Celebrating 25 years of excellence

May 19
Craig Slaughter, RAP corporate sponsor and mentor with Kraft Foods

The College of ACES RAP—Research Apprentice Program—is celebrating 25 years of developing underrepresented students for excellence. During my six years as a RAP corporate sponsor and mentor with Kraft Foods, it has been an honor to spend time with the RAP students over the summer. To see students at such a young age have so much enthusiasm about the food industry is exciting! As these high school students are making their transition to universities, I believe that the RAP program offers invaluable lessons that can be applied regardless of career choice. My goal/hope is that these students remain in the food industry, but my overall passion is to see them graduate from college and chase their dreams.

Having come from the same environment as a majority of RAP students, this program holds a special place in my heart. I am humbled to be given the opportunity to provide students insight on the work of a product developer and to offer them my advice. I would like to thank my company and the university for continuing to focus on keeping RAP an annual event. Look forward to another 25 years of success and many more!

Ready or not

May 8
Ellen Reeder, Senior in ACES

I just walked to my final class as an undergraduate student and to be honest I really thought it would be a different feeling. I thought I would feel liberated. I thought I would want to skip out of Greg Hall and throw all my old notes and homework assignments away. I thought I’d have a grin on my face from ear to ear that nothing could turn upside down.

Instead, it was quite opposite. I walked as slowly as possibly, gripped my Espresso Royale cup a little tighter, pulled my sunglasses down, and took in every beautiful part of that walk that I could.

I’ve never been a person who deals well with change, but I thought this would be a change that I’d be really excited about. I’ve got a great job to look forward to with John Deere, I’ve got an awesome new apartment, I’ve had a wonderful Illinois experience, and I’ve got all the tools to tackle the real world because I have a degree from the College of ACES.

However, I think in the last week I’ve discovered the real reason I’m not ready to graduate.

This place that I’ve called home for the last four years will never be the same again. I am positive that I’ll come back to alumni events, to sporting events, and maybe even with my own children on a college visit someday, but it will be different. This is the last time that all of my friends will ever live in the same place. This is the last time that I’ll be able to walk the halls of Mumford Hall and be known as an intern instead of an alum.

My friends and I will all go off to start our new jobs in different cities. It won’t be as simple as walking down the hall or sending a text to meet up. Catching up will require plane tickets, road trips, and real plans that don’t happen last second. Fashion advice will come via snapchat and facetime, I’ll look forward to those occasions where we’re all back together for weekends spent at friend’s weddings, and I guess I’ll have to get used to doing my own chores instead of sharing with roomies.

I know that all good things must end so that other good things can begin, but I never thought it would be this hard to leave my ‘home’ here in Champaign-Urbana.

There is about a week left until we’ll all walk across that stage and say goodbye. I’m going to enjoy every last second until I take that cap and gown off and officially become a proud alum. Representing the orange and blue in the ‘real world’ will be my next step on the road to graduation recovery.

Carlee Ellen and Madelyn

Summer's coming!

May 7
Lauren Redman, Academic Advisor for Animal Sciences freshmen and sophomores

The end of the spring semester is here and many of our students are off to complete internships and research projects this summer. Animal Sciences values these experiences and allows students to receive credit under ANSC 398: Experiential Learning. Our students are required to complete at least one experiential learning activity, but it has become quite common for students to complete several during their time here as an undergrad.

Every year, we have dozens of students who travel across the globe and some even stay here on campus to complete a variety of internships. This year, we have students interning in Florida, Virginia, Canada, South Africa, France, and even New Zealand. They focus on a variety of animal species and science disciplines. The internships our students complete gives them a real-world glimpse into a career they may or may not have considered.

We also have several students staying here in Champaign-Urbana or at Dixon Springs in Southern Illinois to conduct research. Like internships, these research projects often ignite a passion that may lead to graduate school and/or a career in research beyond their education. Many students are able to conduct their own research projects and may even get the opportunity to be published in a peer-reviewed journal.  

There is nothing more rewarding than getting out of the classroom and applying your knowledge in the real world. Whether it’s in your own backyard or half-way across the globe, these experiences stick with you.  

We receive pictures throughout the summer from our students and they are often posted on our Animal Sciences Facebook Page, so keep an eye out for them!  


Summer's coming for animal sciences students

Celebrating our emeriti faculty

May 1
Kendra Courson, Director for Special Events

May Day was the perfect day to celebrate our very special emeriti of the College of ACES. Many emeriti faculty returned early Thursday morning to enjoy breakfast with current faculty and department heads. Guests participated in lively conversations at each table during the breakfast sponsored by the Office of Advancement. Following breakfast, guests heard from Dean Robert Hauser on a brief state of the college update and thoughtful discussion.

