the $3 million goal.

To learn more about the pilot processing plant renovation project, visit www.pilotplant.aces.illinois.edu.

A rendering of the new pilot processing plant.

New Student Registration = Almost Over

Jul 1
Brianna Gregg, ACES Coordinator of Transfer Recruitment

The longest day of summer has passed, meaning so has the majority of our fall registration for the new incoming freshman. It has been a great 4 weeks of meeting the new incoming students. So many eager young adults ready to embark on the next phase of their life! One part of new student registration I don’t quite understand is the fact we ask these students to walk around all day in the hot, humid (I’m talking drink the air humid) Illinois summer and then take their student ID picture. This ID follows you around for the next 4+ years on campus. Meaning, you will always have a memento of that hot, sweaty, humid, wonderful day- the day you started your academic journey at Illinois!

With the new incoming freshman, we also have new incoming Parkland Pathway students. We are a little nicer to them during registration since we try to make sure it happens in the cooler month of May and it is hosted mostly indoors at Parkland. We have a lot of great volunteers of the program, including current and former participants (plus a veteran mom who has had 3 children go through the program!) for the new incoming class to gather and glean as much information possible. It is a lot of information thrown at the families and students at once, and it is hard to see convey all of the logistics of the program in one short day. So if you ever have any questions about the program and its benefits, please do not hesitate to ask me.

The student panel from the Parkland Pathway orientation.

ACES’ Home in Chicagoland

Jun 30
Corey Flournoy, Director, Illinois Center for Urban Agricultural Education

In January of 2012, the College of ACES created a new center to expand its outreach and education to high school students throughout the Chicago area about the more than 100 career options connected to our college. However, over the last year and a half, this purpose has expanded to include educating administrators, high school counselors, and even science teachers about the strong connection between the agricultural industry and urban communities.

The Illinois Center for Urban Agricultural Education has developed and partnered in various initiatives, including “Get Ready for Career and College Exploration” brunches, special career seminars at high schools, professional development days for teachers, campus field trips, and career shadowing/seminar days with corporate partners such as Pepsico. As the center continues to expand its outreach efforts, our success will rely heavily on partnerships with other ACES alums, business partners, and community organizations in the Chicago area.

Despite the number of selective-enrollment high schools and growing number of Advanced Placement courses, today’s high school students are still not aware of the many career opportunities available, especially in the food, fiber, and environmental sciences. The more we can expose students to hands-on experiences in our field and connect them early to individuals actively involved in our industry, the greater our prospects for ensuring we have a great pipeline of talent to meet current and future needs in the agricultural industry.

As RAP, the Research Apprentice Program, celebrates its 25th anniversary, this is an excellent time to reconnect many of the alums from our summer programs with the College of ACES. Our alums are the best examples of the level of career success and personal fulfillment which can be achieved through our innovative industry. Our upcoming anniversary event on Saturday, August 2, will provide the opportunity to reengage with old friends, build new connections, and share in conversations to create a strong RAP for the future.



Jun 25
Kendall Herren, Senior in Agricultural Communications

What’s the best thing about internships? Being able to apply the things I have learned in the classroom.  I grew up just west of Sandwich, in the small town of Somonauk, Illinois. I was not raised on a farm, but grew up in the middle of a field that we cash-rent to a local farmer. I was a 4-H member for 11 years and watched friends show their livestock. My sister and I have shown rabbits and sheep for the past few years, and I occasionally helped hold the grand champion chickens at the 4-H livestock auction. We also took photos during the summer in the fields surrounding my house when the corn quickly grew over my five-foot frame. Despite all of this, I never knew much about agriculture until I went to college.

At school I live in 4-H House, a very ‘farm oriented’ sorority. Within my first few weeks, I realized that EVERYONE had showed some type of livestock and everyone lived in the middle of a corn field and I couldn’t help but think how cool that was. At that point, I was hooked. I got involved with the Collegiate Farm Bureau and the Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow Club, amongst many others, and immersed myself in the industry. I loved it! I became obsessed with attending conferences and seminars, and I loved social media. Every conference I attended I tweeted facts and quotes from well-known agricultural communicators like Holly Spangler and Katie Pratt. Everyone seemed SO passionate!

