Being Smart is Not Enough

Apr 17
Kim Kidwell, Dean of the College of ACES

Creating opportunities for students to acquire essential life skills as part of their academic experience is key to developing career-ready graduates with the potential to achieve their ultimate personal and professional success. Students must have the essential content expertise to create advances and make discoveries in their specialties, as well as the essential interpersonal communication skills required to translate their knowledge and to engage effectively with others.

The ACES Leadership Academy (ALA) is a new initiative dedicated to building human leadership capacity within the college, campus, and community that is a component of the ACES With Illinois campaign. Through a variety of courses and developmental opportunities focused on personal and professional development, interpersonal communication, and leadership skills, the ALA will support undergraduate and graduate students, working professionals, faculty, staff, and alumni with improving their self-awareness and self-management skills, as well as with expanding their interpersonal, organizational, and community capacity. Acquiring these human capacity skills is essential for people who strive to realize their personal and professional potential.

The ALA will offer two new 8-week interpersonal communication courses for undergraduate and graduate students this fall that will take place during the second 8-week session: Personal and Social Effectiveness (ACES 199 and ACES 499). Both courses are focused on personal development skills for collaboration and team leadership in addressing complex challenges during and after their college experience.  

• ACES 199 (CRN 70602) is for freshmen, sophomores, and juniors

• ACES 499 (CRN 70603 and 70604) is for seniors and graduate students

These courses are designed to create opportunities for students to practice essential life skills in a safe setting that will support them with maximizing their personal and professional success. Being smart is not enough. People must be able to engage with others in a constructive fashion in order to maximize their influence. These courses involve high levels of engaged and group learning to support students with acquiring these skills. 

Creating the ACES Leadership Academy as a support opportunity for the ACES community and beyond is my passion. As the inaugural holder of the Robert A. Easter Chair, it’s my honor to help construct an opportunity like this that reflects Dr. Easter’s legacy of leadership in agriculture and at the University of Illinois. The ALA will be housed in the Office of Academic Programs. Faculty in our Ag Education, Ag Communications, and Ag Leadership programs will facilitate much of the initial programming. The development and delivery of these initial offerings are being funded through generous gifts from donors who believe in the importance of this work. I look forward to sharing more details with you as the vision unfolds. 

ACES Leadership Academy

Hort club rocked the 2018 garden show

Apr 16
Lauren Quinn, ACES Media Specialist

Last year around this time, I heard about a plant sale hosted by the crop sciences horticulture club. I ran over to the Turner Hall greenhouse where it was being held and came back with more than $100 worth of perennials and a Japanese maple tree. I may have a problem.

Later, I found out where those plants came from: They were leftovers from the annual Moms’ Weekend Flower and Garden Show. This year, I got wind of the show before it happened and made it part of my weekend plans.

I took my daughter, age 5-and-three-quarters, to the Stock Pavilion on Saturday and stood in line with U of I students and their moms (and dads, in some cases). The hort club had transformed the building into a series of gardens, each with a different fine-arts theme. Attendees wound their way through the trail of gardens, admiring large reproductions of famous paintings as well as artfully arranged plants in complementary colors and patterns. All of the themes were impressive, but we were partial to the American Gothic garden, which paid homage to crop sciences faculty members Tom Voigt and Gary Kling. 

My daughter picked out a watermelon plant on our way out, but I’ll stock up even more when the hort club sells the leftovers. Need some plants? Stay tuned to the U of I Horticulture Club on Facebook for news on the sale.

Our faculty are excellent, just check the list!

Apr 13
Stephanie Henry, ACES Media Specialist

As writers on the ACES Communications and Marketing team, we talk a lot about the impactful research taking place in the college. But another important story that we get tell is about the amazing faculty we have in ACES. Our faculty make a huge impact on students’ lives, education, and futures every day. 

Not surprisingly, you will find many ACES faculty on the U of I Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning’s annual list of teachers rated as excellent. These lists are compiled each semester and reflect student ratings of instruction. Our students clearly have great things to say about those faculty leading them into the future.

One recent example of an “excellent” teacher is Agricultural and Biological Engineering assistant professor Paul Davidson. One of Dr. Davidson’s projects that makes him such a great teacher is a student trip that he helped develop and co-leads. The WE CAN—Wildlife Engineers Co-managing Agriculture and Nature—project gives an opportunity to underrepresented students to spend four weeks in South Africa learning about wildlife biology and engineering. 

Dr. Davidson says of the project, “The ultimate goal is to propel each fellow onto their chosen career path by providing new experiences, education, and support.” Pretty awesome stuff, right? More about Davidson and the project is featured in the most recent issue of the ACES@Illinois magazine.

