Cheers to the Green and White

Sep 28
Judy Mae Bingman, 4-H Media & Marketing

October 1 starts the biggest week in 4-H, National 4-H Week. 4-H membership is 6 million strong across the country, with more than 25 million alumni.

Last year, more than 25,000 youth were 4-H club members in Illinois; another 170,000 youth were involved in 4-H through camps, after school programs, and school enrichment programs.

National 4-H Week is a big deal, especially to the dedicated members who get to display what 4-H means to them during this national celebration. It is a time for window displays in local businesses, 4-H t-shirts at school, science experiments, and recruitment parties, lots of parties!

I left 4-H before I had time to truly appreciate what 4-H could mean to me and my future. When I went to work for 4-H, I was determined to keep other kids from making the same mistake I did. Each year at the annual achievement program, I’d call every child on stage as a group by their year in 4-H.

After the applause ended, I had the first, second, and third year members turn around to look at the older kids, those fifth year and older kids standing in the back row. And, I said this to the youngest members; “You’re just getting started, and though you’ve had a good time and learned lots of stuff this year, the AMAZING stuff in 4-H happens when you get to the back row!”

And, it’s true. The trips, the awards, the internships, the international travel, the national conferences all take time to experience. The more you learn and the older you get, the more the 4-H world opens up to you.

Unless. Unless you quit before you’re a backrower.

My challenge was simple… year in and year out. Be a back row 4-H member. It was a simple idea that stuck with them. Without fail, every achievement night, at least one of those kids who made it to the back row came up to me and announced themselves as a “backrow” 4-H member.

I have lots of dreams for Illinois 4-H members. Health. Success. Friendship. Service. Most of all, I hope they will all be backrowers and discover the wonderful treasures awaiting you in 4-H.

Cheers to all ACES students and alum who share this special week as an Illinois 4-H alum. I hope your 4-H memories make you smile.

4H Week

Tami Craig Schilling: My ACES Story

Sep 27
My ACES Story, 150th Anniversary Guest Blogger

Over the past 150 years, the University of Illinois and the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences have been at the forefront of education, discovery, and translation. From improving people’s lives to stretching the frontiers of knowledge, ACES graduates are changing our world for the better. In this special Voices of ACES blog series, we are celebrating and embracing our past. Our ACES story is unique, and its characters are doing remarkable work – work that truly matters.

By Tami Craig Schilling, B.S., '90 Agricultural Communications

From the time I was a little girl, the Illinois logo came into my house each month on 4-H and Extension letters. Then, on a beautiful spring day, I set foot on campus for the state 4-H livestock judging contest, and my life was never the same. I later met ACES leaders Dean Chuck Olson and Dr. Jim Evans during State FFA Convention at Assembly Hall, where they introduced me to my future major: agricultural communications.

Later that year, the most important U of I envelope arrived at my house confirming my college acceptance, and it literally changed my life’s trajectory in ways I never imagined. I just celebrated my 27th year at Monsanto, and I can directly link my ACES Illini experience with providing me an opportunity I never knew existed.

My U of I and ACES experiences have enabled a future I could’ve only dreamed of as a child. From 4-H demonstrations to farmer meetings and field days, from Student Advancement Committee to sales team leadership, from Extension’s agronomy short course to leading Knowledge Transfer Agronomy, from Ag Communications campaign class to leading corporate communications, my Illini roots have kept me connected to my alma mater. I was recently back in Mumford Hall for my final Agricultural and Consumer Economics Advisory Board meeting. Before I left, I passed along my appreciation for the important work they do and for the opportunity to serve the university and college.

No matter how many hours or dollars I give to this fine institution, I will never be able to repay what it has given me. As a 4-Her, an undergrad, a JBT scholar, a student worker, an alumnus, and a contributor, I am part of a 150-year legacy of heritage, excellence, and opportunity. As a small-town farm girl with an Illini dream, I will be forever grateful for the Block I logo and all it represents.


We invite you to tell us your ACES story as we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the University of Illinois and the College of ACES. Share your story on social media using #ACESstory, or visit

Honoring Our Farmland Legacy

Sep 21
Kim Kidwell, Dean of the College of ACES

Land, one of the earth’s most precious resources, is sacred to a farmer. Its soils tell the history of generations of family members who tended it with great care, determination and dedication, producing food and feedstuffs year after year over the course of decades. Farming families consider land to be part of their legacy; parting with it is not a trivial decision. Over the years, the university has been the grateful beneficiary of donations of land from numerous families. Today, the University of Illinois owns over 10,000 acres of farmland, all donated by folks who share our commitment to preservation, expanding research, providing educational opportunities and strengthening Extension. 

