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

Taking a break from it all

Mar 27
Nicole Chance, Sophomore in Agricultural Communications
  

Welcome back to campus! To be honest, it was really hard for me to get excited about coming back here after a much needed, relaxing break. Yet I feel like I have come back rejuvenated and ready to finish these last seven weeks of school stronger than ever. And sometimes that is just what you need, a break to just focus on yourself and get your mind back on track.

Before break I was so stressed about everything and anything. I was trying to get assignments turned in on time, I was trying to keep up with work, I was trying to help coordinate and delegate tasks in a club I am involved in, and I was trying to figure out how I could eat healthier and exercise more to maintain a healthier lifestyle.

Unfortunately all of these things I listed off can overwhelm and consume our lifestyles. Sometimes we need a break; whether it is being on a beach, reading a book, spending a few days at home, etc. Our bodies and minds simply need time to cool down and rest.

I am so grateful I was able to take my much needed break and travel to Bonita Springs, Florida for a few days. The beach for me is a quiet, calming, peaceful place that really makes the stressful obstacles encompassing my life seem much smaller than I originally thought they were. My mind was at rest with the feeling I was not expected to do anything. I could sleep in, listen to music, taste amazing food and just do absolutely nothing all day.

Even though this was my final spring break before the real-world, it has made me consider how important taking short breaks sometimes are for the body and mind. I hope even after I graduate college and start working a full-time job or having a family someday, I am able to recognize when it is time for a break. A break where I can come back more motivated, intentional, and stronger than ever.

Bright moments on not-so-sunny days

Mar 26
Debra Korte, Teaching Assistant Professor, Agricultural Education
  

The Agricultural Education (AGED) Program had the privilege of hosting nearly 600 FFA members, parents, agriculture teachers, and alumni for the State FFA Awards Day on Saturday, March 24. The purpose of this annual event is for a committee to interview the top five FFA members in 50 unique proficiency areas and select a state winner. In many instances, this is the culmination of three years of hard work for an FFA member and their advisor.

As a former FFA member and high school agriculture teacher, I am very familiar with the stress and excitement associated with State FFA Awards Day.

From my perspectives as both a high school agriculture teacher and now as one of the coordinators for this event, I always hope the sun is shining on State FFA Awards Day, the temperature is just right, and flowers are blooming. My ideal vision for the day includes blue skies and green grass on the Main Quad – the ideal backdrop for photos of proud FFA advisors standing with their excited (and slightly nervous) students.

Last Saturday, there was no shining sun for State FFA Award Day. Instead, snow and every other form of wintery precipitation fell from the sky and covered the green grass. As an extra bonus, it was cold and windy.

In spite of the not-so-sunny conditions, there were bright and sunny moments throughout the day.

  • Behind the scenes, there was a dedicated team of volunteers – current and former university students along with members of the state FFA officer team – who assisted with the event. Each volunteer displayed the vibrant glow of commitment and determination as they trudged through the snow and braved the elements. Throughout the duration of the event, I did not hear a single complaint. Volunteers gave up a Saturday during spring break to help FFA members and agriculture teachers. They arrived on time despite the conditions, bundled up with winter clothes, and made the most of the not-so-sunny day.   
  • The usual radiance of pride and anxious anticipation from each teacher and student who participated in the day was ever-present on each face. The pictures on social media from State Awards Day reflected the bright and sunny moments for each teacher and student. 

In the words of Jacob Meisner, current agriculture teacher and AGED alumnus, “If it were sunny every day I wouldn't have fun stories!” Here’s to more fun stories and sunny moments, especially on not-so-sunny days.

Registration open for ACES Family Academies

Mar 23
Tina Veal, Director of Alumni Relations
  

While spring is in the air, we are thinking about summer!  We are excited to announce the 2018 ACES Family Academies registration is now open.  The 2018 ACES Family Academies will be held July 12 and 13 on the College of ACES campus!