Students or alumni, do you have a story or a “shout out” you would love to share about an ACES faculty member? Follow ACES on Twitter, and your story using #ACESstory and #ACESlove.

Davidson We CAN

My journey to ACES

Apr 12
Xavier Morgan

The College of ACES means a lot to me and I am proud to represent as a student leader. My journey with ACES actually started during my high school years. My high school, the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences, was partnered with the College of ACES. Luckily, due to this partnership, I was exposed to the very many opportunities and wonderful people that were a part of this college that I like to refer to as my family. ACES have provided me with so many opportunities including traveling all over the world, interacting with leaders in the agriculture industry, and growing personally and professionally by challenging my ideas and skills through various conferences and competitions and even being able to plan national conferences on behalf of the University of Illinois.

Being a part of ACES has also allowed me to have a jump-start on my career! I have been able to intern with four Fortune 100 companies through ACES opportunities and by being a student in the college. While the College of ACES may be small, I believe we are the backbone of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign because of the opportunities we provide our students, the innovative and internationally recognized faculty and research from the College of ACES, as well as the small, close-knit, and caring people we have in our college and that is why I LOVE ACES.

Not just a color

Apr 11
Kelsey Litchfield, ACES Communications & Marketing

I’ll be honest – orange isn’t really my color. Having reddish-brownish hair, orange clothing does not compliment well. Navy blue works a lot better.

However, you will see me proudly dressing in orange because today is Wear Orange Wednesday in honor of I <3 ACES Week. I have quite a few orange t-shirts and sweatshirts from my college days. Upon digging through my dresser, I wondered how our official school colors came about. So, I did a quick Google search and stumbled upon the Student Life and Culture Archives. There you can read “The Story of the Orange and Blue.”

What surprised me is that Illinois went about 27 years with no school colors. Gold and black were popular colors and even Dartmouth green was a favorite. But none of these colors were official, nor did they distinguish Illinois from other colleges.

UI President Andrew Draper appointed faculty and staff to a committee in 1894 to decide the official school colors. Their proposal was orange and white with green. Along with the Athletic Association committee, both decided on navy blue and orange. And 124 years later, those colors still hold strong.

When I was younger, I would hear a lot of Illinois supporters say they “bleed orange and blue.” These people were proud to wear Illinois on their back and support our university through all of the highs and lows. Orange and blue aren’t just colors – they symbolize a community. One that I am proud to be a part of. 

Today, wear your orange with pride knowing you have a community behind you full of mentors and peers supporting you every step of the way – I’ll be wearing mine! Post a picture in the ACES comments section and you might win an I <3 ACES Week prize.

The Right Decision

Apr 10
Craig Beckmier, BS '99 Ag Education, MS '04 Animal Sciences

It’s easy to look back on my college days with confidence that I made the right decision. Undoubtedly, there are many options when deciding where to go to college. And like many of you, I had the opportunity to attend other universities, but I chose the University of Illinois. It was one of the best decisions of my life.

I knew that I wanted to live and work in Illinois. It made sense to attend my state institution to pursue my bachelor’s degree. I received a tremendous education at the University of Illinois. My professors in animal sciences and agricultural education were elite – the best of the best. And this allowed me the foundation necessary for success in my career, and more importantly, my life.

I have seen the power of networking and what it can do for your career. When you attend college where you want to live and work someday, this network becomes extremely beneficial. My degree has allowed me to pursue my passion in life as an ag educator and livestock judging coach. However, I believe that it is the network I built amongst my peers and with the faculty at the University of Illinois that truly allowed for those opportunities to become available. 

I continue to see my experience as an Illini pay huge dividends in my life. I encourage my students at Lincoln Land Community College to continue their education in the College of ACES because I am confident it will help them build the framework necessary to pursue their dreams like it did for me.

Craig and Team
The network Craig developed as a student has opened many doors in his life. Last month, his livestock judging team was recognized at the Alice Campbell Alumni Center. L to R: '97 teammates Beckmier, Chad Howlett, Travis Tarr, Jeremy Hahn, Kevin Fromme.

My ACES love story

Apr 9
Dawn Bohn, Teaching Assistant Professor in the Department of Food Science & Human Nutrition

Welcome to I Love Illinois Week and what better way to kick it off than with I LOVE ACES Day! Anyone that knows me knows that I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the College of ACES! But what they may not know is that I did not always love the University of Illinois (gasp!). Actually, my Illinois experience started off back in the fall of 1993 (now you can guess my age), and dare I say, with a rocky beginning.

