Student banquets, clubs and scholarships

Apr 24
Doug Parrett, Interim Head of the Department of Animal Sciences

This past weekend I attended two banquets recognizing students in Animal Sciences for their many achievements during the past year. The banquets showcased student excellence for successful club activities, involvement with community activities, and of course, for outstanding scholarship. I serve as the chair of the Animal Sciences undergraduate honors committee and I am always overwhelmed by the strong academics and variety of activities our students are involved in.

Beyond the classroom our students organize cattle shows, dairy calf sales, rodeos, fundraisers and many other activities. Our students are very engaged in ExplorACES and work hard with our recruiting efforts of new students. And, they always maintain strong grade point averages.

The many scholarship donors that we have in Animal Sciences and ACES always comment on how amazed they are by our students and their busy schedules. And they are always impressed with their maturity and goals for the future.  I think it is a great tribute to the dedicated teachers in ACES that while we have talented students, the many classroom experiences they have in ACES enhances their thinking critical skills and leadership capabilities that will make them successful in their futures.

The end of the semester ends rapidly but the high standards of our students continues on to make the world a better place!

Student banquets, clubs and scholarships
Animal sciences student Jordan Rauch (middle) receives the Phil Rincker Memorial Scholarship from donor Art Farley (right) and Will Rincker of the Rincker Family.

Finding the good

Apr 23
Jennifer Shike, Director for Communications and Marketing

As a parent, events like Boston make me want to curl up with my kids on the couch and escape the world. I know this isn’t the right response. But sometimes the world is just plain scary.

I’m so impressed by ACES student Tatyana McFadden’s simple, yet powerful response to the events that took place in Boston. She said we can’t live our lives in fear because there are always going to be a few bad people in the world – but most people are good.

In the news coverage surrounding Tatyana’s most recent accomplishments winning the women’s wheelchair race in both the Boston and London Marathons, she used the opportunity to bring hope to the world. Instead of enjoying the spotlight following her amazing victories, she is finding a way to remind us all of some very important truths.

We have so many good people in this world – people who always help, always respond, always share, always give, always contribute. I could spend my time focusing on those who don’t. Or I can choose to spend my time being one of those good people and raising my children to be good people, too.

Thanks for the reminder, Tatyana. And congratulations on your amazing achievements and more important, for being a role model for us all! You always make the College of ACES and the University of Illinois proud. Best wishes on your next race.

To read more about Tatyana, visit her page on Facebook at

“We can’t live our lives in fear. There are always going to be a few bad people in the world, but the majority are good. What we saw in Boston after the marathon — with the community coming together, the incredible medical staff who responded so quickly, and people who were out on the course running to the  hospital to give blood —that’s the good in people.” – Tatyana McFadden

Teammates = Lifelines

Apr 22
Ellen Reeder, Senior in ACES

I’ve always enjoyed public speaking and I’ve never been one to get nervous, but when you’re part of a team the tables are suddenly turned because you’re not the only one relying on the speech and knowledge that’s stored in your head. This past week at the NAMA student marketing competition my teammates were my lifelines.

When I first started public speaking in FFA, my mom would always say, “don’t forget to breathe.” Ironically, I had a few flashbacks to those first few experiences of public speaking because at NAMA I forgot to breathe, literally.

Luckily, I had a teammate, Nick White, who helped me remember to breathe on stage even if we looked like fools. And luckily there were teammates in the crowd like Madalyn Kermicle, Greg Jen, Mason Schoolcraft and Ryan O’Malley grinning ear-to-ear reminding me to smile. It’s amazing how those smiles can make a world of difference in confidence levels and enthusiasm.

I never imagined how a group of 22 individuals could come together as a team to perform a 20-minute presentation about morel mushrooms, specifically Rare Taste Farm’s Morchellas. The amount of camaraderie that our team shared was unbelievable. We worked hard to get where we stood, but we never would have found ourselves there if we worked as individuals. It’s all about that team atmosphere and the support. Before each round we huddled up for a motivational speech (or rap) from our very own Zach Orwig, and when we left the presentation room we knew we had given it our all.

Finishing fourth place in the nation was an awesome feeling, but I have to say the friendships gained and the experiences had were highlights as well. We can’t thank our advisors, Wendy Pinkerton, Theresa Miller and Nick Paulson enough for all of their time, help and support. The seniors will be missed next year, but their lessons and advice will carry on. I am so thankful to be part of a college that places merit on student involvement, experiential learning and team values.