A majority of this land remains in crop production through operating agreements that most recently were awarded through a cash bidding process. Soon after stepping into the role of Dean of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES), I learned of the concerns of many within the agricultural industry about the operator selection process for University farms. We investigated the situation, and I was delighted to learn that a review committee was in place and a recommendation had been made to transition the process to a “best candidate” approach, an approach also supported by Chancellor Jones and President Killeen. In this revised selection process, applicants will be considered based on a wide range of factors such as farming experience, demonstrated land stewardship, educational background, and utilization of best management practices including access to modern agricultural technology. The most qualified applicant will be offered an operating agreement at a predetermined rate based on local market conditions, and as long as farms are meeting the U of I’s objectives, the farms typically will only be opened up based on retirements or other  natural “transitions” in management.

By focusing on selecting the most qualified operator instead of the highest bidder, we will better align our processes with current farm management practices, as well as traditions within farming communities throughout the state. This change also will align the University operator selection criteria with the long-held practices of the University of Illinois Foundation.   

Although maintaining a profit is essential for long-term success of any agricultural production system, farming also is deeply rooted in relationships within the local communities where the land is located. To be good stewards of the land, we also must be good stewards of our agricultural relationships. The revised operator selection process will allow the University to ensure sustainability as well as the long-term value of the endowment, manage the land responsibly, and support our local farming communities while continuing to honor the intentions of donors’ gifts of farmland to advance University of Illinois’ land-grant mission. For more information on University of Illinois Foundation farmland gifts, click here.


Warren Endowment Farm
Soybean field on the Warren Endowment Farm, in Piatt County, Illinois – for support of Illinois 4-H.

Kleenex and all the other things your academic advisor can give you

Sep 20
Marla Todd, Associate Director of Advancement Communications

The first few weeks of school can come with some unplanned questions or circumstances. A Western culture course isn’t all that the course description implied. The Spanish class you planned to take at the local community college has been canceled. You decided over the summer that you really do want to have a study abroad experience, but are worried that it won’t fit in your schedule.

All of these scenarios should involve a visit with an academic advisor. Not only are they the most familiar with the information you need to resolve academic challenges, they are also committed to making the student experience a positive one!

Academic advisors are often the individuals who will meet you at the door of their office with the box of Kleenex, like Del Dahl did for me 15 years ago. They also might be the person who provides the “tough love” that you need to push through a situation when you are ready to give up!

What’s my point? Make the appointment! Send the e-mail! Your academic advisor will likely be able to help you out in less time than it takes you to post about the challenge on social media!

And because I probably didn’t say it 15 years ago, “Del, thanks for the Kleenex!”

How did you get here?

Sep 19
Lucas Neira, Animal Sciences graduate student

Whenever I meet some, they always ask me, “How did you get here?” I enjoy answering this question. I’m honored to talk about the path I’ve traveled the last few years, the path that always keeps pushing me forward. I have an amazing family that I have always been able to count on for back-up, and I’ve gotten to know so many people with such amazing stories who have supported me and strengthen me to keep following my dreams.

I realized early in my life that I was passionate about cattle production. I was born in a region of Brazil known for its production of oranges and sugarcane. My parents worked in culinary and construction fields, so where did this passion for beef cattle production come from?

When I was 14, I went to a rural school, and because my parents were not involved in my desired field, I started to travel all over Brazil, either as an intern or as a seasonal worker, to experience cattle production. These experiences gave me the chance to learn amazing things, and 13 years later, I’m still working in beef cattle, proof that I took the right way.

Four years ago, I graduated in veterinary medicine and began to travel around the world to work for great companies in Africa and in South America. But my greatest decision yet happened two years ago when I left my stable career to come to the United States to learn from one of the finest beef cattle producers in the world.

I arrived in Montana without knowing how to speak a single English word.  The amazing Norby family hosted me, and I spent a year learning basic cattle operations and the exciting English language. I soon connected with Dr. Dan Shike, a beef cattle researcher at the University of Illinois, who offered me the opportunity to learn from him. I joined the Dixon Springs Agricultural Center’s Research Farm, an experience that awakened in me a strong desire to learn even more.

