ACE students discover career opportunities in their own backyard

ACE students discover career opportunities in their own backyard

Mar 2
Theresa Miller, Academic Advisor, Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics

It has been said that the best education you will ever receive is through adventures. The University of Illinois is globally known for its world-class study abroad opportunities; however, what many do not realize is that it does not take a twelve-hour plane ride to see life in an entirely new light. In fact, the 20 ACE students that visited Chicago this winter break found out just how many opportunities were offered just outside their backyard.

The trip was the conclusion of the course ACE 398, Agribusiness and Financial Markets in Chicago, led by Jon Scholl, an ACE instructor.  As a part of the course, students were split into four groups: Commodity Markets, Agricultural Finance, Food Manufacturing, Processing and Service, and Local Food Production; each group researched issues surrounding these topics in the light of the companies visited on the trip.

The Commodity Markets group focused on the physical or virtual marketplace for buying, selling, and trading raw primary products. Students visited the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Demeter Capital Management, OSI Group, and Eli’s Cheesecake, allowing them the opportunity to ask questions of firms engaged in commodity trading first hand.  Seeing possible future professional outcomes, the students noted that interacting with successful professionals on this trip allowed them to build connections that could potentially assist them in future career searches.

Agricultural finance students investigated input supply, production, distribution, wholesale, processing, and marketing within the lens of firms such as The Private Bank, Demeter Capital Management-Highlights, Wirtz Distribution, and Northern Trust.  Scott Segobiano, senior in ACE, said the trip “was eye-opening to see how many paths [their future] could lead them down,” he said, “I learned that college majors are not cold cut, you can do what you want with your future”.

Learning about McDonald’s’ handshake agreements showed the Food Manufacturing, Processing and Service group on a quest to discover drivers for firms to source raw ingredients and follow the supply chain for major food companies. They were given a behind the scenes look at some of Chicago’s tastiest businesses, such as McDonald’s, Testa Produce, Wildfire Restaurant, and Eli’s Cheesecake Co. Preston Brown, Senior in ACE, noted, “many of these corporations base their company on loyalty, they knew every single producer they get their food from."

The Local Foods group targeted a goal of getting a ground floor view of local food movement in Chicago.  Visits to Windy City Harvest, Fresh Picks, and Local Foods allowed them to discuss controversial topics like organics, GMOs, and locally grown foods with owners of leading firms in the distribution of local foods in a major food hub.

Students were asked to consolidate their findings in a final powerpoint presentation to a group of professionals and professors at the conclusion of the trip.  The message?  Finding how agribusiness, food, and finance intersect in Chicago, and the presence of Illinois grads there to help students navigate some of the most important issues of the time in these industries, made for an exciting career development opportunity in the pupils’ hometowns.

ACE students discover career opportunities in their own backyard