Dec 13
Kim Kidwell, Dean of the College of ACES

If I were to choose one word to describe my first 30 days as the Dean of the College of ACES, it would be the word hopeful. After meeting dozens of people, including students, faculty, staff, alumni, donors, stakeholders, community members, and Illini colleagues, it’s clear how much people love this college and the university. Even more exciting to me is their willingness and eagerness to partner with me to create a vibrant future for ACES and the people we serve. The outpouring of support and encouragement I have received has been truly remarkable.

I am deeply moved by the stories I have heard from students about the experiences our faculty and staff are creating for them. Lives are being transformed, and our students are grateful for the sense of home and support they experience in ACES. I have heard many accounts of dedicated alumni who go beyond the call of duty to improve the college by devoting their time, resources, and energy to help create new possibilities with us. I have read stunning reports about the many discoveries taking place in our research programs that are improving the lives of people around the globe. The quality of the faculty and staff in this college is truly extraordinary. Excellence abounds and people are excited about the future. The upshift in energy and enthusiasm is palpable, and opportunities to take action have already presented themselves to me. 

My intention as dean is to empower the ACES community to live into our collective potential by capitalizing on the strong foundation that exists in academic programs, research, and Extension to catalyze a vibrant future for this organization. I am working with the administrative team to develop action plans to initiate efforts to propel the college forward by elevating the visibility and image of the college to internal and external constituents, by activating our donor and alumni base to support strategic visioning and advancement, and by implementing strategies for reducing our dependence on state resources.

Initial efforts include piloting collaborative strategies with college support units and departments to improve communication and visibility. The ACES administration team and I are actively engaging with stakeholders and partners, both internal and external, to address concerns and to identify opportunities for expanding collaborations. Efforts are also underway to determine the value-added proposition of being an ACES graduate, which will be used to invigorate recruitment efforts and create connections with industry partners. We will share details surrounding these efforts early next year after strategies have been clearly framed.

In spite of the tremendous budget challenges the university is facing, I remain hopeful that we will thrive, not just survive, as we move forward. I have used the following mantra to guide me throughout my career: “Do the right thing. Do it again and again and again, and good things will happen.” That approach brought me to the perfect place at exactly the right moment with an excellent cast of characters to join me in this commitment. If we continue to do the right things, we will continue to have the opportunity to transform lives. I am grateful to all of you for allowing me to join you on this journey.

Taking a "selfie" with Frank Gonzales, a junior in finance in the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics.

Sitting in on a session at the Farm Assets Conference with U of I President Emeritus Robert Easter last month in Bloomington.

Meeting Emeritus Professor of Animal Sciences Jim Pettigrew and his wife Cinda at a reception earlier this month.