College of ACES
College News

Drew Metz

Academic Hourly

Extension helps in disaster preparedness

Published August 28, 2015
Tornado damage

URBANA, Ill. – Disasters kill hundreds of people and injure thousands more each year in the United States. Taking a few steps to be prepared can help keep you and your family safe. University of Illinois Extension provides information to help you be better prepared for disasters.

September is National Preparedness Month, and U of I Extension has partnered with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in this annual campaign to reach out to communities in every state to help all families be better prepared. According to the Department of Homeland Security, in order for a community to be prepared for a disaster, every person in that community needs to take the steps to become disaster ready.

Known for its educators in counties throughout the country, the Extension network is a valuable resource concerning disaster education. Through a nationwide network known as the Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN), local Extension offices are readily connected to expert materials in disaster preparedness, recovery, and response from land-grant universities around the country.

Being disaster prepared is more than just knowing what to do in case of a tornado or a fire. It’s also about preparing a 72-hour disaster supplies kit for your home, office, and car; developing and practicing an emergency plan for your family; understanding your community’s warning systems and evacuation routes; knowing who to contact in your community for more information; and how you can get involved.

“Disasters are like pop quizzes—most often they are unpredictable,” said Carrie McKillip, an Extension community development educator. “If you are not prepared, they can be devastating.  The more you prepare, the better you will know exactly what to do and where to go.”

No matter how much you have prepared, it is important to have a resource you can rely on for disaster education. Local Extension offices can be that resource. Contact your local Extension office for more information.

Visit for direct links to Extension and agency resources in your state or at the national level that can help with disaster readiness.

Local government webinar series announced

Published August 27, 2015

URBANA, Ill. - The University of Illinois Extension Local Government Information and Education Network will host an upcoming webinar series. The series, Local Government Strategies for Digital Government, will be presented by Jon Gant, professor and director of the Center for Digital Inclusion, U of I Graduate School of Library and Information Science.

The series is part of the Illinois Digital Innovation Leadership Program and funded through the Office of the Provost and the College of ACES Illinois Extension and Outreach Initiative.

The webinars will run from noon to 1 p.m. on each Thursday, and will include:

Best Practices in eGovernment - Sept. 17

This leadership seminar will help local government leaders examine the strategies, practices and technologies of digital government. Local governments in Illinois and around the United States are integrating computer-based technologies into the centerfold of public administrative reforms to augment the delivery of services, support public participation, and enhance governing and decision making. E-government relies on information technology (IT) to automate and transform the processes to serve citizens, businesses, governments, and other constituents. 

The seminar focuses on understanding models of delivering services through IT-enabled processes, social media, and data analytics. Topics such as open government, security issues, the technology ecosystem, and social and economic evaluation will be covered.

Technology Planning - Oct. 15

All governments face growth in demand for services while confronting a strained economy, coupled with the belief that it is appropriate to explore new opportunities where technology innovation is essential. These challenges and opportunities are fueled by heightened expectations from constituents and the business community to interact and conduct business with governmental entities utilizing modern technology and web-based capabilities that enhance information, communication, and transactions in a variety of formats, and enable further transparency in government. An environment of rapid change and the need for responsiveness, together with finite resources, highlights the importance of thoughtfully considered deployment of IT trends that embrace supportable standards and agile IT-enabled services.

As such, any governmental entity’s IT capabilities must be contemporary, flexible, scalable, secure, and environmentally conscious with the ability to respond to new goals and dynamically changing service and operational requirements by various agencies. An ideal environment builds on an enterprise architecture that includes industry standards, open systems, and tools that support a variety of needs and diverse portfolio of systems.

The supporting infrastructure foundation is designed to ensure the integrity of transactions, data, and optimum system performance. Strategic planning, governance, and program management ensures inclusion in decision making and implementation of solid products, and effective solution delivery at a fully leverage cost.

