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Doris Kelley Christopher Hall celebrates 10th anniversary

Published October 3, 2016

URBANA, Ill. – A fabric art piece hangs in the atrium of Christopher Hall, where students, faculty, and guests pass daily. It visually represents the mission and impact of the building and its family-centered programs from the last decade: a coming together.  

Doris Kelley Christopher Hall, the building’s full name, sits just at the east edge of the University of Illinois campus and is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. It is home to the Family Resiliency Center and a unique combination of research, education, and outreach centered on helping families thrive under challenging conditions. It has been a place for both the campus and the community to find solutions to the problems families face.   

“I believe in some ways the fabric art that you see on the wall is a reflection not only of a piece of beautiful artwork, but the notion of coming together, of many different colors and spaces and shapes and forms intertwined,” says Connie Shapiro, a former director of the FRC.

A Visit from Doris

The vision for a new space began in the early 2000s when Doris Kelley Christopher, founder and chairman of the Pampered Chef, Ltd. and an Illinois graduate, returned to campus to observe programs related to family and food in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences. In 2000, Christopher and the Pampered Chef assisted in establishing the Family Resiliency Program in the Department of Human and Community Development, recently renamed the Department of Human Development and Family Studies.

After touring a windowless observation lab in the basement of one building where researchers observed families from a furnace room, Christopher recalls, “I was intrigued by the concept of family interactions, and amazed to see the work these researchers were doing considering the crudeness of the setup. But it wasn’t really a place where a family would have an interaction. And the idea came to me that this was work that deserved a better place. It deserved a more state-of-the-art facility.

“I mentioned it to the folks in the College of ACES, and eventually we came up with the idea of a state-of-the-art facility that would house classrooms, that would pull together the faculty, who were spread out all over the campus, so they could collaborate more easily.”

On her tour that day, Christopher observed Professor Laurie Kramer’s research on children and sibling relationships. “I brought Doris down to my lab and I was so proud and so excited to tell her about the work I was doing,” Kramer says. “She was very attentive and said it was great work.”

After the lab visit, both Shapiro and Diane Marlin, a former coordinator of the Family Resiliency Program, recall Christopher announcing, “We have got to get Laurie’s research out of the basement!”

Strengthening families is what excited Christopher, and what, Kramer says, connected her to the Human and Community Development department. “Doris saw the experience of families being around the table at mealtimes as formative in child development and the glue that helped families remain cohesive and strong over time.

“Doris’ interests paralleled what the research in the department was trying to accomplish.”

With a commitment of funding from Christopher, the conversation began about a new building. 

At the top of the list was creating a place that felt like home.

“We wanted to do research in a home-like setting,” Marlin recalls. “Many of the studies this department does involves going into people’s homes to observe them interacting. But we thought it would be wonderful to have a research home on campus where we could conduct research with families in a home-like setting. We wanted it to be state-of-the-art, and we wanted space for classrooms, places for faculty and students to interact, and to make it available for the community.”

“The location of the building was also very important. This corner of Lincoln Avenue and Nevada Street is like the gateway to the eastern edge of campus. We wanted it to be accessible to the community for various community functions,” she adds.

Crews broke ground on an empty tract of land in late 2004.

From Vision to Reality

In 2006, the new Christopher Hall became home to the FRC and Kramer was named as its first director.

Some of the first projects and programs to benefit from the new building included Kramer’s sibling relationships research, a siblings group for The Autism Program, and other community groups such as parent support groups.

Kramer remarks how intentional each component of the building design was in order make the building not only useful for research, but accessible to the public. “We have a parking lot, when we could have had a bigger building, probably. And it’s on the bus line.”

Even the colors of bricks were intentionally chosen to look more like a home, and less like the institutional buildings on campus.

“It’s a beautiful building and I still think it’s unique,” Marlin says.

Today, the building’s “research home” features a living room, dining room, and fully functional kitchen. The research home, slightly separate from the rest of the building, is a unique observational facility, equipped with seven unobtrusive video cameras and microphones that allow for 360-degree recording of family, couple, and group interactions. A control room houses recording equipment, allowing for different views of the scene and close-up recording.

