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 (bjgray2@illinois.edu) .  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.

How Study Abroad Shaped My Life

Jan 17
Manuel Colón, NRES Student Recruitment Coordinator

Travel to a foreign country was not a novel concept when I had arrived to college.  I had previously traveled with my family to Mexico and Puerto Rico several times before even stepping foot on to Illinois’ campus. However, the study abroad programs that I engaged in during college here really shaped my world view and current lifestyle. I took one trip during the summer after my freshman year and I have been in a perpetual state of wanderlust since then.

I had been very interested in East Asian culture and history from a very young age, so I was ecstatic when I learned in my second semester of undergrad that the College of ACES was sponsoring a six-week summer program to South Korea. The program was not going to interfere with neither my semester coursework nor my summer work plans, so I jumped at the opportunity with fervor. I spent six weeks at Konkuk University in Seoul, the Korean capital, studying Korean Language, Korean Culture and History, and International Business.

We took weekly corporate visits to the headquarters of major Korean companies like Samsung, Hyuandai, and LG Electronics to learn about their beginnings and how they grew to be the multinational corporation they are today. Additionally, we took cultural trips to other towns like Andong and Busan to learn about Tae Kwon Do, The DMZ, pottery, etc.  The classes, the trips, and the amazing group of people who were in the program (whom I still keep in contact with) completely changed my self-perception in the context of a global community.

The program laid the foundation for my passion to learn more about the world, its cultures, people, and languages. It set in motion a drive in me that led me to visit my Konuk roommate (another ACES student) in Costa Rica the following semester, participate in a week-long internship with the USDA Forest Service – International Programs to Michoacán, Mexico to visit monarch butterfly overwintering habitat, take a Field Experience course with my department to Puerto Rico, a personal trip to visit my fraternity brother in Paris, and ultimately my decision to join the Peace Corps.

The International Summer Program at Konkuk pushed me to grow personally and academically in ways that I could not have imagined. Not only did it bring to life things I had previously researched and learned about, but it completely opened my eyes to experiences that I would have never been able to engage in otherwise.  Even now, seven years later, it’s one of the biggest highlights I mention when meeting with prospective students. Your college experience does not need to be confined to the four walls of a lecture hall and study abroad is a few clear way to make that happen. 

A December Goodbye

Dec 18
Marla Todd, Associate Director of Advancement Communications

As the hustle and bustle of campus quiets with each exam completed, many students are leaving campus for a few weeks of time at home, traveling or other fun adventures. Most of the undergraduates will return to campus in a few weeks. However, there is a group of students who are taking their last set of finals prior to completing their degrees. Still others will spend the spring semester involved in other requirements to receive their degree such as student teaching.

This leads me to sending best wishes to an outstanding student employee who will be doing just that in the spring semester. She will complete the requirements for her undergraduate degree in agricultural education by student teaching in an Illinois high school. She will be missed here on campus, but will be doing great things with students in a high school ag program.

Student workers play essential roles in numerous offices, laboratories, recreational venues, and other settings across campus. Campus jobs are not only a learning experience for them (and some cash to help defray books or general living expenses), but from my own personal experience, they provide outstanding assistance as I work to service the rest of the University community. 

I encourage students to explore employment opportunities while on campus. These experiences contribute to your employment capabilities, expand your exposure to other aspects of campus, and build relationships with professionals who will push you farther in your careers!

Students are Ready for a Semester of Student Teaching

Dec 17
Debra Korte, Teaching Assistant Professor, Agricultural Education

As the fall semester comes to an end, five agricultural education students will be starting their student teaching experience in a few weeks. Excited, nervous, and with anxious anticipation, they wait to see what the “real-world” holds for them! They are prepared to help FFA members with record books and CDE competitions, work with cooperating teachers to learn the tricks of the trade, and apply the skills they have learned in their collegiate coursework in the high school agriculture classroom.

Agricultural education is one of the unique majors where students get to wholeheartedly invest the skills they have learned at the university level in a realistic setting as a required component of the curriculum. As aspiring agriculture teachers and FFA advisors, these students can test their skills in a real-world setting while earning college credit, and gain job experience that others only aspire to obtain during their academic career. Additionally, they can begin to develop networks within the agricultural education community, and build relationships with students and teachers that will last a lifetime.

The five students – Kirsten Blackford, Liz Harfst, Bryanne Kalous, Kiersten Kasey, and Mark McKown – will work closely with some of the most outstanding and well-respected agriculture teachers in the state. We are proud of what they have accomplished so far, and look forward to seeing their development in the educational process during their student teaching experience.

Spring 2014 Student Teachers
Left to Right: Mark McKown, Bryanne Kalous, Kirsten Blackford, Liz Harfst, and Kiersten Kasey

One Student’s Journey of Career Exploration

Dec 17
Walt Hurley, Professor of Animal Sciences

I have written about our ANSC 298 Undergraduate Seminar course previously. One goal of this course is to provide our Animal Sciences students with insights into what they might do with their degree in the future. Most are focused on a career in veterinary medicine, although only a few will accomplish that goal.  Most of the students are sophomores when they take the course, and therefore have some time to make decisions about what directions to pursue.  We have various speakers visit the class, tell their stories and answer questions about what they are doing and why they decided to pursue that career path.  

Does this type of course have an impact on the students?  Apparently the answer is yes.  One of the students asked if she could take the course for honors credit.  I asked her to maintain a blog that recorded her aspirations, thoughts, anxieties, and revelations about career paths in Animal Sciences.  She gave me permission to share her blog.  It is very interesting reading.  Be sure to read it in chronological order from the beginning of the semester to follow her progression of interests and the things that influenced her thought process.

Check out her blog here.

Happy Holidays.

Congratulations to the Class of 2018!

Dec 16
Ellen Reeder, Senior in ACES

For me, Friday night was pretty ordinary. It’s finals week, so I did a little studying and watched movies with my roommates. We spent the day shoveling snow and cleaning the house. Like I said, it was ordinary.

However, I know that for high school seniors Friday night was nothing but ordinary. Friday night opened doors to new opportunities for you when you saw the word ‘accepted’ on your application to the College of ACES! I hope that you jumped up and down, did a happy dance, hugged your parents, called your friends, started shopping for your dorm room, and most of all I hope you already decided to accept your invitation to be a part of the ACES family! Words can’t even explain how excited I am for all of you!

As a high school senior, I remember sitting in the office on my family’s farm hitting the refresh button every ten seconds. I was on the phone with my best friend and as soon as the word ‘accepted’ showed up, I screamed and the phone hit the floor. I was ecstatic! I remember one of my favorite moments was calling my Grandpa to tell him the news. He’s an alum so I knew he’d be excited. He knew exactly why I was calling and said, “I never doubted you once, kid. Congratulations!”

So here’s to you, Class of 2018. I can’t wait for you to set foot on campus and I hope to meet some of you at Admitted Student Receptions, ExplorACES, and Orange and Blue Days!