The return to Champaign-Urbana

Jan 14
Molly Singraber, Senior in ACES

Even with the cold winter chill welcoming back the student body, there is a buzz on campus that marks the excitement of spring semester. To me, spring semester differs slightly from fall semester in that there is an air of possibility that comes along with spring. It could be the promises of new year’s resolutions that lead to this feeling, or it could be the start of a semester that ends in summer vacation. Either route brings out a warming feeling to a wintery campus.

With this being my last semester on campus, I am looking forward to embracing time with my friends. I am excited to catch up with fellow ACES students and hear about their study-abroad experiences, winter break activities, and new courses. The comfort of proximity is something I will undoubtedly miss upon graduation.

The most stimulating part of returning to campus is the new coursework that comes along with a new semester. I am particularly looking forward to taking my first agricultural education class this semester. As a student in agricultural communications, I believe that honing my leadership skills will enhance my ability to work as a successful communicator. There is nothing like sitting down with a fresh syllabus to ignite the creativity in a student!

This semester is off to a great start and it is just the beginning. Only time will tell where the spring takes me, but the possibilities are looking bright!

ACES Campus

A closer look at the Plant Care Facility

Jan 14
Nathan Deppe, Plant Care Facility Coordinator

Some of you out there might be asking about the Plant Care Facility. Certain questions like: What is it? Who uses it? When is it used? These are all good questions of which deserve all good answers.

The Plant Care Facility is comprised of two large greenhouse complexes used mainly for agricultural and horticultural research and academics. The Turner Hall Greenhouse is the oldest facility built in the 1960s, boasting seven ranges of rooms for plant growth (see photo below). The Plant Sciences Laboratory Greenhouse (the flagship of our operation) is located mere steps east of the Turner Hall Greenhouse. Sophisticated environmental controls allow us to provide exceptional conditions for a wide variety of research conducted at this facility. ACES faculty and staff utilize our resources daily to meet their goals and objectives. 

We truly are a 24/7, 365 days/year operation dedicated to promoting and enhancing plant growth and development. Next time, I’ll fill you in on the types of plants and research conducted at the Plant Care Facility.

University of Illinois Plant Care Facility

Leaving New Zealand

Jan 12
Ellen Reeder, Senior in ACES

I just finished my last day in New Zealand and I’m feeling as though I never want to leave this beautiful place. Tonight we had dinner on a sailboat and it was definitely my second favorite part of the trip, behind biking through wine country.

Tonight we had wind in our sails as we watched the sunset and laughed about the good times we’ve had together in the last two weeks. It’s hard to believe that just two weeks ago most of the people in this group were strangers to me. Sure we had the common ACES bond, but that was it. It’s amazing to know that these are people who I’ll call some of the best friends I have made in college. They’ve been the wind in my sail for the past two weeks. They’ve made this trip the experience of a lifetime and I owe them for helping me try new things while experiencing a new country.

It’s hard to believe that soon I’ll be back on campus on the other side of the world. After this experience, I’m ready to hit the books, work hard, and be the wind in someone else’s sail.


Ellen Sailing

Roundtable roundup

Jan 11
Richard Vogen, Director, Planning and Research Development

For over a decade now, organizations that have public policy interests related to Illinois agriculture have met together in the Illinois Agricultural Legislative Roundtable – to seek common ground on state and federal issues of importance to the community that makes up agriculture, broadly speaking, in the Prairie State.

On January 9, the Roundtable convened for its annual winter meeting, hosted by the Illinois Farm Bureau in Bloomington.  With the general election and veto sessions now over, the attention is now on issues that confront the new General Assembly in Springfield and the new Congress in Washington.  Everybody knows that money is tight, so the issues going forward are a lot like the ones left on the table – the “farm bill” debate in Washington, the pension debacle in Springfield, and government spending and deficits at all levels.  Also coming off the past year’s drought, the critically low water level in the Mississippi River, threatening navigation to move plant food north or commodities south, has risen to a top-of-mind issue, while all eyes are on the sky for the next growing season.  Industry groups and policy makers have coalesced with the Army Corp of Engineers to work on ways to keep the river open as long as possible.

The main topic of Roundtable discussion this year concentrated on issues related to the livestock industry in Illinois. While economics may argue for growth of local food animal production in states like Illinois – closer to markets and inputs – the Illinois livestock industry faces significant headwinds from many quarters. Not least of the current issues is animal care. Janeen Johnson, associate professor of animal sciences at the University of Illinois, explained to the Roundtable that her research shows how some of the issues related to animal well-being in livestock production are being driven by the wrong forces. As the public is increasingly distant from livestock production, public attitudes toward the industry are shaped by influences often charged with emotion. Science is incredibly valuable for testing assumptions that may lead to unintended consequences in the public policy arena, and Roundtable members turn to the University of Illinois to seek scientifically sound solutions to challenging issues.

The next Illinois Agricultural Legislative Roundtable is scheduled for June 12.

Janeen Johnson
Janeen Johnson, associate professor of animal sciences at the University of Illinois, spoke at the Roundtable.

Check it out

Jan 9
Leann Ormsby, Assistant Dean of Information Technology and Communications Services
If you haven’t yet seen the latest issue of ACES@Illinois, be sure to check it out at This winter 2013 issue of the magazine is full of inspiring stories about ACES students, faculty, staff, and alumni and how our college’s teaching, research, and outreach programs are benefiting people in Illinois and around the world. I’m always so impressed and humbled when I read about the passion and dedication our ACES family has to make a difference in the world. Go ACES!
ACESatIllinois cover

Bridging the transfer experience

Jan 8
Holly Herrera, Coordinator for Transfer Recruitment
I had a transfer student stop by my office yesterday to just say hi and it totally made my day. I have the unique opportunity of developing relationships with prospective transfer students from across the nation and I become that friendly face once they arrive to the University of Illinois campus. I was a transfer student years ago, and I didn’t have that one person that I could contact for a school-related question (or even questions about Champaign-Urbana). Coming to the University of Illinois can be a bit frightening; it is a huge campus with more than 40,000 students. But having that one person to check in with makes all the difference. I am glad to be that person for hundreds of ACES transfer students every semester.