“The research home has been a game changer in terms of having a space to see what families are really doing with each other, without them feeling like they are in an artificial situation,” Kramer says.

Classrooms, project rooms, and a studio give students and researchers spaces to learn and collaborate. The atrium is often used as the site for celebrations by the HDFS department as well as by other units on campus.

Highlighting the importance of community outreach, Christopher Hall is also home to The Autism Program’s resource room. The program, through the HDFS department and the Department of Special Education at U of I, offers the community free education and training materials, and staff consultations. 

Christopher Hall’s Impact

Over the last 10 years and today, the FRC continues to help families by researching issues such as childhood obesity and health with the STRONG Kids program, or looking at the connections between food and family life with initiatives such as the Food and Family Program.

Christopher says the programs within the FRC are “creating tools that all families need to be successful. And it’s so important for me when I see a family sitting around a table, like the one in our research home here, enjoying food and conversation and learning about each other. Ultimately, this building is the coming together of people doing research about what makes families strong. This is a place where research and data collection is accomplished every day that can in turn be put into programs and teachings that can help families everywhere, not just in Illinois, not just in the local community, but all across the country and beyond. That’s the lasting impact of this facility.”

Bob Hughes, a former HDFS department head, says that those who were involved in the planning of Christopher Hall could not have known all the ways this building could have been used over the last decade.

“There’s always been the desire to have faculty from across campus come interact in that space and take advantage of the specific things in the building itself. I think the idea was to have all these people interacting in the same physical space and then hope that in those interactions people would do things they wouldn’t have done otherwise, or have conversations they wouldn’t have had otherwise.”

U of I Extension specialist Angela Wiley uses the space to create training materials for childcare workers and to do cooking demonstrations and taste testing with families in the Abriendo Camino research project.

“This building has become a place of comfort, a place of familiarity, a place where research participants and students can develop relationships with us, with graduate students. The welcoming features of this building become a part of their experience,” she says.

Current FRC director Barbara Fiese says the environment of the building will keep allowing for important research on strengthening families. “Although we’ve accomplished a lot of great work, the work isn't done, that’s for sure. But we’re on the right trajectory. And you know, there are so many times where I walk through the building and think that Doris would be so happy because it’s such a vibrant place and so many great things are happening here.”

For more information about the Family Resiliency Center, visit

The fabric art in the Christopher Hall atrium is titled, “Serendipity,” and was created by Champaign artist Mary MacDonald.


Soy Food Bazaar: The Role of Soy in Ghanaian Cusine

10:00 AM - 3:00 PM
The World Trade Centre, Accra, Ghana
Join the Soybean Innovation Lab and soy food vendors from across Ghana in a
fun filled atmosphere with delicious soy foods, soy food demonstrations,
networking, nutrition games, and advocacy. Nearly 20 different vendors and booths
will be on display showcasing the wide variety of soy based foods utilizing local
Ghanaian ingredients and recipes.

Second Annual Soybean Kick-off Event

9:00 AM - 3:00 PM
Tegbeer Catholic House, Wa, Ghana
Join the Soybean Innovation Lab, the Savanna Agricultural Research Institute,
Catholic Relief Services and Mennonite Economic Development Associates as they
showcase the latest advances in soybean development in Africa. Enjoy a delicious
soy lunch, tour the soybean SMART farm,see new soybean varieties, taste locally
produced soy products and watch demonstrations of the latest innovations in small
scale mechanization including low-cost crop threshers, planters and more.

Brokering baseball cards: A Q & A with ACE alum Michael Osacky

Published September 29, 2016
Michael Osacky

Michael Osacky is a 2002 graduate of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences. With a degree in commodity, food, and textile marketing, what led him to become a certified vintage sports memorabilia appraiser and writer?

