Here’s to September

Sep 12
Kathryn Martensen, Assistant Dean and Director of Advising

September is a great month for the feeling of starting over—new school year, new students here on campus, breaking out your fall wardrobe…oh wait, it would have to be less than 95 degrees to do that. Crazy heat aside, this September has been awesome because it is the return of my favorite sport, college football, and I’ve been able to see not one but two Fighting Illini football wins at Memorial Stadium.  Hopefully we carry the momentum into Soldier Field for Saturday’s game! Go Illini!


Kathy Martensen

Beating expectations

Sep 11
Richard Vogen, Director, Planning and Research Development

When share prices rise on Wall Street, the reason usually involves beating the prevailing expectations of investors, analysts, and pundits. Last Saturday, something similar happened in Memorial Stadium. The odds makers in Las Vegas and even the faithful in Champaign gave the Fighting Illini little chance to defeat the Cincinnati Bearcats. But Coach Beckman’s gridiron team defied the odds, executed better than anticipated, and won the contest, 45-17! There was a palpable sense of enthusiasm this weekend in the community and guarded optimism for the future. You might say the stock price of the Fighting Illini went up.

Likewise, when our students show up in board rooms and other professional venues, we often hear testimony that our ACES students are extraordinarily talented, poised, and prepared. That is no accident. Like the team that performs beyond expectations, students who excel in ways that add value to their own stock in professional environments do so because of their abilities and their hard work. Many of our ACES students tend to beat expectations. And that increases the value of their Illinois education over the long haul. Oskee-wow-wow!


Illinois football

Progression in Food Science

Sep 10
Marla Todd, Associate Director of Advancement Communications

At this year’s Farm Progress Show, the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition took an unconventional approach of exhibiting the work of our students and researchers by handing out more than 3,000 puffed brown rice samples to many visitors over the three-day event. It was a basic illustration of the extrusion process, used to create many common food products. Our students are using the extrusion process to explore developing products that have an increased amount of proteins, varied starch, lower in calories, and even gluten free snacks. The sample was made from 100% brown rice and was run through a pilot plant size extruder on site at the Farm Progress Show. The samples had the appearance of a CHEETOS® and the taste of a rice cake. Many of the individuals that sampled this product were very intrigued by the research being done by our students and even wondered if they could buy this particular product at the grocery store. We would like to thank the many individuals that came to see us in the ACES tent and invite people to learn more about Processing at Illinois!

Puffed rice samples

FSHN at Farm Progress


Sep 5
Ellen Reeder, Senior in ACES

The University has Welcome Week during the first week of every new school year. It’s a way to welcome the new students, show them what campus has to offer, and make them feel at home.

In our college, we have ACES Week. It’s our way of bringing the whole family together for a weeklong celebration of friends, food, and fun. I am convinced that in the College of ACES no student will ever go hungry and no student will ever be homesick. Tuesday was Lunch with the Deans, Wednesday was a keynote from Former Governor Jim Edgar, yesterday was Feed your fACES, and today is Illini spirit day!

This is my last ACES Week as a student and I’ve found that it’s interesting to look back at the last three. During my freshman year, I was trying to figure out where I fit and where I could be involved, but at the same time I was feeling a bit overwhelmed by everything. During my sophomore and junior years I was in the middle of it with my sleeves rolled up working hard to make sure everyone had a great time. This year is a bit different. Now I’m that senior who gets nostalgic about the memories and has a little sting of pride for the younger students who have done an awesome job organizing another great ACES Week as the tradition continues! 

Together. Shaping the Future.

Sep 5
Richard Vogen, Director, Planning and Research Development

Join fellow Illinois leaders in the food and agriculture industry, business community, academia, government and various trade associations to discuss how Chicago and Illinois agriculture can benefit each other. Thought leaders like U of I Board Chairman Chris Kennedy, U of I President Robert Easter, Illinois Farm Bureau President Philip Nelson, Chicago Deputy Mayor Steve Koch, and Illinois Director of Agriculture Robert Flider, among others, will provide stimulating context for the summit.  You can also give your input to establish a statewide plan for agriculture. Please consider joining us on October 21 at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Registration is limited to the first 200 registrants. Click here for more information.   

The Vision for Illinois Agriculture was launched five years ago by representatives of Illinois food and agricultural organizations, in an effort to prepare Illinois for future success. This effort, encompassing the food and agricultural industry, government, and academia, is aimed at increasing the competitiveness of Illinois in the global marketplace.

Illinois Food and Agriculture Summit

It's not too late!

Sep 5
Leann Ormsby, Assistant Dean of Information Technology and Communications Services

Put on your Illini gear and join me, along with College of ACES faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends this Saturday morning for a great pre-game event! I always look forward to meeting up with my ACES friends for a great breakfast while celebrating Illinois agriculture. In addition, I get to see U of I President Bob Easter, legendary agribusiness broadcaster Orion Samuelson, and several distinguished agricultural leaders of Illinois all under one tent.
If you haven't registered yet, it's not too late! Adult breakfast tickets are $15, and student breakfast tickets are $10. Individual game tickets to see the Fighting Illini take on the Cincinnati Bearcats may also be purchased for $20. Register today at to reserve your tickets! Hope to see you Saturday!