Using Data and Analytics to Drive Government Innovation - Nov.  19

Local governments collect mountains of data from citizens and services. However, knowing how to best organize, manage, and extract insights from these large diverse data sets is a challenge. Enter data analytics. Illinois communities are leading the nation in recognizing the benefits of applying analytics. Government organizations are mobilizing to explain and report on their operations, performance, services and decision making – both for internal employees and external constituents – utilizing data, the most valuable natural resource of the 21st century. Our discussion will focus on the vital components of data-driven government, and learn from communities of practice that are emerging all around the country that are digitizing information, disseminating public data sets, and applying analytics to improve decision making.

Visit for registration links. For more information, contact Kathie Brown at 309-255-9189 or

Allan Mustard - Ambassador to Turkmenistan

Published August 27, 2015
swearing-in ceremony
Allan Mustard is sworn in as U.S. Ambassador to Turkmenistan by Assistant Secretary of State Nisha Biswal. Center are (from left) Mustard’s sister, Kate Breckon; his daughter, Fiona and his wife, Ann.

Allan Mustard’s professional goal wasn’t to become a U.S. ambassador.  But after about a dozen career moves, Mustard is now serving in his first year as Ambassador to Turkmenistan—a country a little larger than California that shares borders with Iran and Afghanistan. He describes his career path not as one with a calculated strategy, but more as a series of encouraging nudges and a stream of opportunities that led to an unexpected outcome.

“I really didn’t have anything in mind, except that I wanted to do something internationally,” Mustard says. “I studied Russian and German because those were the only foreign languages offered at the community college where I started out. Had they offered Haitian Creole, I might have ended up on a sandy beach in the Caribbean.”

Mustard, raised on a dairy farm near Brady, Washington, completed bachelor’s degrees at the University of Washington in Slavic languages and literature and political science..

That combination opened the door to his first overseas job, as a guide and as an interpreter for the U.S. International Communications Agency at an American exhibit in the Soviet Union in the late ’70s.

The training took place on the University of Illinois campus.

Then came the first nudge.

“When I got to Moscow, I met Jim Brow, a USDA agricultural attaché,” Mustard says.  “He said to me, ‘Gosh, you’re pretty smart, you speak good Russian, and you grew up on a farm.  All you’re missing is a master’s degree in agricultural economics. If you get that, you can come work for us.’  So I did.”

Mustard received another nudge while at Illinois working on his master’s. He was encouraged to take the Foreign Service exam—a test so difficult that only about 1 in 100 people pass it. But Mustard was one of them.  As a result of his test score, he accepted an invitation to Chicago for an oral assessment.

The road appeared to be a dead end when the State Department lost his paperwork, so Mustard took a job with USDA.  After a month, the State Department called: they’d found the missing papers. They wanted him to take an entry-level course, beginning almost immediately. “I said I already had a job that would lead to an overseas career as an agricultural attaché.  They asked, ‘Why would you want to do that?’ I explained that the only advantage of coming to State is that I’d be eligible for an ambassadorship, and that would never happen for me.  So I stayed with agriculture, specifically because I didn’t think that I’d ever have a shot at an ambassadorship.”

Over the next couple of decades, Mustard held positions in Istanbul, Vienna, and Mexico City, along with being posted twice each to Washington, DC, and Moscow.

It wasn’t until 2009 that Mustard entertained the ambassadorship possibility.

“Some of my State colleagues said, ‘You really should apply for this,’” Mustard recalls. “‘It doesn’t cost anything and it only takes 45 minutes to fill out the paperwork .’ So I did—and here I am.”

Without hesitation, Mustard names his Illinois ag econ degree as a key career building block.

 “I took courses in analysis and marketing from faculty like Hal Everett and Phil Garcia.

I studied development under Earl Kellogg and policy with Bob Spitze and Steve Schmidt. Foreign Agricultural Service officers tend to specialize in market development or are oriented toward food aid countries, but I did a bit of everything, and U of I gave me a full array of tools.”

Using technology was one of those tools. Mustard’s comfort with computer programming at Illinois led to his being “pigeonholed as the data systems geek” at the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS).

“Rather than reject the title, I embraced it and split the difference; I did my analytical job, but I also did a fair amount of programming and tutoring.”

