What’s With All the Noise at Turner Hall?

Dec 12
Manuel Colón, NRES Student Recruitment Coordinator

Turner Hall, home to both the Department of Crop Sciences and Natural Resources and Environmental sciences, is in the first phase of getting a major facelift.  The building, named after Jonathan Baldwin Turner, a leading voice in the social movement that produced land grant universities here in the United States, is already fifty years old. Turner Hall has been expanded upon, but has never seen as major of a renovation that it’s experiencing now.

In 2012, a committee was launched to raise $5 million dollars for Turner Hall’s renovation project, dedicated to keeping the caliber of teaching and learning spaces here at Illinois at their highest. This past summer, early phases of the project have started with a complete overhaul of all the external windows of the building. Construction crews are part of the Turner Hall’s daily residents as they remove and replace the building’s over 200 windows. Guests of Turner Hall may find it noisier than usual, but the construction has had relatively low impact on classes and teaching commitments

The next phase of the project, slated to start next year, will see a complete gutting of the soils and crops laboratories, updating them to more modern research and education spaces that incorporate more innovative technologies.  This will include electronic displays, modular furniture, flexible seating, and a preparation facility.

So, as the saying goes: Please pardon our dust (and noise) while we work on creating a better experience for students studying here at Illinois.

For more information on the Turner Hall Project, click here.

The Candyman Comes to West Africa

Dec 11
Oliver Ferguson, International Programs Coordinator

After about 15 hours of travel, I was finally settling in for the night. My hotel was along Freetown’s famous Lumley Beach Road.  As I settled, I realized I was about to lose a significant amount of weight I had been carrying around in my suitcase. That’s because loaded up with candy, granola bars, water flavoring and the personal messages. . These items were from the parents of the students who were in Sierra Leone as a part of the first International Development and Agribusiness Program (IDAP) at Njala University.  They wanted to give them some comforts of home which were not easily accessible on the streets of Freetown or the Village of Makonde where Njala was located. They wanted to provide simple encouragement and messages of love and although they made my bag really heavy, I was happy to oblige. 

The IDAP is a collaborative effort between historic partners Njala University and the University of Illinois, at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). The two institutions have been linked since a few bold pioneers, from the College of Agriculture, travelled across the world to live in Sierra Leone to establish a college in the mold of an American Land Grant Institution in a young democracy.

Seven students, five from the College of ACES, spent the semester on campus at Njala, taking classes based on UIUC syllabi, taught by UIUC instructors. I didn’t travel all the way to Sierra Leone simply to be a courier of M&Ms and Skittles, but served as an instructor for a section of the Learning in Community course. This course brought the Illinois IDAP students together with Agribusiness students at Njala on a project investigating the postharvest practices of rice farmers all across Sierra Leone. This project was supported by the ADM Institute for the Prevention of Postharvest Loss here on campus. The students formed cross-cultural teams to investigate the postharvest handling of rice by farmers across the country. The Learning in Community course was a part of the experiential learning which serves as the cornerstone of the IDAP.

At the time of my arrival, the students had been in country for about six weeks. While munching on Snickers and Twix I heard stories of how the students were able to bond with each other and make fast friends with their Njala counterparts. They were exposed to the social and agricultural practices of the country and were chomping at the bit to learn more. Even without the comforts of home the students were in the early stages of the learning experience of a lifetime. They chose to embrace the challenge as fully as they were that bag of Skittles.   

Academy sets sights on Taiwan

Dec 10
Leslie Sweet Myrick, Office of International Programs Media Communications Specialist

The seventh ACES Academy of Global Engagement is underway! 

First, some history: The Academy was formed in 2006 to increase the number of ACES faculty who are globally involved. The experience, coordinated by the Office of International Programs, exposes the selected fellows (generally 5-7 faculty and staff who represent different disciplines in the College) to available resources (campus, state, national, and international) that facilitate global engagement and concludes with an international immersion experience based around a selected theme.