ACES Family Academies is a two-day, hands-on educational and intergenerational alumni event that happens right here at the College of ACES.  Alumni are invited to bring youth from ages 8 to 13 years old to participate.  Do you have a child, grandchild, or niece/nephew that would love learning about robotics, food science, money, drones, bees, or wild birds?  The College of ACES Family Academies has over 20 sessions that you and your children can learn hands-on from faculty and staff in the College of ACES.

The ACES Alumni Association began ACES Family Academies in 2014 to engage our alumni to bring the next generation of Illini to learn about the College of ACES, live in the dorms, and eat in the dining hall – all while having fun, making new friends, and maybe even reconnecting with college friends back on campus with their families! 

What do I love about this alumni event?  The College of ACES continues to showcase that we are a family!  Alumni young and old, join us to celebrate the one thing we have in common – agriculture and the love for our college and university.  I love to see young people excited about learning new things, feeling like they belong on our campus at a young age, and seeing our alumni share their stories about the memories they had while being back at their alma mater!  There really is nothing better than that feeling you get when you “return home” to share these experiences.

I hope you will join us or share this event with others to take advantage of this opportunity to share your passion about your alma mater and ignite others to find their passion too!  ACES has so much to offer today, and you may find something new that was not part of college when you were a student.

Registration is due May 15 for ACES Alumni and then will open to others until June 1.  Registration can be found online by visiting: https://acesalumni.illinois.edu/events/aces-family-academies

We look forward to welcoming you back to Champaign-Urbana in the summer of 2018!

Cultivating post-grad life

Mar 22
Kelsey Litchfield, ACES Communications & Marketing
  

I thought I wanted to be a meteorologist. But, the physics and mathematical equations were too much for this small-town girl. On a visit to the University of Illinois during my junior year of high school, my dad discovered a brochure that described the agricultural communications program. He told me I should consider it because I loved to talk.

Fast forward two years and I’m a freshman at U of I. I had to pick a concentration within the ag comm program. I decided to go the journalism route because it seemed interesting and hands-on.

Throughout my four years in college, I had many experiences that spiraled me into success. I took journalism classes that evolved my passion for digital media. I experienced internships within the agriculture communications industry that opened many doors for me. With all of these experiences under my belt, I knew I’d have a job before graduation rolled around.   

Well, three weeks before graduation I was still unemployed. I felt as if I failed at what I was expected to do and what society wanted me to do. Looking back, that’s where a valuable life lesson started to unfold.

As young people, society tells us to have our lives together once we graduate college. We are supposed to have an exhilarating career, get married, and buy a house. You should do this and you should do that because it’s the norm. I’ll be the first one to say that post-college life is anything but that.

For me, I’m focusing on my career. We talk a lot about sustainability in agriculture and I feel as if our careers should be the same. We shouldn’t be expected to achieve everything by the time we are 23. If you think about it, a farmer has to build up land, money, etc. and that can take years.

As fresh college graduates, we feel that we can conquer the world right away. I hope that we all impact our society one way or the other – but we can’t expect to right away. We should evolve our careers through all the successes and failures. And if we stay complacent, I believe we will never reach our true potential.

So, for the upcoming May graduates, don’t fear if you don’t have a job lined up. Believe in yourself and continue searching. Don’t look towards what others already have, find what you suits your passion.

For those that are ready to start your new job, keep the attitude of a student. Be willing to learn and don’t be afraid to fail, because you will. I definitely have and I learned so much from my failures.

As for me, I started a new adventure shortly after my college graduation. I continue to evolve my passion for ag journalism every day while growing other ventures. No matter where I will go, my #ACESstory will continue to evolve.

Collaboration and connection are highlights of NRES online M.S. program

Mar 13
Piper Hodson
  

As I write this blog, I just wrapped up an online meeting with seven students in the NRES online M.S. program. I was blown away by the level of collaboration and support they offered each other. These are all students who have completed most or all of their coursework and are now working to complete their capstone projects and papers.