It was those events that made me realize how much I loved agriculture and how badly I wanted to be a part of this industry. Several conferences and seminars later, I am constantly trying to educate myself. My father laughs at me when I start rambling off facts and information I’ve learned. I get so interested in things like Monsanto’s seed chipper, or asparagus being part of the sunflower family or cattle being habitual animals.

This summer I am the Cook County Farm Bureau Ag in the Classroom Intern—I love it! Last week I had the chance to take part in our first Summer Ag Institute (SAI) for the summer. We had 20 teachers from Cook County take part in tours from the Volkening Heritage Farm to Davidson’s Pasteurized Eggs to Smits Greenhouse and more. Personally, my favorite stop was with the Chicago High School for Ag Sciences.

During the SAI I learned many more facts and found myself once again thirsting for more information. It was a chance for me to take those fun facts and the knowledge I have gained these past few years and apply my communication skills when talking to the teachers. It was great watching them take notes, ask intriguing and hard questions, and more than anything, just learn. I wasn’t the teacher by any means this week, but even as another student of this industry, it has been so REWARDING to watch them absorb all of the information they learn on these tours. They were continuously asking questions about how to incorporate this information into lesson plans and where to find more information. They were taking the information they learn to heart and are beginning to understand the importance of our industry, and the love and passion that all of us in agriculture have for it.

It is moments and opportunities like these that make me love agriculture and the things we do as an industry.

Picture of the binders Kendall put together and a few Illinois Ag in the Classroom Ag Mags.

A History of Excellence

Jun 23
Regan Emkes, Senior in Agricultural Communications

Last week, I got to experience my first real taste of what being on ACES Student Advancement Committee is all about. It was my honor to give a campus tour for a visitor with a few other students. As I was brushing up on my knowledge of the buildings, I learned a lot about this campus that I know and love which only made me love it more. A lot of the buildings that I walk past every day without really thinking anything about are the very buildings that house the conversations, materials, and memories that shape the entire university.

For example, I have probably walked past the Mumford House a hundred times and I never had a clue what it was. I always wondered why, when there are all these big, brick buildings surrounding both quads, is there a lone white house in the middle of the South Quad? Once I learned what it was this past week, I couldn’t imagine this university without that house and all that it represents. This same mindset applies to many different places on campus because they're all significant in the history of the university.

It is a very humbling experience knowing the history of the landmarks to say the least. It also makes being able to share my experiences and knowledge of the college that much more exciting. The people behind making this university so great sure knew what they were doing, and it certainly does not go unnoticed.

I still have a lot more to learn, but this tour has sparked an interest in learning a little more about the university’s landmarks throughout my last year as a student. I can’t wait to begin my senior year learning at this university and I plan on taking full advantage of learning outside of the classroom (and probably a little about the actual classroom, as well!).  

Mumford House
View of the front of the Experiment Station Farm House (later named Mumford House) courtesy of the University of Illinois Archives.

ACES in China

Jun 9
Leslie Sweet Myrick, Office of International Programs Media Communications Specialist

A major U.S. newspaper recently asked for some examples of ACES’ current collaborations with Chinese colleagues for potential use in a future feature story. Because the scope and status of our international activities are constantly evolving, I set out on some quick detective work to confirm the current status of several projects, both existing and new.  

What I found was truly impressive. Though the newspaper may not end up profiling all of these projects; they are all newsworthy, so I wanted to share the updates I collected:
•    Prof. Don Bullock and agronomist Bob Dunker (Crop Sciences) are now in their sixth year of a project to assist China’s Jilin province with implementing improved technologies to increase corn yields. Work such as this is imperative if China hopes to ensure food security for its growing population.
•    Prof. Hong Chen (Food Science and Human Nutrition) is working with collaborators at China Agricultural University to look at the effects of traditional Chinese herbal medicines, specifically Ginkgo extract, to combat colon cancer.
•    Profs. Angela Lyons and Yilan Xu (Agricultural and Consumer Economics (ACE)) are working with a Chinese research center to study micro-level data on the finances of Chinese households with the goal of proving insight into the Chinese emerging middle class’s demand for credit and investment opportunities.
•    Prof. Hope Michelson (ACE) is working with Chinese colleagues to analyze Wal-Mart’s fresh produce supply chains in China with a focus on implications for small farmer participation and food quality and safety.