Academy fellows have traveled to Mexico (2006); Europe (2007); Brazil (2008); China (2009); India (2010) and Ghana (2012). This year’s Academy will travel to Taiwan with a focus on “energy, environment, and biodiversity.”

What are the positive outcomes of such a program? The effects are not immediate, but I have covered several news stories for which the Academy served as a catalyst.   

For example, after visiting the “cornbelt” of China with the Academy where he saw farmers harvesting with machetes, Bob Dunker recruited Don Bullock, and then then two involved John Deere and Monsanto to help this area improve its maize production. 

And, a recent symposium on campus was the latest development out of ACES ongoing collaboration with Mexico’s Autonomous University of San Luis Portosi, formed out of the Academy’s trip in 2006, that serves to improve the health of Mexicans and Mexican-origin populations.

These are just a couple of examples of connections initiated with the previous Academy programs.  

This year’s Academy fellows include: Dr. Alfred Roca, Department of Animal Sciences; Dr. Yong-Su Jin, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition; Dr. DoKyoung Lee, Department of Crop Sciences; Dr. Jeffrey Matthews, Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences; Dr. Yuji Arai, Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences; and Gary Letterly, Extension. Additionally, Dr. K.C. Ting will serve as a Senior Fellow to this year’s Academy.  
Join me in anticipating what connections and collaborations may arise from the current Academy’s visit to Taiwan during spring 2014.

Global Academy

FSHN student interns with USDA

Dec 10
Marla Todd, Associate Director of Advancement Communications

Summer internship experiences are an important part of student development. In this post, Taylor Durkin, senior in dietetics, shares her experiences, in her words, as an intern with the USDA in Alexandria, Va.

As a student in the College of ACES studying Food Science and Human Nutrition with a concentration in dietetics, I have strived to seek out a myriad of experiences that could fortify my academic coursework at UIUC and also prepare me for a dietetic internship. One of my most valued experiences has been with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP) in Alexandria, Va. This internship was so special and gratifying for me because I was able to promote good health and nutrition on a large scale. The mission of CNPP is to be a primary organization affecting food and nutrition policies in the US to promote access to good, healthy foods and to be a resource for nutrition education. CNPP is responsible for creating the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and promoting the MyPlate icon, among other responsibilities. 

During summer 2013 I spent three months with CNPP working in two departments: the Nutrition Guidance and Analysis Division and the Nutrition Marketing and Communication Division. The two divisions exposed me to varying work but the mission remained the same: to promote good nutrition in a relevant and consumer-friendly way. An on-going project that I was fortunate to contribute to was a resource for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) users called Healthy Eating on a Budget. This was a two-week menu for a family of four that fulfilled the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and adhered to SNAP allotments. It was rewarding to know that the resource was going to help families who are (or may not be) on SNAP stay within their budget but also receive good nutrition by utilizing adaptable grocery lists and delicious recipes. In addition, I was fortunate to attend the 2015 Dietary Guidelines meetings at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., where nutrition experts discussed their expanding focus areas for creating the most informative and scientifically up-to-date document. 

Overall, I had a wonderful experience living in the nation’s capital while contributing to work that I am very passionate about. The College of ACES instructors and staff have provided me with the tools necessary to take my class theories and coursework and apply them to a leading organization. This experience has sparked my interest in public health and has encouraged me to seek out organizations that strive to improve the lives of others through nutrition education and increasing food accessibility.

Taylor Durkin (second from right) and three of her fellow CNPP interns.

Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services leadership members are seated around the table with their program interns standing behind them.