Salute to Ag Day

Salute to Ag Day 2

Salute to Ag Day 3



Orange you glad…

Aug 27
Jason Emmert, Assistant Dean, Academic Programs

O.K. – I don’t even like that joke, but I couldn’t get it out of my head! I have to admit, I’ve been guilty of complaining a little about the extra traffic lately, due to everyone coming back to campus for the fall semester. Summers on campus are very nice; you can even eat lunch on Green Street without battling a crowd (did I do that this summer; no…). But when everyone finally arrives, it’s the most exciting time of the year.

For me, seeing a student I met on campus when they were in high school arrive as an excited freshman is just about the most rewarding part of my job. They seem to already know what many of us are fortunate to experience every day; the U of I is a truly special place. However, they don’t realize they are what makes campus special!

To all of our returning and new students, welcome back to campus! I hope you have a terrific year. I’m glad there are others out there who love orange (and the Orange and Blue) as much as I do! Go Illini!


ACES Ice Cream Social

Teaching the new teachers

Aug 22
Walt Hurley, Professor of Animal Sciences

The beginning of the school year breathes renewed energy into the business of learning. Not only do nearly 40,000 students return to campus with great expectations for their learning, there are several thousand instructors busily preparing to engage those students in their courses. Among those instructors are the many hundreds of graduate teaching assistants that participate in teaching activities that range from grading, to working with students in laboratory courses, to leading discussion sections, and to taking a major responsibility for an entire course.

Each year at this time, new graduate teaching assistants participate in the Graduate Academy for College Teaching. This Grad Academy is organized and conducted by the campus Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning.  In addition to the many Center staff members that are involved in putting on the Grad Academy, many instructors from a range of departments around campus teach in the sessions. This year more than 700 new graduate teaching assistants, including over 30 from ACES, are participating in this week-long program. They are introduced to a range of topics such as planning a class session, questioning strategies, using feedback, and grading. In addition, they choose several sessions from 36 different concurrent sessions that address specific topics on pedagogy, teaching in different disciplines, culture and diversity, and others. These concurrent sessions provide unique opportunities to learn about elements of teaching that are of interest to the teaching assistant.

The participants also are expected to give a microteaching session, a short teaching session on a topic of their choice. While these teaching assistants will not become expert teachers in a week, this Grad Academy provides a foundation for these novice teachers to further develop their craft, and hopefully get them going in the right direction when they start teaching next week.


A bittersweet goodbye

Aug 21
Amanda Lehner, Senior in Animal Sciences

As I am approaching the final day of my internship, I am realizing how much I have accomplished during my 81 days here at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. I never like to waste a day so life here consists of cleaning, feeding, and performing all aspects of clouded leopard and red panda care and husbandry, documentation and diet preparation. I have helped capture and restrain animals for transfer, loading and shipping or for medical procedures. I have also provided assistance with medical treatments and diagnostics for injured or sick animals in the collection. All of this, I am going to leave behind tonight to return back home.

Leaving here is most definitely a bittersweet moment. I know it will be great to reunite with family and friends but I am going to miss this place a whole lot more than I expected. I will no longer be waking up every day to help with the clouded leopards and red pandas. It will be back to my “normal” life which consists of school, work, and sometimes, social events if I can find the time. I knew the span of my internship wasn’t going to be more than three months so I mentally prepared myself for goodbyes. But, aside from the animals, I am really going to miss the people here who have taught me so much. They have taught me that I can keep going long after I can’t and that heroes are the people who do what has to be done when it needs to be done, regardless of the consequences. Most importantly though, I have learned that life is short so do what you love and the money will follow.


Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute

Another year begins

Aug 21
Jennifer Shike, Director for Communications and Marketing

I sent my daughter off to her first day of second grade today. As I contemplated the opportunities that lie ahead for her, I thought back to the comments shared at Agronomy Day by Illini men’s basketball coach, John Groce.

Coach Groce was accompanied last week by his mother and stepfather, plus his fifth-grade teacher and Happy Farmer’s 4-H club leader, Janet Stephenson. Groce says he can easily name his top five teachers from kindergarten through college – and Mrs. Stephenson made the list for her compassion and unconditional care for every student.

Groce says his teacher’s compassion had a big impact in his life and has carried into his coaching style. He believes that the College of ACES and the Illinois basketball program share that same goal – to create impact.

Groce feels at home at Illinois – one of the world’s greatest universities – because its people care, he says. They want to help. They want to give back. They want to make a difference.

In ACES, we are motivated to help solve the world’s most critical challenges because our college is full of passionate faculty, staff, and students who really do care about the next generation and what they will leave behind.

Groce ended his keynote with a few thoughts that have stayed with me. He said, “I hope you will find something you are so passionate about that it lights your fire every day. Everything you do matters. You are exchanging a day of your life for this. What did you do? Who did you impact?”

To me, one of the best things we can achieve is to uncover our purpose in life. It’s exciting to think about all of the new faces who will walk in to ACES classrooms next week, starting the journey to discover their purpose.

Although second-grader Olivia has a few more years before she gets to that stage, I couldn’t help but smile as we discussed how fast the summer went and how it won’t be long before she’s in college.

“I do want to be an Illini someday,” Olivia said, “but for now, I just want to be a little kid.”

Thanks for the reminder, Olivia. You’re right – you’ve got some time.


Coach John Groce at Agronomy Day