As anyone who has ever written a long paper will know, it is a difficult process that often creates feelings of isolation. Those challenges are magnified in an online program, in which you are not physically surrounded by other students in a similar situation. However, I am so pleased that students are leveraging the opportunities for support provided by the program. During the meeting, I saw students give suggestions about how to avoid possible pit falls, offer to connect another student with someone whose knowledge might be helpful, and just generally let each other know that they are dealing with the same struggles.

The work these students did on their capstone projects was equally impressive. Students gave us updates on their projects such as:

·         A management plan for 80 acres of privately owned land. (As another student commented, “That’s huge!”)

·         An herbicide injury study that involves 60 experimental plots

·         A three-year wetland restoration

I love working with NRES online M.S. students! They are intelligent, driven, and they bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to our program.

Think you or someone you know might want to join this terrific group of students? Check us out at https://nres.illinois.edu/online/prospective!

When Opportunity Comes a Knockin’

Mar 8
Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering
  

by Claire Hanrahan

When I was an admitted student, I would go to a variety of events to decide if Illinois was truly the place I wanted to give $140,000 to. The events typically involved a speech by the dean of the college (and some notable alumni) on the many opportunities available to students. If you’re a nervous wreck like me, after you hear enough of these speeches, it starts to sound like college is a race for success. And if you’re not taking constant advantage of everything, you’re lagging behind. 

While that assessment is a bit overblown, it’s not entirely false. More companies are looking for students who have shown leadership potential and have some experience in the field. A 4.0 GPA isn’t enough anymore. 

So what to do? First, get yourself out there. Look for research positions and attend career fairs. This is really the only step, but it’s the most important one! Even if you don’t think you’ll get the internship or research position you want, every rejection can be treated as a learning opportunity. 

And where better to find those opportunities than the ABE department? I often hear stories about how difficult it is to get in contact with professors in other departments. Fortunately, that’s not a concern with ABE.

In every ABE class I’ve attended, the professor walked in on the first day and promised to learn everyone’s name within the first two weeks. The passion these professors have for teaching is obvious; it practically bubbles out of them. They’re constantly encouraging students to look for opportunities within the department and some have invited students to be a part of the project they’re working on. 

And it goes even further than that. One of our professors takes 14 freshman every year on a trip to Puerto Rico to get some first-hand experience with the challenges of farming. During your sophomore year, every class is accompanied with a lab portion to allow students to have hands-on experience with the material. The ABE faculty are doing everything they can to set their students up for success and that’s really the strength of the department.

College is a new start and is a perfect opportunity to explore your interests and challenge yourself. If you don’t, it’s difficult to grow either professionally or personally. Take it from me, the socially awkward bookworm who has the chance to write this today because I decided to apply to be an ABE ambassador. 

[Claire Hanrahan is a sophomore in Agricultural and Biological Engineering.]

 

 

A farmer by any other name

Mar 7
Lauren Quinn, ACES Media Specialist
  

Recently, I had the opportunity to write a story for an external magazine, iBi, which serves the business community in Peoria. The editors asked me to write about the ag career outlook, so naturally, I turned to ACES staff and alums to learn more.

My first stop was Jean Drasgow, Director of ACES Career Services. She showed me pages and pages of “first destination” data showing where ACES graduates wound up the first year after graduation. It was no surprise to see the breadth of companies employing our graduates, given the extremely broad array of educational opportunities these young people had as ACES students.

Jean suggested that a story on careers in agriculture should emphasize that the face of agriculture itself is changing, as evidenced by the changing career placements in crop sciences, animal sciences, and NRES graduates in the recent past; many graduates employed in tech and engineering sectors or environmental sectors are actually working on solving problems in agriculture.  

One of the ACES alums I talked to, Tami Craig Schilling, made a similar point.

“When you think about the role agriculture plays in Illinois and the region, people don’t realize how many jobs are dependent or related to it,” said the nearly 28-year Monsanto employee, now serving in the role of agronomy knowledge transfer lead.