Emeriti faculty breakfast

Dr. Paul Ellinger, Dr. Bob Spitze, Dean Bob Hauser, and Dr. Lowell Hill, all former professors in the Department of ACE, spend some time talking in the Spitze Room of the ACES Library under the Billy Morrow Jackson mural donated by Dr. Bob Spitze in honor of his late wife Dr. Hazel Taylor Spitze. (Billy Morrow Jackson reproduction by Chris Brown Photography; chrisbrownphoto.com)

RAP Makes a Difference

Apr 28
Tommy Amal, RAP Alum, Guest Blogger

RAP, the College of ACES Research Apprentice Program, introduced me to the world of agriculture! As a high school teenager, I was exposed by RAP to numerous corporations, resources, relationships, and experiences that helped not only to broaden my horizons but to set the course for my life's path.

Without RAP, I would never have found my passions of nonformal education and leadership studies. RAP has afforded me opportunities to travel the globe and be trained by some of the best educators in the world. Simply put, RAP changed my life!

I am so thankful for my RAP experience, and it is hard to underestimate the impact that the program has had on my life. Thanks, Dr. T [Assistant Dean Jesse Thompson, who has directed RAP and ACES’ other diversity initiatives for 25 years], for your undying commitment to the success of underrepresented students in agriculture.

Happy 25th Anniversary, RAP!

Apr 24
Maxine Roman, RAP alum 2003, 2004, 2005
When I started high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do for my career. Then one day, my high school guidance counselor suggested that I apply for the Research Apprentice Program (RAP) at the University of Illinois. I was a bit skeptical because I didn’t really know what agricultural sciences meant, but since it was the only free summer program that I had heard of tailored for students interested in science, I decided to apply.

Little did I know of the significance RAP would have in my life. When I participated in the program’s individual research component, I conducted research in a lab of food chemistry under the guidance of Dr. Elvira de Mejia. I discovered a passion for food science that has driven me for the past decade to my current position as a PhD candidate in food science at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

RAP allowed me to hone my academic and leadership skills while working on projects that most students wouldn’t have the opportunity to be involved with until graduate school. I have no doubt that RAP was essential to making me a college applicant who stood out among a very competitive student body. The enthusiastic faculty and staff that I met through RAP have connected me to countless leadership, scholarship, and internship prospects. More significantly, I found an exceptional group of friends and mentors who fostered my growth while I was a student at the University of Illinois and became like a family to me. To this day, I can rely on them for support and motivation.

Happy 25th anniversary, RAP!

Reflections from Four Years Out

Apr 23
Manuel Colón, NRES Student Recruitment Coordinator

“Why am I learning this?”

“When will I ever use this in the real world?”

“How will this help me in my future career?”

These and many more are common questions heard throughout college classes across campus and other educational institutions. This May will mark four years since my graduation from the College of ACES. It’s an interesting threshold to arrive at, as it marks a transition to a time where I’ll have spent more time OUT of college then I have spent in college. But, what I find more meaningful in my reflection post-undergrad is thinking about all of the skills that I did develop in the course of my studies here at Illinois that are still applicable today. Here are a few:


As part of my Field Experience course requirements, I took a class on Survey Research Methods. I initially thought “We only have to write a survey? What a breeze!” and very early on in the class did I realize just how much thought and processing has to go into asking the “right” questions for research and general good practices. It pushed and challenged me to think critically of how I ask for information and also how I responded to questionnaires and surveys in the past. As a Peace Corps Volunteer, this was a critical skill to have when doing community assessments or even volunteer satisfaction surveys.  It’s very easy to write off surveys as just a series of random questions. However, understanding the nuances of in-person surveys versus anonymous surveys or the complexity and depth of how you frame certain questions are really critical in making sure the answers you get will actually be productive to your end goal. Even as I work with undergraduates or prospective students, I still think about what I learned in NRES 285 in the Fall of 2008 and it’s really helpful.


Integrative Ecosystem Management (NRES 456) is a senior capstone course where we analyze different management styles and work on case studies to develop our own management plans for randomly assigned areas. This class is clearly targeted towards the management of natural resources, but the skills are completely transferable. Every project that I work on, I challenge myself to identify the variety of stakeholders, develop clear goals, periodically measure progress, and reevaluate the project as a whole as necessary. When working in conservation education and sustainable development, this was an invaluable skill to have when I wanted to be to secure a certain project’s success even in my absence.

I can list many other examples of collegiate coursework that has continued to serve me well in the “real” world. However, what I want to convey is that when you are enrolled in such applied and practical programs that the College of ACES offers, there is never a doubt that if what we are learning is valuable and useful.

Student's Restaurant Dream Comes True

Apr 22
Marla Todd, Associate Director of Advancement Communications

Eric Langenfeld's dream to have his own restaurant came true on Wednesday, March 19, 2014 at 5 p. m. when the doors opened to America’s Street Fair in the Spice Box at Bevier Hall.  Eric is a senior studying hospitality management and the following is a blog of his reflections from his capstone project.

The night was a tour of tastes across the United States.  The night started with the grilled sandwiches from Oregon to the papaya salad from the San Francisco to the entrees from Miami to the Dessert Dog from Chicago. Those people who saved room for dessert were in for a real treat that was an idea created from an intern group I was a part of over the summer.  The idea was a gourmet dessert dog with a french toast style bun, a roasted banana, berries, whip cream and chocolate.  I took on the challenge of taking that dessert from just an idea to actually putting it on a plate.  For me, the good sign was every dessert plate going back empty.  My classmates did an excellent job with their courtesy and speed of service and no customers had major complaints.  