These are just some examples of how ACES faculty is currently involved in China, but they do a great job of representing the scope and diversity of ACES’ international influence.

ACES in China
Bob Dunker (in orange hat) with faculty and students of Jilin University during harvest.

New scholarship to encourage enrollment in ACES

Jun 2
Nancy Moriarity, ACES Alumna and RAP 25th Anniversary Planning Committee Member

In 2014, the College of Agriculture, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) is celebrating the 25th anniversary of its Research Apprentice Program (RAP). Founded in 1988, RAP is a campus-based summer program uniquely designed to expose high school students from ethnic minority and low socioeconomic backgrounds to educational and professional opportunities in food, human, and environmental sciences. Dr. Jesse C. Thompson was instrumental in establishing the program and has been leading it since. RAP I, aimed at students in their first two years of high school, is a four-week team experience, with projects developed through close partnership of ACES with the sponsoring companies.  RAP II provides older high school students an eight-week experience performing a science-focused research project under the guidance of ACES faculty and graduate students.

RAP I and II encourage development of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM)-related skills and interests while showcasing related academic and career opportunities enabled through the College of ACES. The program successfully targets underrepresented students and attracts them to ACES-related STEM disciplines. RAP’s success is demonstrated through years of data. Between 1988 and 2011, 1,066 students participated in RAP I and II. Of these, 61 percent were African Americans and 28 percent Latinos. Of RAP II seniors, 548 of 566 enrolled in a four-year college following graduation; 464 students selected a math, science, or engineering-related field as their college major. After high school, 30 percent (319) of RAP I and 52 percent of RAP II participants enrolled at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, with 82 percent of these selecting majors in ACES.

One reason often cited by previous RAP participants who didn’t select the University of Illinois is they were offered more substantial scholarship opportunities elsewhere. The basis for the new Jesse C. Thompson Scholarship fund is to provide more scholarship monies for RAP graduates wanting to enroll in ACES programs. Since Dr. Thompson contributed to the creation of the RAP program in 1988, he has worked his entire career to build it and other diversity programs in ACES to what they are today. This scholarship program honors his success and the success of all RAP students by providing funding for today’s and tomorrow’s RAP graduates to attend and succeed in ACES programs and STEM-based careers.

Individuals and organizations desiring to contribute to the new fund, please visit www.giving.illinois.edu; indicate as you proceed that you wish to support the JCT Scholarship Fund.

Student Sustainable Farm

May 27
Manuel Colón, NRES Student Recruitment Coordinator

Sponsored, in part, by the College of ACES (Department of Crop Sciences), the Student Sustainable Farm is a small-scale vegetable farm located on 10 acres of land at Lincoln and Windsor Road, just south of campus. The farm functions in many capacities; providing locally grown, low-input sustainable food to our University residence halls and as a living laboratory to connected students and community members to food systems.

In fact, there are also volunteer opportunities available if you are interested. The farm gates are open from 8 a.m. to noon and again from 1 to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and depends on volunteers throughout the year. More information on volunteering can be found HERE.

Currently, the farm operates between 45-48 weeks per year, occupying 6 acres for outdoor field production and nearly 10,000 square feet of year-round high tunnel production. In addition to selling the majority of our produce to the residence halls, they also market their produce directly to consumers on the quad. This past Thursday was the first farm stand of the season, so I stopped by to take a few photos to share with you all.

Their Farm Stand takes place on Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Anniversary Plaza behind the Union. You can find weekly updates on their website  regarding what produce they will have available and the price. For those who are interested in leading a more sustainable life and connecting with their food from farm to fork, this is a great opportunity we have right here on campus!

For more info, visit thefarm.illinois.edu/about.


Student Sustainable Farm Stand