What do you want to GAIN in 2013?

Jan 7
Jean Drasgow, Director of Career Services

Instead of thinking of what you want to lose in the in New Year (i.e. unwanted pounds, bad habits etc.), I suggest thinking about what you can gain. Yes, that is right. I said the four letter word, G-A-I-N.

In terms of moving your career forward, there is an unlimited list of items you could seek to add. For example, you may want to add a mentor or two to your repertoire to navigate the professional world. Perhaps you could gain a marketable skill such as gaining the ability to create a mobile app. Degrees or certifications are also desirable to gain.

Don’t forget to add experiential learning in 2013. Experiential learning manifests in many forms such as job shadowing, studying abroad, volunteering, completing an internship or performing a job. As you can see, it is desirable to gain rather than lose in the world of careers.

Unlike extra pounds and bad habits, when you gain professional skills, abilities and knowledge, you want to flaunt it rather than hide it. Be sure to update your resume and digital footprint to highlight your progress. In sum, a good career New Year’s resolution is to target what you are missing or determine a weakness and add experiences to enhance your portfolio. Once completed, be sure to document the progress.

First class PSM in TSM

Jan 4
K.C. Ting, Head, Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering

One of my exciting tasks as a department head is to take part in recognizing and celebrating the degree completion of our students. Many graduates from our Technical Systems Management (TSM) undergraduate and graduate programs participated in the College of ACES graduate reception in the Illini Union on December 14, 2012. It was a historical event for our department. We graduated the first group of students from our new TSM graduate program. Four students completed their degree requirements for Professional Science Masters (PSM) in TSM.

Our TSM undergraduate program has been very successful in educating technically competent managers for agriculture, mechanization, construction, food, environment, and energy systems. As of fall 2012, we had 201 students enrolled in the undergraduate program. The development of a graduate program in TSM was initiated over 10 years ago. In fall 2011, the brand new master degree program in TSM enrolled seven students for the first time. Three students were pursuing their master of science degrees and four were in the PSM degree option. The degree completion of the four TSM graduate students marked a new era of the graduate education in our department. Dr. Joe Harper has been providing outstanding leadership in developing and coordinating of the TSM graduate program. Congratulations to our first class PSM in TSM!

A more inclusive ACES in 2013

Jan 4
Jesse Thompson, Assistant Dean, Academic Programs

As we move forward into 2013, the ACES student body and campus, like our nation, continues to grow increasingly diverse. It is important that we continue to promote programs and attitudes that encourage cultural pluralism and dispel some of the uncomfortable feelings that we all tend to have about people whose heritage or physical appearance is different. That means that we, as a community of student learners and professional educators, need to come together to develop ways to expand our multicultural perspectives.

Inclusive Illinois, an initiative lead by the Office of the Chancellor, is one of the ways that the campus has sought to recognize and value the changing population on our campus of racial and ethnic minorities, international students, sexual orientation, and people with disabilities. Inclusive Illinois also seeks to help us recognize that diverse backgrounds and experiences influence how we learn together and succeed as a university community.

We seek to help our students, through team-based projects, workplace experiences, travel abroad, and leadership activities in both classroom and non-classroom settings, gain a better understanding of those factors which will be critical for their success in this increasingly diverse and global job market. If we are successful, current students will recognize that each culture has something positive to contribute, and as graduates, they will work together to find solutions to this ever-changing society and global workforce.

ACES in the Dominican Republic

Jan 4
Meredith Blumthal, Director of ACES Education Abroad Program

One of my favorite parts of my job as the Director of Education Abroad for the College of ACES is traveling to the Dominican Republic with my freshman discovery course. We are currently in the Dominican Republic and will be here until January 12. The class is a great mix of students from all backgrounds – urban and rural, representing six different ACES majors. We left January 2 and already have overcome the challenges of travel – airline mechanical issues caused major flight delays which meant we spent way too much time in the Miami airport, but we made it!

Students are learning firsthand about what it means to work and travel globally –even though we arrived at 1 a.m., we still had to be up bright and early for our briefing at the U.S. Embassy. We will be spending our time here in Dominican Republic learning about agricultural and food systems.  Specifically, our program includes learning about sugar cane processing, the entire coffee supply chain, and avocado and banana export processing.

It’s also important to understand the culture of a country if you want to work globally so we will spend time learning about and experiencing Dominican culture from our partners at ISA University in Santiago, which has been our partner for many years.  Although this is only my second time leading this program, ACES has been coming to the Dominican Republic for so many years that many people remember past student groups. Sometimes we even find Illinois memorabilia at their offices from past programs.

The coffee roaster we visit is a great example, as the folks at Columbia Street Roaster in Champaign helped connect our program with the roaster here in the Dominican Republic.  As a result, they always receive us with a warm welcome.  It’s a great example of how global agricultural is in our own backyard.  And after all my travels and experiences, one thing I have learned is that in international agricultural “it is a small world after all.”

The students don’t quite know it yet, but not only are they going to have a great learning experience here in the Dominican Republic, they are also building lifelong friendships with each other.  I have seen it so many times before.  There is something about our short-term study abroad programs in ACES that builds great friendships. It might have to do with traveling together for 10 or more days as you really get to know each other well. That doesn’t just go for the students, it’s a great opportunity for me to get to know them as well. And that’s a great privilege for me.