Never lose your sense of wonder: 2021 Dec. Convocation
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December 16, 2021

Vanessa Cahill, an ACES graduating senior in ACE, majoring in policy, international trade and development, delivered this December’s ACES convocation speech. She said, "Due to the pandemic, I was unable to study a semester abroad as planned during my time at Illinois. This pushed me to buckle down and finish my degree by December to take a few months and explore new parts of the world before starting work. If ACES has shown me one thing, it is the endless opportunity in this industry. That being said, I am not limiting myself to working in America. Traveling to different countries around the world will expose me to new sides of agriculture that I have never considered. Internships in agricultural supply chain and digital technology (precision agriculture) have shown me that these are areas where I strive to make an impact. My goal is to have a job secured by the end of the summer that allows me to work on the efficiency of global agricultural supply chains or develop agricultural technology."

Cahill's December convocation address:

Lee Ann Womack once said, “I hope you never lose your sense of wonder.” The College of ACES has shown me the potential that our faculty and staff see in each and every one of us. Three and a half years ago, I came into the college as an ACES Undeclared major with no environmental science knowledge or agricultural background. I had no idea what possibilities this industry would have in store. After just one week in ACES, I knew that there was no place more fit for me.

The enthusiasm and devotion the professors brought to class was motivating and sparked my interest in agriculture and international development. This is what confirmed my decision to declare my major in the College of ACES. Suddenly, I felt eager to be a part of this supportive community that has since become my second family. I fell in love with the global and innovative classes, the knowledge and passion expressed in lectures by the professors, and most of all, the inspiration and encouragement that came from the people sitting around me.

Each year, the College of ACES has shown us new adventures, opportunities, and how to navigate through challenges. These have been the most intriguing and eye opening experiences of my life. In my first year, I was able to visit Panama and discover agricultural systems in the Caribbean. Hearing stories of adventures and experiences from classmates who experienced different perspectives of agriculture enhanced my understanding of the industry.

Working together and learning from each other has been a foundation of our education.

ACES has recruited some of the brightest and most passionate students and professors from around the world. Professors here have done extensive research in various global regions and are always willing to have conversations about related topics, even if it's not in the curriculum. Some examples of their research relate to the essential areas of food insecurity, water management, and global supply chains.

Closing out this year, I reflect on the incredible strides that our professors made to make our learning experience meaningful and engaging. I will never forget the support from peers and the ACES community. I can’t think of a better place to host an incredibly diverse learning experience.

Together, we can make a positive impact on the future of agricultural, consumer and environmental sciences because it is what we believe in. Let’s share what we have learned here to be leaders in an industry that so many depend on. We are the difference. The choices we make will transform and lead our industry. Be flexible, ambitious, and welcome ideas that will have positive and lasting effects in agriculture and the world today. As you work your way out of a position, into the next and even more rewarding one, don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions. Say ‘yes’ more than ‘no’.

Finally, I hope that none of us, as we go our separate ways, loses our sense of wonder in the world.