It’s a Family Thing
By Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering
February 5, 2018

By Kara Brockamp, junior in ABE

On campus I hear all the time that the sense of community in the College of ACES is strong and that it feels like family. Walk into any office, administrative or academic, and there’s a good chance that someone there will know you by name. At the very least, new faces are greeted with a friendly smile and a “how can we help?” Even Dean Kidwell is all in for this sense of oneness. A quick search of her Twitter account yielded about fifty tweets referencing “family” or “community” since she returned to Illinois in the fall of 2016. But for me in the College of ACES and, in particular, the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, “family” reaches a whole new level.

The ABE department stands well on its own with top-ranked programs at a Big Ten university. However, the extra little push I needed to enroll in ABE as a freshman came from my dad, Dale. He earned his bachelor’s degree in agriculture engineering in 1989, so orange and blue ran through my veins from an early age. I have very fond memories of coming to Explore ACES, Engineering Open House, and countless football and basketball games when I was little. As it turns out, my twin brother Alex must have liked the trips to Champaign-Urbana too, because he also decided to attend the University of Illinois… in agricultural and biological engineering!

One of the top questions Alex and I are asked is, “What’s it like to be a twin?” So far, the best response we have come up with is something along the lines of “What’s it like to not be a twin?” But in all seriousness, it is odd to think about life as a singleton. We attended the same small high school and, due to the size, we usually had the same class schedule. So in an effort to not branch out too much (ha!) at this marvelous, storied institution of 44,000 students and 5,000+ courses, when we got to college we planned most of our classes together. And it has worked out well for both of us. Since we are in different specializations, we still get time to dive into our separate interests and likely will not work together professionally beyond college. For now, he’s my competitor, study buddy, friend, and so much more all rolled into one!

It’s easy for the ABE department to feel like family. After all, the average incoming class size for an ABE major is about 40 students and for TSM it’s about 45. You take the same classes at first and, with the help of Anne Marie Boone’s selected sections of university-wide courses like chemistry and calculus, you really do spend a lot of time with your departmental classmates. Many of the relationships I’ve made here will stick with me for a lifetime. I am so thankful for the support system I have in my biological family and in my family-by-choice through the ABE department and the College of ACES.