Today, I am writing as a Graduate Student at the University of Illinois. Looking back at my path so far, I’m encouraged to put all of my efforts into this new experience. I plan to do my best as I learn and develop projects as part of the ACES family.

Lucas and his friends in Africa, 2007

Gionté Mason: My ACES Story

Sep 18
My ACES Story, 150th Anniversary Guest Blogger

Over the past 150 years, the University of Illinois and the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences have been at the forefront of education, discovery, and translation. From improving people’s lives to stretching the frontiers of knowledge, ACES graduates are changing our world for the better. In this special Voices of ACES blog series, we are celebrating and embracing our past. Our ACES story is unique, and its characters are doing remarkable work – work that truly matters.

By Gionté Mason, FSHN ’19

I love sports. Growing up, I pictured myself moving far away from my home in Bourbonnais to play college football. But things didn’t exactly work that way. I’ll be honest that I didn’t consider the University of Illinois because it was so close to home. However, my dad, an Army war veteran, insisted that I apply for the Children of War Veterans tuition waiver at U of I. I didn’t expect anything to come of it because the award goes to only one student per county each year, and there are a lot of veterans in Kankakee County. When I found out the good news that my U of I tuition would be completely covered by this waiver, I called my dad, knowing that it would be a huge weight off of his shoulders to hear that I would be going to college without any financial burdens. I went to the U of I that fall majoring in biology, with my heart set on medical school. If I wasn’t going to play sports as a career, I wanted to stay connected to athletics through sports medicine. I loved the Illinois campus—it felt like home.

But my love for my studies wasn’t as strong. I struggled to connect with the material in my biology classes. It’s not that the material was too tough, and I wasn’t afraid of working hard. But it just wasn’t clicking. I couldn’t relate to the content or apply it to my own life. A friend in my honors fraternity encouraged me to try a nutrition class in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition. My first class, FSHN 101, was like a breath of fresh air. I could apply the class to my life. I began incorporating the things I was learning and uncovered a passion for dietetics. Now I’m working in a dietetics research lab. Things look a lot different than I thought they would my senior year of high school, but I’ve found my groove. Finding my passion has allowed me to grab opportunities and to move forward, full speed ahead. And there’s no other school in the world where I’d choose to live out this process.

We invite you to tell us your ACES story as we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the University of Illinois and the College of ACES. Share your story on social media using #ACESstory, or visit

Say Hello to Handshake

Sep 18
Jean Drasgow, Director of ACES Career Services

“Hello… Is it me you’re looking for? Cause I wonder where you are and what you do...”

In 1983, Lionel Richie probably didn’t know that he was predicting the exciting new things happening at ACES Career Services in 2017. As a campus, the University of Illinois has adopted a new career services platform called Handshake @ Illinois. Handshake was selected for its likeness to social media platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn. Additionally employers only need a single login to recruit at multiple schools – eliminating the need for multiple accounts and passwords!

Replacing I-Link, Handshake is the new portal to find jobs and internships, on-campus interviews, workshops, career coaching appointments, and much more.  Handshake is used at more than 400 schools nationwide and by 230,000 employers around the globe, providing ACES students with more opportunities than ever before.

This new platform makes it easier for students and employers to find exactly “who they’re looking for” by providing job recommendations based on more than just a student’s major. Students complete a profile in Handshake that includes “where they are and what they do.” Adding interests, skills, and location preferences to a Handshake profile enhances job recommendations based on the student’s profile. Similar to finding the right tune on Spotify or movie on Netflix, the more profile information provided to Handshake, the more targeted the job recommendations are for the user.

ACES Career Services is excited to be launching this new platform and hope you will join us in discovering how it can help both our students and employers.

What We Do and Why It Matters

Sep 14
Kim Kidwell, Dean of the College of ACES

It is an incredible honor to serve as the Dean of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, where we walk the talk of the land-grant mission. I often wish that other people could see what I see every day: 185 faculty and over 1,500 staff members statewide doing their best to improve the quality of life of people in the state of Illinois, across the nation, and around the world. I am proud of the ACES community, and continually marvel at the quality of our faculty, staff, and students. We embrace challenge with resiliency and persistence, knowing that the outcome is worth even the most difficult of journeys because what we do matters to people.  