Years later, when he was a senior foreign service officer in Washington, DC, computer expertise came in handy again, garnering him a position as head of FAS data systems. Each career move presented new opportunities to put into practice what he learned about agricultural economics at Illinois.

Mustard points to one opportunity following the Balkans War of the 1990s as particularly meaningful. He was agricultural counselor in the U.S. Embassy in Vienna, Austria, covering seven countries in Central Europe, including Bosnia. Bosnia’s population of about 4.5 million included 2 million war refugees. Many were widows with children, receiving public assistance because their husbands were victims in the war’s ethnic cleansing. Mustard was tasked with leading a food aid effort to Bosnian refugees. According to Mustard, there is a right way and a wrong way to provide food aid to a country.

“We would not just deliver the food that was needed, but we would structure it around a program that would help get at least some Bosnians out of poverty.”

Mustard collaborated with 10 private charities and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

“My goal was to lift a certain number of villages out of poverty and restart their economies,” Mustard says. He struck a deal to divide assistance between the aid organizations’ traditional programs and credit programs for the municipalities. The intent was to inject money into the village economies at multiple points—to farmers, to consumers, and to those who sell inputs to farmers—in order to get the economies moving again.

“A year later, it was astounding that we had brought to life 50 moribund municipalities,” Mustard says. “War widows who had been living off of handouts were working again at their private businesses and supporting their families. Meeting those widows was probably the most emotional experience of my life. They were so grateful. And I had done so little—provided some policy direction for the NGOs. The organizations did the heavy lifting—but without guidance, I’m not sure the aid would have had as deep an impact.”

Mustard again mentions his study of economics and development at Illinois with Earl Kellogg.

“I was reaching back to my graduate studies to come up with the constructs of how to provide relief and then figure out some way to apply them practically in order to revive the villages’ economy.  It all worked.”

Today Mustard faces new challenges as Ambassador to Turkmenistan—which he describes as “one of the most closed societies in the world.”

He believes the U.S.  embassy can help open a window for Turkmen citizens by offering English language instruction.

“We have a library of English books at the embassy,” he says. “The classes are always full, and we have a waiting list of 300. These efforts can have an outsized impact because we’re reaching the people who want to learn English and are self-selecting to become leaders.”

So, how does one become an ambassador? To students interested in international careers, Mustard recommends starting with agriculture.

“That is the only sector of the economy that runs a trade surplus.  Being an agricultural officer for the FAS is about as good as it gets.” All you need to do, he says, is look at where the growth potential for agriculture lies—and, of course, learn another language or two.

“With 96 percent of the world’s population outside the United States, that’s where the growth is—particularly in Asia,” he says.

“If I were to do this all over again, I would probably have studied Chinese rather than Russian, and Spanish instead of German.  But that said, I think you can study any foreign language and put it to good use. Think about a career with FAS, and take a shot.”

What’s his next career move?

“Right now I’m focused on being successful at this one,” he says.


News Source:

Allan Mustard

Fall 15 ACES@Illinois Now Available

Published August 26, 2015

The fall 2015 edition of ACES@Illinois, the semiannual publication for the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, is now available.

We hope you enjoy the engaging articles and photographs that illustrate the College of ACES promise of excellence in all of our missions. In each issue, we share articles that show how our students, faculty, staff and alumni are solving some of the world’s greatest challenges relating to abundant food and energy, a healthy environment, and successful families and communities.

The publication can be viewed at

We hope you find this issue of ACES@Illinois to be both interesting and informative. If you would like to receive a hard copy of the publication, please contact Jennifer Shike at

News Source:

Jennifer Shike

Gray named honorary member of entomological society

Published August 26, 2015

URBANA, Ill. – University of Illinois entomologist Michael Gray was recently named an honorary member of the Entomological Society of America (ESA). Membership acknowledges those who have served ESA for at least 20 years through significant involvement in the affairs of the society that has reached an extraordinary level.

Gray is a professor and assistant dean in the Department of Crop Sciences and Extension at U of I. He is internationally recognized for his research and extension programs on management of the western corn rootworm (Diabrotica virgifera virgifera LeConte). Gray has published numerous journal articles on western corn rootworm, including a 2009 Annual Review of Entomology paper, and he has also served as co-editor for the ESA Handbook of Corn Insects, published in 1999.

