An investment in the future

Apr 29
Meg Cline, Associate Dean of Advancement

Spring is always my favorite time on campus. Along with all the new signs of life that come with spring, I enjoy watching our students “blossom” with excitement over summer internships, new careers, and celebrating the accomplishments and lessons learned that the past academic year has brought. The accomplishments and ambitions of these young people strengthen my faith in the world of tomorrow.

In addition to celebrating student accomplishments, I also enjoy the opportunity spring brings to reflect and give thanks to those who have invested in the youth of tomorrow. This reminder was made very clear earlier this month when we recognized several outstanding students from Christian County, Illinois who received the Anna Lou Johnston Roth Scholarship. While the students are all remarkable young people, the lady behind this story is pretty remarkable too!

Anna Lou Johnston Roth was a true philanthropist – she made personal sacrifices in her life to ensure that future generations would be able to afford a college education. Because of Anna Lou’s vision and dream, over $80,000 per year is available from her fund alone for deserving students in the fields of agriculture, business, and law. As college costs rise, this investment in the next generation has certainly allowed for a college education to be a dream come true for many young people. 

Thank you Anna Lou Johnston Roth and so many of you who invest in our  future with the gift of an education. I can assure you that the  “return” on that investment is in full bloom here in the College of ACES!

Roth Scholarship Winners

Hands on learning served up

Apr 28
Marla Todd, Associate Director of Advancement Communications

For many college students, Friday nights mean an opportunity to relax and avoid coursework for a few days. For seniors in hospitality management, Friday nights during the spring semester bring the culmination of their studies as they execute their own restaurant operations in the Spice Box.

These students invite guest chefs from around the country to guide them in developing a restaurant concept, menu, and marketing and then execute. I should also add that their restaurant has to operate in the black so careful pricing and financial planning has to come in to play.

A longstanding fixture on the U of I campus, the Spice Box, is located on the second floor of Bevier Hall and open to the public. Reservations are required for the meals.

“The opportunity to work closely with industry professionals gives our students a realistic, hands-on experience in managing a restaurant and the team of individuals that comprise a successful staff,” said Jill Craft, instructor of the Spice Box course.

Learn more about the Spice Box at or like the Spice Box on Facebook.

Spice Box

Lake Country Illinois

Apr 25
Richard Vogen, Director, Planning and Research Development

We don’t often think of Illinois as the land of lakes, but if you have ventured almost anywhere in the prairie state over during the last week, you would have seen ponds and lakes appearing all over the landscape. Last summer, we couldn’t buy a drop of rain in Illinois and across much of the middle of the United States. But each year is different, and a mid-April deluge of precipitation fell on Illinois this past week. The rivers are still cresting in some areas, as communities downstream prepare for the flooding, especially in the Illinois River valley and on the Mississippi River below the confluence. Last year, planting was already well underway, with the warm and dry spring conditions. This year, it’s been cold and wet, and almost nothing is in the ground yet. Until it dries out and warms up, planting will be delayed. That means some farmers will consider switching acres from corn to soybeans, and as time goes by for planting and crop emergence, yields may be affected. So besides the obvious impact on communities in the way of the water, keep an eye on the rain’s effects on this early part of the season. That said, the precipitation has very much mitigated the lingering effects of the drought conditions, and crops do like to have some water to grow.

AdvanCES in Research

Apr 25
Leann Ormsby, Assistant Dean of Information Technology and Communications Services

One of my most enjoyable activities is learning about the innovative, high-impact research taking place in our college. I’m always pleased to discover the many ways ACES faculty, students, and research staff are addressing key societal needs and solving major challenges facing Illinois and the world.

AdvanCES in Research is a new publication of the Office of Research that shares 31 articles on exciting research taking place in the College of ACES. When you have a moment, be sure to peruse the magazine to learn how the college is investigating red seaweed as a biofuel, underwater carbon dioxide as a barrier for Asian carp, new infant formula ingredients that boost babies’ immunity, two species of elephants in Africa, and more. What wonderful examples of the outstanding research taking place in ACES!



Making a difference

Apr 24
Marise Robbins-Forbes, ACES Director of Development, Crop Science and NRES

What a week! Campus is buzzing with celebrations for Earth Week and a vision of sustainability. Earlier this month I had the privilege of meeting an NRES alumnus, Dr. Abram Bicksler, who is making a difference each and every day. Dr. Bicksler was visiting from Thailand to accept the Charles C. Stewart International Young Humanitarian Award. 

His research, teaching and collaborations with 1,500+ partners throughout SE Asia through ISDSI and ECHO Asia exemplify the best in grassroots education and outreach. By knitting together skilled, small share farmers, connecting them with each other as well as experts from around the world, Abrams' work both honors them as individuals and leverages each person's knowledge. 

I was touched deeply by his exceptional depth and strength of character. Abram's dedication and directed actions are indeed reducing hunger and improving lives.

Dr. Abram Bicksler
Dr. Abram Bicksler (left) receives the Charles C. Stewart International Young Humanitarian Award from Wolfgang Schlor.

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