In order to better share the value of our work, I issued a challenge to members of our academic departments several months ago: create a 2- to 3-sentence statement that reflects what you do and why it matters so that anyone who reads it can understand the importance of your contributions. I am truly thrilled to share with you the outcome of that effort. Thanks to the talented efforts of our Director of Communications and Marketing, Jennifer Shike, we have a complete set of “What We Do and Why It Matters” statements for each of our departments and academic programs, which can be found here. The document can be searched for keywords using Ctrl+F. The department/program statements are also linked below for your convenience.

Agricultural and Biological Engineering

Agricultural and Consumer Economics

Agricultural Education

Agricultural Communications

Animal Sciences

Crop Sciences

Food Science and Human Nutrition

Human Development and Family Studies

Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences  

You may find a colleague from a different department with an area of interest that would complement your work by reading through these statements. A prospective graduate student may find their ideal advisor by looking at these descriptions. An industry partnership might evolve when people realize the capacity of our research portfolio. At the very least, people will be very impressed with the quality of the faculty and staff that create the essence of this college. We will distribute this information broadly to bring awareness to the talent base within the college and to help you connect to colleagues with common interests. 

By the way, if you are wondering what I do and why it matters …

I set the strategic priorities for the college and help generate resources to support our efforts while managing faculty, staff, and students to promote excellence in the three legs of our land-grant mission: teaching, research, and extension. I empower people to be transformational change agents that address the world’s biggest challenges to improve the quality of life and well-being of people around the globe.

Kim and Brandon

Larry Fisher: My ACES Story

Sep 13
My ACES Story, 150th Anniversary Guest Blogger

Over the past 150 years, the University of Illinois and the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences have been at the forefront of education, discovery, and translation. From improving people’s lives to stretching the frontiers of knowledge, ACES graduates are changing our world for the better. In this special Voices of ACES blog series, we are celebrating and embracing our past. Our ACES story is unique, and its characters are doing remarkable work – work that truly matters.

By Larry Fischer, M.S. ’74 Agricultural Education

Once ACES is in your blood, it’s hard to let it go. I guess that’s why I found myself serving on the College of Agriculture Alumni Association Board and subsequent ACES Alumni Association Board, the Illinois 4-H Foundation Board, and the Chancellor’s Commission on Extension. One of my favorite “board” stories surrounded the construction of the ACES library. Lynette Marshall spoke at one of our alumni meetings about how the college needed a new library. She explained that John Campbell, the previous dean, was instrumental in kicking off the fundraising campaign, successfully soliciting $1 million from the Funk family. The campaign was nearing the 10-year mark; almost $10 million had been raised privately, but it was still not enough to construct the library. After hearing these reports over and over, I was getting tired of them.

As board president I finally said, “Why don’t we follow the old model of the PTA organization and ask the state legislature to provide 50 percent of the money for the project if we can raise the other half? It’s time we get this project done!” I offered to write each Illinois senator and representative in the General Assembly to request an appropriation for the half of the funds we did not have, since we knew it would be a $20-million project. Thankfully, Warren Wessels said, “By gosh, let’s do it! I’ll even write the letter for you to sign, Larry.” I sent the letter on behalf of the ACES Alumni Association. The rest is history, and the library construction was completed in 2001.


We invite you to tell us your ACES story as we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the University of Illinois and the College of ACES. Share your story on social media using #ACESstory, or visit

Sweet potato fries and selfies

Sep 13
Jennifer Shike, Director for Communications and Marketing

There’s no doubt about it, we know how to have fun in the College of ACES. It’s been a whirlwind of activities around here – activities that have drawn me closer to my ACES family. From eating sweet potato fries with the Chancellor at the Illinois State Fair to taking selfies with Dean Kidwell at the Farm Progress Show, I feel fortunate to be a part of a college where people really do matter. And we just don’t say that to lure people here. We live it out each and every day. The connections we have allow us to collaborate in an effective and meaningful way in order to do amazing things that make a difference in people’s lives.

Tomorrow night, we’re bringing our ACES family together for our first ACES Fall Festival. This event is going to be an awesome opportunity to meet the people who make up the College of ACES. From freshmen to emeriti professors, we welcome you to join us this Thursday, Sept. 14, from 4 to 6 p.m. on the North Lawn by the Stock Pavilion for a free BBQ dinner, the chance to win great prizes, and most importantly, time to network and get to know your ACES family better.

Farm Progress Show