The bridge of agricultural communications between the University of Illinois and prospective ACES students is expanding with The Morrow, a new online magazine publication completely student built from the ground up.
The Spring 2022 semester saw a new class launched in the Agricultural Leadership, Education, and Communications (ALEC) program. AGCM 398: Publication Development and Production led by Dr. Owen Roberts, equipped students with the skills to connect past, present, and future ALEC students through this new platform. Backed with an outpouring of support from the college, alumni, and ALEC program, the project quickly came to life.
A class of 11 ALEC students tackled the magazine assignment using campus history as a foundation and program transparency as their motivation. The class divided into roles, encompassing each of the three ALEC fields—leadership, education, and communication—to take the magazine from an idea to reality. The students’ roles ranged from photo editor to marketing manager to distribution manager, allowing them to fully make the publication their own and inspired the phrase by students, for students, seen on the magazine cover and elsewhere in the publication.
But before much work could get underway, the most visible part of the publication had to be decided: the name. Teaming up with the AGCM 220: Communicating Agriculture class, the students compiled a list of nearly 150 name options to concisely convey the essence of the magazine.
Ultimately The Morrow was chosen. This name highlights the storied history of the university while showing prospective students where they fit into the near future of the ALEC program. Sarah Richey, an agricultural communications senior, submitted the winning name choice. Sarah, who hails from an Illinois farm, said she recalled feeling “a sense of familiarity” when she first saw The Morrow Plots during a university tour. The class members knew that the name was perfect because they wanted future students to feel that familiarity when they opened The Morrow.
With the name in place, the AGCM 398 students went to the drawing board, identifying every piece they wanted to incorporate into the magazine. Outside of class, hours were dedicated to interviewing career professionals, ALEC professors and staff, arranging funding, attending photoshoots, creating distribution plans and communicating with other stakeholders. In class, the students came together twice a week for 90 minutes to piece together creative design aspects, editorial adjustments, and challenging final decisions. With helpful guidance from Dr. Roberts and magazine designer, Troy Courson, page by page, The Morrow was created.
What should readers expect from The Morrow? The inaugural edition offers a first-hand look into the lives and involvement of current ALEC students, for prospective students. Specific highlights include where an ALEC degree can take you, the experiential learning opportunities within each ALEC track, inclusivity across a diverse campus, and of course a healthy dose of Illini pride. The Morrow also benefited the students behind it, giving them the unique chance to develop marketable skills that will capture the eye of future employers. While it came in the form of a class assignment, it quickly became more than that to the students: it was real life.
The creation of The Morrow is just a glimpse of what the ALEC program offers its students. The developing program and curriculum encompass realistic and authentic career-like learning within the classroom. Infused with experiences, students gain a different set of skills that employers seek most, and provide a memorable contribution to the evolving ALEC program.
Jada Davis, from Homer, IL, is entering her senior year in crop sciences. Ava Oros, from Hettick, IL, is entering her senior year in agricultural communications. They both are employed as interns this summer in the agriculture sector, with BASF Agricultural Solutions and John Deere.