Wrapping up another semester

Dec 9
Walt Hurley, Professor of Animal Sciences

Students in our Animal Sciences program all have a love of and appreciation for animals. Beyond that, there is a wide range of interests in what they might do with an Animal Sciences degree. We spend a great deal of time in the ANSC 298 Undergraduate Seminar course making students aware of opportunities to gain out-of-class experiences, including near-term (internships, study abroad, etc), intermediate-term (graduate school, vet school, etc), and long-term (diverse career directions) opportunities. We try to provide them with a wide range of ideas and ways of thinking about the future and how they might reach their career goals. Many alumni have visited the class, including those who are very recent graduates currently in a formal graduate program or in vet school, as well as those who graduated several years ago and are out in the world doing exciting things. Each visitor shares their story on how they came to be doing what they are currently doing, as well as their thoughts on what opportunities exist beyond the undergraduate experience. Each student in the course comes out with a resume, a practice cover letter for a position, and reflective writings that help them practice articulating their interests and goals. They have access to resources that can help them find internships, jobs, and other experiences. And they have access to an extensive network of people who can provide them with suggestions and advice. As they wrap up this semester and head into the Holidays, we hope that each student is a little closer to knowing how they can reach their ultimate goals.

Happy Holidays!

Morrow Plots, a University Tradition

Dec 5
Wendy White, Crop Sciences Undergrad Recruiter

The Morrow Plots have been a long-standing icon of the College of ACES and the University as a whole. They were established in 1876 in order to conduct better agricultural research. They are now the oldest agronomic experiment fields in the United States and include the longest-term continuous corn plot in the world. In 1968, the Morrow Plots became a National Historic Landmark!

Each year semester the Field and Furrow Club takes an hour to go through the plots and clean the junk and weeds out of the hedges that border the plots, in an effort to serve their campus community and keep the Plots looking neat and tidy. Not to mention, it is a chance for students to cross entering the Morrow Plots off their bucket list!

The Morrow Plots is one example of the great tradition of innovative and cutting edge research conducted at the University of Illinois.  I find it very interesting the juxtaposition of the history of the Morrow Plots ongoing experiment and the data being collected there, with the adjacent Institute for Genomic Biology which is on the forefront of molecular and genetic scientific discovery decoding DNA’s book of every living thing.

Elections, Elections, Elections… and Ugly Holiday Sweaters?

Dec 4
Ellen Reeder, Senior in ACES

In the College of ACES, the month of December is all about student leader elections and ugly holiday sweater parties. They don’t seem to fit together the best, but I love it.

Over the past few years, I’ve been that student who nervously awaits their turn to give a speech about their qualifications, drive for success, and passion for an organization or the college. I always dressed nice and thought about my speeches and time commitments ahead of time. This year, it’s a bit of a 180 for me. I sit in the back, I wear the ugliest holiday sweater I can find, I use parliamentary procedure skills I didn’t even know I remembered, and I smile for the next team of leaders.

A few years ago, I dreaded this. I dreaded the day that I would be the one retiring and moving on from these college leadership positions. I wondered how the upperclassmen were so okay with leaving it behind. Now I get it.

When I sit in the back of the room and observe the thoughtful speeches, the passion, and the excitement these students I have, I just can’t help but smile. I think alumni must feel the same way when they come back to visit campus and they get to meet with students and hear about what they’re passionate about and why they love the college. I can’t wait to experience that someday.

Spread the word!

Dec 3
Kathryn Martensen, Assistant Dean and Director of Advising

Calling all ACES alumni, current students, faculty and staff: Do you know of high school seniors who show solid academic promise who would be interested in a top-notch higher education experience with return on investment that’s at the highest level in the Big 10? Applications to be part of the freshman class of 2014 are due January 2, 2014. Here’s a fun winter break project: Visit your former high school, talk with your friends/your friends’ children—spread the word about the vast array of academic programs offered in the College of ACES and the boundless post-graduate opportunities! The application is available at http://admissions.illinois.edu/apply/app_freshman.html, and it is definitely not too late.


Nov 26
Regan Emkes, Senior in Agricultural Communications

“You’re not going to believe what it looks like when you come upstairs…”

This was the first thing my dad said to me after he came down to our basement, soaking wet from holding on for his life during the tornado.

My first reaction was that I started sobbing to the point where I almost threw up. It was still pouring down rain when I walked outside to see my garage taken off of my house, our front porch gone, all of the windows on our house blown in, and my car had a lawnmower lodged into its side. It’s one of those things where you always hear “severe weather,” but you never actually think it will happen to you. It does. It did. My “impossible” came to life.