He has been a member of ESA since 1979 and has served the society in many leadership roles, serving as president of ESA in 2008. In 2002, he received the ESA-NCB Award for Excellence in Integrated Pest Management. In 2011, he received the ESA Distinguished Achievement Award in Extension. In 2013, the ESA-NCB honored Gray with the C.V. Riley Achievement Award. He received the Paul A. Funk Recognition Award (2007) for outstanding achievement and major contributions to the betterment of agriculture, natural resources, and human systems. In 2013, Gray was elected an ESA Fellow.

Candidates for this honor are selected by the ESA Governing Board and then voted on by the ESA membership. The honorary members will be honored at the awards ceremony at Entomology 2015, ESA’s Annual Meeting in Minneapolis, Minn., this November.

The Entomological Society of America is the largest organization in the world serving the professional and scientific needs of entomologists and people in related disciplines. Founded in 1889, ESA today has nearly 7,000 members affiliated with educational institutions, health agencies, private industry, and government. Members are researchers, teachers, extension service personnel, administrators, marketing representatives, research technicians, consultants, students, and hobbyists. For more information, visit

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to speak on food security

Published August 26, 2015
ACES Mumford Hall

URBANA, Ill. - United States Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack will speak at the University of Illinois at 12:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 10, about the role of public research universities in addressing international food security. The event, hosted by the International Food Security at Illinois (IFSI) initiative, will be held at the Alice Campbell Alumni Center, 601 South Lincoln Avenue, in Urbana. 

Watch the livestream here starting at 12:30 p.m.

Tom Vilsack serves as the nation's 30th Secretary of Agriculture. As leader of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Vilsack’s mission is to help strengthen the American agricultural economy, build vibrant rural communities, and create new markets for rural America. Prior to his appointment, Vilsack served two terms as the governor of Iowa, in the Iowa State Senate, and as the mayor of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa.

The event is free and open to the public. Due to space limitations, registration is requested. To attend, visit A reception will follow.

Vilsack’s talk is part of the IFSI lecture series. IFSI is a campus-wide program, housed in the College of  Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, that focuses the expertise and resources of the U of I to addressing the global challenge of ensuring that all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food.

“We are very pleased that Secretary Vilsack is joining us to share his thoughts on the role of public research universities in addressing international food security,” said College of ACES Dean Robert Hauser. “With the Secretary’s advice and guidance, the College of ACES will continue to focus on the food system – from production to processing and distribution, to policy and consumer issues—in a way that leads to abundant and sustainable food for everyone throughout the world.”  

For questions about Vilsack’s visit to U of I, contact or 217-244-2295. For more information on International Food Security at Illinois, visit:


Illinois 4-H Foundation awards $9,000 in scholarships

Published August 26, 2015
Legacy Scholarship group

URBANA, Ill. - Eight Illinois 4-H members were selected from a pool of 90 applicants to receive a $1,000 scholarship from the Illinois 4-H Foundation. The presentations were made during the Illinois 4-H Foundation Recognition Event held Saturday, August 15 at the Illinois State Fairgrounds.

The Legacy of Leadership Scholarship is based on lifelong 4-H accomplishments, leadership, community service and educational goals of Illinois 4-H members.

A ninth $1,000 scholarship, the Illinois 4-H Livestock Scholarship, was awarded to a 4-H member for outstanding work in the livestock project area.

The winners include Rhiannon Branch of Luka in Marion County, Thaddeus Hughes of Shirley in McLean County, Emily Irwin of Belvidere in Boone County, Kevin Kappenman of Decatur in Macon County, Angelica Lebron of Bolingbrook in Will County, Cameron Parks of Bloomington in McLean County, Morgan Rich of Mackinaw in Woodford County, and Anthony Warmack of Marseilles in Grundy County.

Katie Miller of Cambridge in Henry County was the recipient of the livestock scholarship which is sponsored by LA-CO Industries.