On Wednesday, Oct. 5 from 6:30 to 8 p.m., Osacky will be at the Champaign Public Library to discuss the vintage sports memorabilia industry.  Afterward, he will provide a free verbal appraisal to all attendees who bring in their vintage sports collectibles.

Here is a short interview with Osacky about how he got into the biz, tips on selling and buying, and some of his more memorable appraisals.


How did you get into the business of being a certified vintage sports memorabilia appraiser?

MO: Growing up in Chicago’s northern suburb Buffalo Grove, I liked riding my bike to the local greeting card shop or grocery store to buy the current sports cards. Then in 1997, when I was a senior in high school, my grandfather bought me a shoebox full of old baseball cards for my birthday.  These cards weren’t like anything I’d ever seen. They were from the 1950s and 1960s.  It made me want to try to find more of these kinds of cards and learn about the history associated with these professional ballplayers.

What were your career goals when you were majoring in commodity, food, and textile marketing at the University of Illinois?

MO: My plans were to be a commodities trader on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange in Chicago. I pursued that career for a while immediately after graduation.

Are there any aspects of commodity trading that you use in appraising sports items?

MO: The commodities degree taught me the art of negotiation.  When trading futures and options, you have to understand if something is a buy or a sale at a moment’s notice and voice your opinion.

The same is true when buying baseball card and memorabilia collections.  I bring cash with me and I only have that moment to make a deal.  I am not returning so I have to offer the highest possible price that’s fair for both parties.

A lot of people probably come to you with a signed ball or baseball card that they think is worth a fortune. How do you break it to them that it’s a forgery or worthless?

MO: I am in this situation all the time.  Some of the well-known baseball cards such as the T206 Honus Wagner are frequently reprinted.  I am blunt and honest.  Sometimes the truth hurts but I am always 100 percent honest.

Do you appraise only baseball-related items or are you also knowledgeable about other sports memorabilia?

MO: I appraise all sports from 1870 to 1970—baseball, football, basketball, hockey, horse racing, you name it. And I appraise all items—cards, programs, autographs, advertising pieces, whatever.

Describe one of your more complicated or interesting appraisals. How do you determine the value and if there is a market for the item?

MO: I appraised a world championship Chicago Bulls basketball collection.  Being a Chicagoan and a Chicago Bulls fan, it was such an honor to be called in by the player and his family. The family didn’t want to sell. They needed to know how much the collection was worth for insurance purposes. Insurance companies won’t sell a policy without getting a third party like myself to appraise the item or collection.  The appraisal was complicated because there was a lot—Michael Jordan autographs, team-signed basketballs, championship rings, pendants, jerseys, and a lot more.

What’s the most valuable item you’ve ever appraised?

MO: I have appraised six-figure collections.  However, the single most valuable item I have appraised is a 1915 Cracker Jack Baseball Card Complete Set of 176 cards.  Cracker Jack distributed cards inside each package.  The cards are vibrant as they were 100 years ago.  The set was appraised at $60,000. It had been passed down through the family.  The couple thought the cards were worth about $2,000.  They were in total shock and disbelief when they heard $60,000.

What are some of the goofier items people have brought to you for appraisal?

MO: I’ve been asked to appraise a plastic cup from a Cubs game. On one occasion a few years ago I was on WGN radio. Someone called in and asked what a jock strap, worn in a game by former Major League Baseball player Joe Garagiola, was worth.  The host of the radio show put everybody on mute while we laughed uncontrollably.  The host finally just said, “Ok next caller.”

What about those baseball cards that came inside a package of gum—are those worth anything at all?

MO: Most people are familiar with getting cards from the five and dime store in the 50s and 60s.  However, the idea of pairing bubble gum and baseball cards actually originated in 1933 with the Goudey Gum Company.  The cards from the 50s and 60s are worth money depending upon the condition and the player.

What sorts of things should people look for in our attics and basements?

MO: The older the better.  Anything pre-1970.

What’s your advice for a novice collector?

MO: Buy what you know and love.  Don’t buy for investment purposes.  If you like old programs, buy old programs and learn everything you can about them.

What about selling/buying from online auction websites?  What should buyers watch out for?