Before 5 p. m. hit, there were a few minor roadblocks in the kitchen but we were able to come up with proper solutions and learn from them.  I wanted to challenge myself with this meal so I pushed myself out of my comfort zone.  This was an amazing opportunity and I could not have been happier with what I learned from this meal.

The list of people I need to thank is very large because this meal was inspired and executed by so many individuals.  I have been talking over ideas for my meal with people for over two years now and my meal has developed and grown from all those ideas.  First, I would like to thank all the guests who attended my meal because my motivation was to put smiles on your faces and have you enjoy a relaxing night out in our home. I would especially like to thank President Bob Easter and his wife Cheryl for attending my meal.  I sat behind them at Illini basketball games this year, and during our last home game against Michigan, I gave them a personal invitation to my meal because of their positive influence on my education.  I was lucky enough to speak with Dr. and Mrs. Easter during my Sophomore year after I decided I would be switching into hospitality management.  He truly motivated me with is passion and dedication for education and his past work in the College of ACES has greatly affected where our program is today.  

I would also like to thank my guest chef Ben Werner for all his help with menu development and testing and also for smoothly executing the kitchen operations during dinner service.  Additionally, I would like to thank Kathleen Hudson and Jeremiah Murphy, my service and production managers, for all their help preparing and executing the meal.  They both paid attention to small details ahead of time so the night was able to run smoothly and successfully.  Thank you to everyone who was a part of this truly memorable night.


Something Bigger Than Yourself

Apr 21
Regan Emkes, Senior in Agricultural Communications

April has really become the month, for me, where all of those privileges at the University of Illinois shed light on the bigger picture. I’ve had plenty of opportunities to better myself in professional and personal development categories, but it wasn’t until recently that I’ve really learned that being an ACES student is about becoming something bigger than myself.

I got to travel to Jacksonville, Florida, with University of Illinois NAMA to compete in the National Agri-Marketing Association conference April 8th-11th. The U of I NAMA team had made it into the top 6 two out of the three years they’d been in competition so the pressure was really on for us this year.

Months of preparation came down to 4 days in Florida and we were ready to rock. I was honored to be one of seven on the presentation team this year and while I was nervous I would mess everything up, I couldn’t help but feel overwhelming excitement to be a part of something this huge! I’ve been on many teams in the past but I have never felt more part of a team, where everyone is working in harmony and feeding off of each other’s excitement towards one goal, than I did in the moments before presenting in Jacksonville. Our excitement, confidence and dedication landed us a 3rd place finish among 30 teams, improving from 4th place last year and 6th place in 2012. Not too shabby!

Teamwork does not just stop with the NAMA Conference though. It carries on throughout the whole college. April also happens to be the kick-off month for I Pay It Forward. I am 100% excited about this program and all the hard work that has gone into making it happen. The experiences at U of I, specifically the College of ACES, are ones that before August I could only dream of. This program is absolutely fantastic because it gives students an opportunity to give back so that potential students have the chance to experience all that ACES has to offer while assisting them with the financial burden of paying for school. Every little bit donated helps to make the difference for someone else.

Being an ACES student is really all about being open to taking part in something that is bigger than just you. You’ll get personal and professional development here, no doubt. But what is going to go the extra mile is what you’ve done to help other people and there are plenty of opportunities to make that difference. We’re leaving a lasting impression here on this college and they don’t just end when we graduate. This is a dynasty of excellence. Make sure you’re a part of it.

The 2014 NAMA team took 3rd place in Jacksonville.

The Autism Program @ Illinois: Much more than awareness

Apr 16
Linda Tortorelli, Coordinator of The Autism Program

The Center for Disease Control recently found that the prevalence of autism is 1 in 68, and 1 in 42 for boys. As people become more aware of the symptoms of autism, their sense of frustration often grows with the lack of knowledge that is actually known about the disorder. The Autism Program (TAP)of Illinois Service Network serves and supports persons with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) their families and professionals who work with people who have ASD. TAP provides a variety of resources and services to assist people along their journey.

The TAP center at U of I offers a Family and Community Resource Room located at 904 W. Nevada in Christopher Hall. We are open to the public Monday through Friday 9:00 am – 5:00 pm and Saturday mornings when students are in session. We have books, videos, tip sheets and visual aids available for checkout.  Trained staff are available to assist you in locating the resources that will be most helpful to you, and can provide assistance in developing visual tools designed to meet your needs. On April 25, we will be offering a full-day workshop on Structured Teaching which is a strategy that helps people with autism understand what is expected of them.

In addition to our resource room, we offer social skill groups, trainings and specialized consultations. If you are looking for resources or if you are just interested in learning more about autism, come by and check us out! We are also on facebook (TAP-UIUC Champaign Urbana) and our webpage, theautismprogram.illinois.edu, has many great resources. We are located at 904 W. Nevada, Urbana, in Christopher Hall. Please feel free to contact us at 217.244.1395, theautismprogram@illinois.edu. We are always happy to hear from you!