I can’t help but notice that through all of this “impossible” coming to life and reality being really ugly for a lot of people (my family being some of the luckier ones in this disaster), how many people stepped up to the plate. I went from sobbing thinking, “Why us?” to sobbing thinking, “I can’t believe how lucky we are.”

The very first thing I read that made me turn into a complete mess again was to see that there was a moment of silence at the Illinois Men’s Basketball Game on Sunday night for all the towns affected by the tornadoes. It made me feel incredibly thankful and lucky to be an Illini and a member of the Orange Krush Organization.

Through all of this I can’t help but have a full heart with all the love and support coming from everywhere. Most comes from my family and friends, but the rest keeps coming from those organizations, clubs, and even the College of ACES and College of Media that have become my family and friends in this short time I’ve been at the University of Illinois. The generosity and concern is overwhelming really. I got emails from my boss in the ACES Career Services late Sunday afternoon (while she wasn’t even at work, mind you) checking to make sure we were all okay and to see if there was anything she could do to help. My sorority took a vote at our chapter meeting the other night to raise money to donate and it passed unanimously. My academic advisor emailed me Monday morning inquiring about my family and if she could help. My Dean in ACES stopped in to chat with me about everything. All my instructors have been extremely understanding, and even a club that I wasn’t exclusively involved with at Parkland, the Parkland Ag Club, made sure to message me asking how they could help before they had their meeting to organize their volunteer efforts. We have actually had to turn away help…it’s been crazy.

This is just the help that’s been provided to me and my family. There’s lots more people who are selflessly wanting to help everyone else in town in whatever way and it is incredible. Without skipping a beat, there were people hauling in their loaders, boomers, hi-hos, skid-steers, chainsaws, and trucks to help clean up the mess on Sunday. Churches started organizing donations for the relief efforts within hours of this happening. People made Facebook pages to keep volunteers, donors, and families informed of upcoming events, lost pets/personal belongings, and ways people are wanting to help. United Way and The Red Cross have been in charge of organizing volunteer efforts at Gordyville all week and they’re doing a fantastic job. Gordyville has really come through for our town (not that I had any doubts about them in the first place) as the Gifford headquarters through this disaster. St. Paul’s Lutheran Church has been preparing meals for families and volunteers every day while also collecting and organizing donations of food, clothing, and water. Gifford is such a strong community and seeing everyone come together in this time of turmoil is nothing shy of amazing. I couldn’t be more proud of my small town.

Finally, I’ll get to my point of this post. Thankfulness. No matter what your situation, there is always, always, always something to be thankful for. Count your blessings, ladies and gentlemen. Even though life is a physical and emotional roller-coaster for a lot of people across the state of Illinois, we can all agree on one thing. Life is something to be thankful for every day. We can rebuild, we can relocate, we can take out loans, but we cannot get life back once it is taken. Say your prayers, keep everyone in your thoughts, and help where you can.

This is going to be a long road, but I’m ever so thankful for the chance to take it.

Regans car
Walking out to inspect the damage after the tornado in Gifford.

Extension gets ready for the next 100 years

Nov 14
George Czapar, Associate Dean and Director of University of Illinois Extension and Outreach

This week, 230 University of Illinois Extension professionals from across the state were on campus for the Extension State Conference. Extension is the flagship outreach effort of the university and offers educational programs to residents in all 102 counties of the state. The conference included presentations from several campus specialists, including Dr. Art Kramer, Director of the Beckmann Institute, and spanned topics such as innovative methods for delivering educational programs, building partnerships to ensure healthy environments and local economies, strategies for incorporating technology to improve outreach, and working more effectively with families in poverty.  

Conference participants also had a chance to attend "workshops on the go" at the College of Veterinary Medicine, College of ACES South Farms, and the NCSA National Petascale Computing Facility (home to Blue Waters, one of the fastest supercomputers in the United States).

Extension will be celebrating its 100-year anniversary in 2014. A collection of historical photos, posters, and reports is available at http://web.extension.illinois.edu/100yrs.
Extension in action