213 U of I NAMA Team

Leaders, Lifters, Celebrities… Alumni

Apr 17
Ellen Reeder, Senior in ACES

Red carpet, paparazzi, celebrities… it sounds like the Grammy’s doesn’t it? Pretty much.

On Monday, I had the privilege of hosting one of the ACES Award of Merit winners, Tami Craig Schilling. I first met Tami on a visit to Monsanto as a sophomore and again at the Agricultural Communications Symposium. She is one of those people who is full of enthusiasm that automatically makes you want to get to know her.

Spending the entire day being Tami’s host was by far one of the best experiences of my college career. Listening and watching her interact with students, faculty, staff and others was awesome. I was obviously a huge fan of Tami’s before the day even started, but I think I learned a lot as the day unfolded. I learned that Tami’s story was unique. As a child she did not want to be involved in agriculture and was forced to be an FFA member by her father. She said looking back that was a turning point that led her to a career in agriculture and a second turning point that led her to agricultural communications was meeting Dr. Jim Evans. Looking back at the reasons that I decided to major in agricultural communications, I can say that they are exactly the same: FFA and Dr. Evans.

At the Award of Merit luncheon, each award winner gave an acceptance speech and the common theme seemed to be ‘thanking those who shaped you and helped you along the way.’ As I listened to the award winners thank professors, bosses, mentors, friends and family; I thought of whom I would thank if I were in that position and the list was endless. 

After this experience, I will never look at the stairs of Mumford Hall the same way. I will always think of those who walked before me and helped to create those grooved and worn stairs. They’re special because the people who I would thank have walked those stairs: alumni, professors, advisors, mentors, bosses, and friends.

I think there is one easy way to sum up the people I met on Monday: “Leaders are lifters. They push the thinking of their teammates beyond old boundaries of creativity. They improve people’s confidence in themselves and others. Leaders are able to lift a team to a higher level than it has ever reached before.” – John Maxwell

Ellen Reeder and Tami Schilling

The Alumni Difference

Apr 15
Claire Benjamin, Senior in ACES

Today Tami Craig Schilling, a 1990 agricultural communications graduate, will be honored with the ACES Alumni Association Award of Merit at the College of ACES and Paul A. Funk Recognition Awards Banquet. This morning I had the chance to sit down and chat with her and a few of my fellow students about our program. Why? Because she genuinely wanted to know our perspective.

Our alumni care. They are engaged. They don’t want to just meet us in passing and shake our hands. They want to know what internships we scored for the summer, how our classes are going, where we want to be in five years, and most importantly, how they can help us succeed.

When choosing a college, its academic reputation and your financial commitment play a key role in the decision-making process. But what students might not consider is the college’s alumni support. The strength of the alumni foundation often correlates with scholarship, internship, job placement and networking opportunities. I feel fortunate to have met so many phenomenal alumni here, including Tami.

Someday, I hope to be that alum who will take time out of a busy day to check in with students and show them just how much I care.

ACES 2-13 Award of Merit Winners
We are celebrating the 2013 ACES Award of Merit winners on campus today. From l to r are Doug Hixon, James Fraley, Lynette Marshall, Tami Craig Schilling and David Shockey

Illinois Marathon season

Apr 11
Kathryn Martensen, Assistant Dean and Director of Advising

Saturday, April 27 marks the fifth-annual Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon. Three of the past four years, I’ve run the half-marathon (I didn’t run the year I’d given birth less than six weeks prior to the race!), and I’m running it again this year. I have a love/hate relationship with running: I’m not one of those people to whom it comes naturally, I seem to battle some minor injury or another constantly, and I have yet to ever experience the alleged “runner’s high.  Nonetheless, running is my go-to for stress relief, and I do get some of my best ideas while running, so I guess it is kind of professional development, too!

Even though I prefer to run solo, there’s something about being at a big event like the Illinois Marathon, surrounded by thousands of other people doing the same crazy thing you are and thousands more cheering from the sidelines that is a truly amazing feeling of community. It has been interesting to learn of all of the members of the ACES community who also participate in this event—each year, it seems like I meet at least two or three students who have run one of the Illinois Marathon events before and/or are planning to run it this year, and in conversation with colleagues, I learn of about a handful of people who participate too who I didn’t know were fellow runners. I won’t name names without their consent, but let’s suffice it to say that the College of ACES is well represented with some marathoners and half-marathoners with pretty impressive times!