The Legacy of Leadership scholarships were provided by generous donations from Lila Jeanne Eichelberger, Farm Credit Illinois, Keith Parr, Tim and Belinda Carey, Kevin Carey, Dorsey Dee Murray, the Nellie R. McCannon Trust, Nann Armstrong, and the Legacy of Leadership Endowment said Angie Barnard, director of the Illinois 4-H Foundation.

Branch is a 10-year member of the Showstrings 4-H Club and the Omega Shamrocks 4-H Club, as well as a member of the Marion County Livestock Judging Team where she was a member of the first place national livestock judging team. She was a National 4-H Congress delegate. She is attending Kaskaskia College toward a degree in Agricultural Communications.

“Without 4-H, I would have never found my passion in life,” Branch said. “It is through my 4-H projects that I learned to communicate and advocate for agriculture.”

Hughes is a 9-year member of the Linden Lead’em 4-H Club and the Team Metal Cow Robotics 4-H Club where he focus his project work in the area of science, engineering and technology. He was a National 4-H Congress delegate. He is pursuing a degree in mechanical engineering to add to his vast computer engineering experience.

“The leadership and teaching experiences afforded me insight into what gets people into technology and what makes for a fun challenge,” Hughes said. “With my leadership and drive, we have taken our community’s STEM education into the modern era and beyond.”

Irwin is an 11-year member of the Udder 4-H Club and has added the National 4-H Congress and National 4-H Dairy Conference to her list of accomplishments. She attends Kaskaskia College where she is on the dairy judging team and plans to complete a 4-year degree in Ag Business or Ag Communications.

“I credit 4-H with helping me develop critical skills including public speaking, teamwork, and responsibility which will help in my future career,” Irwin said. “Being involved in 4-H and working on my family’s dairy farm have been the reasons I have been able to learn and achieve so much.”

Kappenman is an 11-year member of the Long Creek Critters 4-H Club and the Macon County Ambassadors. He plans to study Biomedical Engineering as a pre-med student at the University of Minnesota.

“4-H has always prevailed as a dominant molding tool for my life,” Kappenman said. “The ability of youth to lead other youth by example is an important one to the development of character and many other important traits.”

Lebron is a 7-year member of the 4-H 4-JOY Club where she is taking 23 4-H projects this year. She was an Illinois delegate to National 4-H Conference. She plans to major in history and minor in political science in college.

“I strongly believe that if you want to make a change that will impact the next generation,” Lebron said, “you must know history.”

Parks is a 10-year member of the Home Spun 4-H Club and the Stylistics 4-H Club, as well as a member of the air rifle, archery and shotgun Shooting Sports 4-H Clubs of McLean County. He was a National 4-H Congress delegate. When he completes his associate’s degree in science, he plans to earn a bachelor degree, majoring in music performance and fashion design.

“Over the years I have begun to see that almost everything I do and have done has been influenced by my participation in 4-H,” Parks said. “It has also allowed me to learn many skills, but it has also challenged me to be creative and to risk thinking outside of the box.”

Rich is a 10-year member of the Go-Getters 4-H Club and was a National 4-H Congress delegate. She plans to attend Greenville College and major in digital media with a focus on film.

“I want to be able to make movies and television that inspire people and really makes them think,” Rich said. “I hope that one day someone can point to my work and say that I helped to inspire them to follow their dreams and pursue the career they truly want.”

Warmack is the 10-year member of the Homes Cool Kids 4-H Club where he takes 18 different 4-H projects. He plans to attend community college, then transfer to complete a bachelor’s degree in natural resources, before pursuing a master’s degree at the University of Illinois.

“My most important 4-H accomplishments are the ones which can’t be traced to any particular award or position held,” Warmack said. “My most significant accomplishments stem from an idea that I learned in 4-H; that you don’t have to be in a position of power in order to lead or help people.”

Miller is a 10-year member of the Cambridge Champs 4-H Club and plans to attend Black Hawk College studying ag science before pursuing a bachelor degree in ag business.

“I know 4-H is a great opportunity for youth,” Miller said, “and I would like to help the youth of my community become involved.”