I entered Illinois as a student in another (very large…wink, wink) college, studying a major that honestly someone else picked for me because I enjoyed science (gulp). I knew soon on that the major I selected in that big college was not for me, so I started exploring my options. I took a variety of classes, talked to friends, looked into clubs, went to my advisor – and every semester that passed became more and more daunting because I could not find a place to be successful at Illinois. By the end of my fall semester sophomore year, I definitely did not love Illinois.

Right before spring semester sophomore year, I had a random conversation with a senior student I knew in a random stairwell. I was sharing my woes with her, and she looked at me and said, “You like science, you like food…you should be a food scientist.” A what now? When she said food scientist, I thought she was making up a major. It turns out she wasn’t, though, as she herself was a food science major. She suggested that I take FSHN 101 – Introduction to Food Science and Human Nutrition. So I did…and I LOVED it! I couldn’t believe that there was a major that focused on chemistry, microbiology, physics…while at the same time focusing on food. Hold up! Why didn’t anyone tell me about this subject before I went to college? I was sold!

I found out that this major was housed in the, at that time, College of Agriculture, and that I would have to (get to) transfer colleges. Even better! I didn’t know much about the College of Agriculture, but from the moment I entered Mumford Hall to turn in my transfer paperwork, I knew that the College of Agriculture was different. People were smiling and saying hi as I passed them in the hall. My timid knock on the door was greeted with a very cheery “Come in!” After turning in my paperwork, Dean Olson wanted to talk to me and actually meet me. It was so different from what I was used to, and it gave me a humongous spark of hope.

The following fall, I jumped right in to my food science courses, joined the food science club (now called the Association for Food Technologists…so fancy), met some food science friends (for life!), got to know my instructors, attended the ACES “Party 101” (ask me about that when you see me next time), and finally started to like Illinois. The more time I spent in the College of ACES, the more I learned about food science, yes, but I also learned the importance of agriculture, the real value of hard work and determination, how to seize opportunities, when to lead and when to listen, and the impact of helping others. Most of all, I learned what type of person I wanted to be when I “grew up,” and I know this is cliché, but I honestly felt that I found myself in the College of ACES. The day I graduated, I cried for hours. I knew that ACES had prepared me well, but I had really come to LOVE ACES, and leaving was like leaving a dear friend behind.

As many of you know, I tried to leave ACES a couple of times, but I came back for graduate school in 2000, and then again as a part of the Food Science and Human Nutrition faculty in 2006. One of the classes I get to teach every semester now, is that FSHN 101 class...the one that started me on my path to discovering the wonders of ACES. And every semester I teach that class, I always hope that I can impact a student in the same way I was impacted many years ago – by helping them to discover their path, and to LOVE the College of ACES!
Dawn Bohn
Dawn Bohn poses by Isabel Bevier's photo in Bevier Hall, home of the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition.

Behind the scenes of ACES@Illinois

Apr 6
Lauren Quinn, ACES Media Specialist

You may have seen the most recent issue of our flagship publication, ACES@Illinois, on newsstands around campus. The magazine’s mission – like everything we do in the ACES Communications and Marketing office – is to tell the story of our college to the world. Through engaging, reader-friendly stories, photographs, and design, we highlight how students, faculty, staff, and alumni are solving some of the world’s greatest challenges.

Although it is only 36 pages long, producing the magazine twice a year is no small feat. Planning starts months ahead of the final print, when a story call goes out to department heads, college administrators, and other ACES communicators. From there, the creative vision begins. Stories aren’t just drawn out of a hat – they’re carefully curated by our editor-in-chief to ensure they represent the breadth of the college and have an enticing hook for readers. The actual writing, editing, and design come relatively late in the process, but those pieces are critical as well.

To get a behind-the-scenes look from one contributor’s perspective, I sat down with Leslie Ehler, the magazine’s creative director and ACES graphic designer.

Lauren: How long does it take to build each issue from scratch?

Leslie: Planning starts long before my part – the design – begins. The spring 2018 issue took about eight months from our initial call for story ideas, until the magazine was in hand.

Lauren: Can you describe all the moving parts?

Leslie: After the story call goes out, we gather all the ideas into a spreadsheet so we can keep track of what departments are getting representation and where we’re lacking. If we are lacking in some departments, we might go to the writers or back to the departments to ask for input. Then we flesh out the ideas, thinking about the story behind the story. Once we find that angle, we do some brainstorming on who the sources might be, what photos or graphics we have in mind, what writer gets assigned to what story, and how many pages are dedicated to each one.