MO: There are so many reprints and forgeries online.  Additionally, the FBI has arrested several auction house owners over the years.  As of this interview, they are all in prison.

In addition to professional sports memorabilia, you also appraise college sports stuff.  Are there any Illinois items that have made it to collector status—or you predict will?

MO: It’s possible.  Maybe a game worn Red Grange helmet or jersey. 

For more about Osacky, visit or read some of his posts in Parade Magazine.


Diplodia ear mold at harvest: What can be done now?

Published September 29, 2016
Diplodia damaged kernels
Diplodia damaged kernels

URBANA, Ill. – Corn producers in western and west-southwestern Illinois should be on the lookout for symptoms of Diplodia ear mold during harvest. An informal survey of several grain elevators and farmers in Western Illinois reported up to fifty percent kernel damage in some locations. Factors such as planting date, the timing of rain events after fertilization, and hybrid susceptibility can result in a range of damage within the larger region and even within a farming operation, according to University of Illinois Extension educator Angie Peltier.

“Diplodia ear mold can cause lightweight kernels with a dull grey to brownish color and sometimes small black fruiting structures call pycnidia,” Peltier says. Infected kernels are prone to breakage and can result in poor test weights, poor grain quality, and fine materials in the hopper or grain bin. Peltier recommends adjusting combine settings to maximize grain cleaning and minimize breakage.

Elevator and ethanol facility personnel suggest that the threshold for accepting damaged grain can vary depending upon the local market and end-use. The price at which a farmer can market grain begins to decrease for every percentage point of damaged kernels above five percent.

“Some grain elevators will set a damage threshold above which they will not accept the grain. I have heard anywhere from above 15 to 50 percent damage, depending upon the end use and how quickly the grain will leave the elevator,” Peltier says.

Stenocarpella maydis, the fungus that causes Diplodia ear mold, metabolizes the starches in corn kernels leaving them lighter weight than non-infected kernels. The ethanol manufacturing process uses bacteria to turn corn starch into simple sugars, eventually fermenting them to yield ethanol. Diplodia-damaged kernels can yield less ethanol and may explain why elevators that supply ethanol plants may have a lower threshold for damaged kernels than others.

One positive is that unlike Aspergillus, Fusarium, or Gibberella ear molds, Diplodia ear mold is not associated with a mycotoxin. Regardless of whether infected kernels are in the field, in the combine hopper, semi-trailer, or grain bin, the fungus will continue to grow and metabolize starches unless the grain is cooled and dried to below 15 percent moisture. Unless properly dried, the fungus can colonize uninfected kernels that are damaged during harvest or storage operations.

With on-farm storage, many crop producers have the option to hold onto their grain to market it at a later time.

“I recommend storing diseased grain separately and for only short periods of time to reduce the chance of additional losses,” Peltier says.

It is important for producers that encounter Diplodia ear mold to be in communication with their crop insurance agent. While the high yields expected this year may offset lower grain prices overall, those farmers with low sale prices due to a lot of dockage may be able to recoup some of their losses.

For additional resources on drying and storing grain, and for more general information on Diplodia, visit the Bulletin.

Additional Images:
  • Diplodia damage

ACES hosts eight Fulbright Scholars from Lebanon

Published September 29, 2016

The College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) hosted eight Fulbright Scholars from Lebanon for a 10-week training program in rural and economic development during summer 2016. The scholars' visit and program was coordinated by the ACES Office of International Programs.  

The junior faculty level scholars benefited from research mentoring provided by University of Illinois faculty as well as instructional training for teaching provided by the University of Illinois’ Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning (CITL). They also attended cultural events and interacted with campus administration and community groups to gain a fuller understanding of American society and of our institutions of higher education.

The scholars, who departed September 14, said they now consider themselves “ambassadors for the University of Illinois.” They created a video as a thanks and tribute to their time here at Illinois.