As they say in all of the Illinois Marathon marketing materials, maybe I will “C-U there”!

Illinois Marathon

30 days and counting

Apr 11
Claire Benjamin, Senior in ACES
And the countdown to graduation begins. Just one more final project and three journal entries, quizzes and exams stand between me and flipping that tassel from right to left. My graduation regalia has been ordered, and I’ve registered for the College of ACES Tassel Turn Reception and the Commencement Ceremony. While I’m technically ready to leave the hallowed halls of Illinois, I know a part of me would be content to be an ACES student forever.
Graduation cap

Spring has sprung

Apr 10
Molly Singraber, Senior in ACES

My favorite time of spring semester is the awakening of campus from winter hibernation. The gradual change in temperature has brought people outside to start enjoying the glorious spring weather. I enjoy all the campus events that spring brings. I plan to take part in my favorite activities such as drinking iced coffee, running outdoors, and barbecuing. This spring, however, I want to try a new activity that I have placed on my growing bucket list; gardening.

Last spring semester, I participated in the course Horticulture 105 Home Vegetable Gardening. I learned the importance of small gardens and ways to create my own small garden at home. This week, I will attempt to start my own vegetable garden with the help of my roommates. We plan to grow peppers and tomatoes. I am anxious to see if I have developed a green thumb or if gardening is better left to the experts!

Spring has sprung

Food Security and Food Justice Colloquy

Apr 10
Marla Todd, Associate Director of Advancement Communications

Just a few years ago, the College of ACES lost an outstanding Extension professional, person, and community servant, Dr. Robin Orr. I consider myself lucky to have had the opportunity to work with Robin and it was my pleasure to help a colleague of hers, William Kling, honor her with a special event, the Robin Orr Colloquy. (Note – I also learned a new word. Colloquy – n. discussion: a formal conversation or discussion). Kling determined that he wanted the event to address food security and food justice, topics he worked on closely with Robin.

On March 28, the Heritage Room of the ACES library held a full crowd of students, faculty, staff and members of the University of Illinois community who came together for this event that covered food availability, sustainable production, and food assistance programs. Panelists including University of Illinois professors Dr. Craig Gundersen and Dr. Barbara Fiese, University of Illinois Extension’s Linda Crawl-Jackson, Eastern Illinois Food Bank Director Jim Hires, and local sustainable farmer David Bane all contributed varied viewpoints to the discussion.

The lively discussion presented one fact noting that 1 in 5 people in eastern Illinois is dealing with hunger. The number increases to 1 in 4 when pinpointed to youth. This was just one piece of information highlighting the proximity and intensity of the subject. Much of the conversation could have spun off into independent discussions of just one point that was presented. This is one of the reasons that Kling hopes to sponsor another similar event of this type next year.

Orr, who passed away in 2010, touched more than one million of Illinois' most vulnerable citizens with food assistance and education programs through her role in Extension. She served on numerous state and national committees to guide the development and administration of food program legislation. Additionally, she collaborated with fellow researchers and nutrition advocates on subjects including obesity, cancer, hunger and food policy reform.

Food Security and Food Justice Colloquy

The Best Day

Apr 9
Ellen Reeder, Senior in ACES

I’m not a huge Taylor Swift fan by any means, but her song “The Best Day” is one of my favorites. This song makes me think of my wonderful childhood and how fortunate I am to have parents who support me in everything I do. I truly believe that days spent with family are the best days, which is why I am looking forward to this weekend on the University of Illinois campus. It’s Mom’s Weekend!

Mom’s weekend means lots of things: the ACES student awards banquet, the Horticulture Club’s flower show, shopping, the Sigma Alpha breakfast, dinner with my friends and their moms, and so much more! Most importantly, it means that I get to spend the entire weekend with my mom on this campus that I love so much. I’m the youngest of six kids and I am the only one that attended the University of Illinois so these past few years of Mom’s and Dad’s weekends have been full of new adventures.

A lot of people think that when you move away to college you become disconnected from your family except during vacation time and holidays. It’s really quite opposite. Moving away to college provides new opportunities to share your home away from home with your family on special weekends like this one. After all, “The family is like that dear octopus from whose tentacles we never quite escape, nor, in our inmost hearts, ever quite wish to.” – Dodie Smith

Ellen Reeder and her mom