“If you think about inputs that go into agriculture, whether it’s equipment, biological products, fertilizers, or fuels to keep machines moving, those are all jobs. And if you add in the agency work – soil and water conservation agencies, USDA – these are good, stable jobs, and there are just a lot of them,” she said.

Tami pointed specifically to the rise of digital technologies in agriculture as a trend to watch.

“The amount of money that has gone into ag venture capital over the last two years is just jaw-dropping,” she said. “And investors are putting their money in interesting places: it’s IT, digital, and data analytics – solving problems with new tools. These investments are a clear signal to me that there are going to be jobs in these career areas.”

ACES programs are changing to meet the demands of these new career paths. The Department of Crop Sciences is now taking applications for its new CS + Crop Sciences degree, in which students will receive a solid foundation in both computer science and traditional agriculture. The Department of Animal Sciences is looking into creating a similar program, as well.

Jobs in agriculture may not fall into the same categories they did 20 years ago, but Tami points out a pattern that has remained consistent over time. “I think people in ag get into this work because they want to make a difference, want to do something bigger than themselves. Ag offers that opportunity. It’s pretty awe-inspiring to me.”

Growing Leaders in ACES

Mar 5
Jean Drasgow, Director of ACES Career Services
  

Fourteen students meet weekly in the basement of Mumford Hall to design the ultimate ACES Open House and facilitate the Explore ACES Admitted Student Day. These budding leaders are developing communication skills and collaborating among themselves as well as faculty and staff to deliver the most interactive open house in ACES history. So far, they have divided themselves into subcommittees covering curriculum, logistics, communication, etc. The committee has drafted schedules and plans to ensure guests have ample experiences during their visit and a deeper understanding of ACES. They do all of this while managing full course loads, RSO roles, and jobs. Each meeting, I am impressed with the respect, decorum, and efficiency these men and women maintain.

Why are these committee members so enthusiastic about Explore ACES? To put it simply, they are excited about the College of ACES and want others to have as good of a college experience as they have had.

To see for yourself, plan your visit to Explore ACES on Friday, March 9.

Things to Do and Sights to See

  • Tour the ACES Campus every half hour, from 9:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
  • Visit ACES Registered Student Organizations |Stock Pavilion, from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
  • Learn about ACES Scholarships, Careers, Student Success, Study Abroad, and More| ACES Library from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
  • Participate in ACES Departmental Experiences |(various locations) at 10:00 a.m.; 11:00 a.m.; 1:00 p.m.; and 2:15 p.m. Selected examples: Drone Demo; Your Nose Talks to Your Tongue; Sink or Swim Leadership and Team Building; Eating Dirt; Popcorn Tasting and Audience Feedback; and Dog Agility.
  • Listen to All About ACES |Monsanto Room at 12:00 p.m.

How do you save your best moments?

Feb 26
Lucas Neira, Animal Sciences graduate student
  

I realized early in life the importance of saving memories. I grew up seeing my dad gather old pictures from people who lived in our small town (Taquaral, Sao Paulo, Brazil) and writing their stories, with the intention of sharing someday. He did a great job even though he was a bricklayer who only finished elementary school.

Years later, he built a collection of almost 50 framed photographs, sharing the history of our town as no one had ever done before. At the same time, I started to think about how I could save the amazing moments from my life that I was living to share with others in the future. That’s when I began to take more pictures and discovered my passion.

As a veterinarian working in one of the wildest and most beautiful places of Brazil (Pantanal region), my passion found a room to travel with me. I got more involved in taking pictures, preserving memories of my experiences with nature, cowboys and horses, and driving and dealing with cattle. It ended up that my passion helped me to work towards my purpose -- to show how great and important our agriculture industry is throughout the world.

So today my message is very simple: take pictures as often as you can. Save memories of your parents, your kids, your buddies, and your partner. Do not miss the opportunity to eternalize a moment and create a unique memory. I lost my dad, but I took amazing pictures and recorded some videos that today make me happy even when living thousands of miles away from home.

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