This year’s mentors were: Dr. Arnab Chakraborty, Dr. Mindy Mallory, Dr. Atival Livny, Dr. Nick Paulson, Dr. Ben Crost, Dr. Dave Rosch, Dr. Noah Isserman, Dr. Carolos Torelli, and Dr. Bruce Lichtfield.

The College of ACES previously hosted Fulbright scholars from Libya during the summer of 2013 and Fulbright scholars from Lebanon during the summer of 2015. 

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. The primary source of funding for the Fulbright Program is an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Since its establishment in 1946 under legislation introduced by the late U.S. Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, the Fulbright Program has given over 318,000 students, scholars, teachers, artists, scientists and other professionals the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.


U of I research studies calcium requirements for weanling pigs

Published September 29, 2016


  • Requirements for standardized total tract digestible (STTD) calcium in weanling pigs have not yet been determined.
  • The requirement for STTD calcium for 11 to 25 kilogram pigs is likely around 1.35 times the requirement for STTD phosphorus.
  • Pigs regulate calcium balance primarily in the kidneys, by downregulating genes for proteins involved in transcellular uptake.

URBANA, Ill. – Two recent studies from the University of Illinois have helped determine how much calcium growing pigs require, and illuminate the mechanisms by which they absorb it.

Calcium must be fed in adequate amounts and in the right balance with phosphorus to optimize pig performance. "We can use different measures to determine requirements for calcium," says Hans H. Stein, professor of animal sciences at Illinois. "Different amounts may be needed to maximize growth performance, mineral deposition in bone, or calcium and phosphorus retention."

Stein, in conjunction with other researchers from the U of I and AB Vista Feed Ingredients, conducted two experiments to determine responses to graded levels of calcium in diets fed to pigs from 11 to 25 kilograms. In both experiments, pigs were fed diets containing different levels of standardized total tract digestible (STTD) calcium, ranging from 0.32 percent up to 0.72 percent. All diets contained 0.36 percent STTD phosphorus.

Pigs fed diets containing 0.48 percent or more STTD calcium had the greatest concentrations of bone ash, bone calcium, and bone phosphorus.

However, on measures of growth performance, average daily gain started to decline at 0.54 percent STTD calcium, and gain:feed ratio started to decline at 0.50 percent STTD.

The optimal levels of dietary STTD calcium for retention of calcium and phosphorus were at or above 0.60 and 0.49 percent respectively.

Taken all together, the different measures point to an STTD calcium requirement of 0.49 percent or less for growing pigs from 11 to 25 kilograms.

"Based on these results, the requirement for STTD calcium for 11 to 25 kilogram pigs is likely around 1.35 times the requirement for STTD phosphorus," says Stein, adding that further experiments need to be conducted to verify this value.

The researchers also studied the expression of certain genes involved in transcellular transport of calcium at the different levels of dietary calcium. Transcellular transport requires more calcium channel proteins, calcium binding proteins, and energy than passive paracellular transport, so the latter is preferred if enough calcium is available to be absorbed that way.

As the calcium levels in the diets increased, the mRNA expression of genes for the calcium channel proteins TRPV5 and TRPV6, calcium binding proteins CALB1 and S100G, and the vitamin D receptor protein VDR decreased in the kidneys.

Expression of genes for TRPV6 and VDR, as well as plasma membrane protein ATP2B1, also decreased in the jejunum as dietary calcium increased.

"The main site for regulation of calcium balance appears to be in the kidneys," Stein says. "When dietary calcium is adequate and luminal levels of calcium are high enough to allow for paracellular transport, transcellular uptake in the kidneys and jejunum is reduced."

Funding for this research was provided by AB Vista Feed Ingredients, Marlborough, UK.

The paper, "Requirement for digestible calcium by eleven- to twenty-five– kilogram pigs as determined by growth performance, bone ash concentration, calcium and phosphorus balances, and expression of genes involved in transport of calcium in intestinal and kidney cells," was published in the August issue of the Journal of Animal Science. It was co-authored by Caroline González-Vega, Yanhong Liu, Joshua McCann, Carrie Walk, and Juan Loor. The full text can be found online at