After that, the writers get started. It’s up to them to set up interviews, write, get ideas for photos, etc. After everything is handed in, our editors – truly unsung heroes – make several rounds of edits for style, length, reading level, approval, etc. While that is going on, pictures are being gathered and/or photoshoots are underway. Then, it goes into layout; and that’s where I come in!

Lauren: The College is so varied. How do you bring all these stories together in a way that makes them feel cohesive?

Leslie: Strictly from the design perspective, I use the same style and fonts throughout the magazine so it has a nice flow when you’re paging through. But then each story has its own headline and imagery that brings out the unique topic or experience or research that is being told. These are mostly human-interest stories, so you don’t have to be a part of our college to understand the important work that people are doing here, or the ways people are having a real impact on the world. We want anyone to be able to pick up this magazine and to find something that they can relate to. When it comes down to it, every story has a common thread of people doing their part to make the world a better place. And I think we can all relate to that.

Lauren: What’s your favorite story in this issue and why?

Leslie: That’s a hard one! I like different stories for different reasons. Sometimes it’s based on the photos we have, or how a layout turned out, or purely because of the story being told. I think if I had to choose one for this issue, it would be “Fueling the Win” (pg. 18-19). In part because of the amazing photo that was used across a full-page spread, but also because of the story. So much of what drives people are their own life experiences, and it shows in the work that they are doing. It goes back to telling the story behind the story; it’s not just about the work that is being done, but why someone has a passion for what they are doing and how that passion drives them to make a difference in the world around them.

Thanking Isabel Bevier

Mar 29
Marla Todd, Associate Director of Advancement Communications

Despite the blast of winter we received over the weekend, it’s nearly grilling season. I’ve added new grilling tools to my shopping list because I can’t remember when we replaced that grill brush last. And, I’ll be ready with our trusty University of Illinois Extension meat thermometer.

While doing a bit of historical review this week, I learned that I have Isabel Bevier to thank for the use of a thermometer while cooking meat. In 1901, while collaborating with colleagues in the then Department of Animal Husbandry, Bevier, for whom Bevier Hall is named, originated the idea of using a thermometer to safely cook various quality cuts of meat.

This is just one piece of the rich history in the field of home economics, a legacy that continues in the College of ACES today.

On Friday, April 20, the College of ACES will host Home Economics: Family, Consumer and Health Sciences. This event will celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the Child Development Laboratory and the 45th Anniversary of the Home Economics Alumni Association, while showcasing the continued work in these fields.

To learn more about the event, see a full schedule, and register, visit

Keeping Our Best in Illinois

Mar 28
Kim Kidwell, Dean of the College of ACES

The University of Illinois is uniting with Illinois State University, Southern Illinois University, and Western Illinois University to keep our best and brightest students in Illinois to pursue their college education. Why? We face a common challenge – our students are being recruited away by agricultural colleges in neighboring states. By partnering together to show Illinois students the wide range of opportunities that await them in our state, we believe we can create a better future for Illinois by guiding these students to obtain an education in-state.

We developed a flyer that showcases our four pathways to obtain agricultural degrees in Illinois. We want to encourage students to compare the different experiences and explore the benefits of each program. Much of our future workforce in agriculture is leaving the state to go to college, which signs their permission slip to stay out of state permanently. We need to unite to fix this problem.

I truly believe that we can compete with any of the agricultural colleges in the Midwest if we have a chance to get students on campus to hear our story and imagine themselves as a student here. We are different than SIU, ISU, and WIU. But there’s no doubt that these schools offer valuable opportunities that may be the right fit for potential students.

Personally, the University of Illinois was the best fit for me. I have no regrets about my college choice – it has served me well and opened doors to opportunities that I never dreamed were possible as a high school student.

Some people have questioned why we would encourage Illinois youth to consider another school in state. My answer to this is simple. When we compete with each other, we simply drive more people out of state. This approach isn’t working very well for us and I believe standing together will make people at least a little more curious to explore our in-state options. At the end of the day, I sincerely hope students will choose to further their education in Illinois.

If you want to pursue a future in agriculture, look at all of the resources Illinois offers. From Chicago to the Dixon Springs Agricultural Research Center, the opportunities for students to explore career paths and gain hands-on experience are endless.

We need your help to share this message far and wide in Illinois as we all seek to make tomorrow a better place for everyone. We are hopeful and optimistic about what we can do together to build our state’s workforce and economy through talented, driven, well-prepared college graduates.

Click here to view a PDF of the flyer.

U of I ACES Campus