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 Dr. Sean Fox
 Dr. Sean Fox

Greetings from Mumford Hall!  As we approach the month of May, we reflect on what a unique time of year it is on a college campus.  We segue from the stress of finals and wrapping up the semester (no getting around that!) to the joy of launching our newest graduates (congratulations!) to the bittersweet bidding goodbye to colleagues who are moving on to the next stage in their journey.

This semester, two of our colleagues – Dr. Joyce Allen-Smith and Ms. Val Rogalla – are teaching their final classes for ACE. Val began teaching in ACE in 1990 and since then has guided almost 9,000 students through ACE 161 (Microcomputer Applications) - a remarkable achievement! Joyce earned her Ph.D. in this Department in 1980 and joined our faculty in 1991, focusing her research and teaching on the economics and politics of agricultural policy. Teaching is at the heart of the ACE experience and both Val and Joyce are highly regarded for their classroom instruction.  Student evaluations consistently mention their engagement with students and the depth and breadth of their knowledge.  Val and Joyce have contributed to ACE at the highest level and we--colleagues and students alike--will miss them.

On the topic of engagement with students, one of our newest faculty members, Dr. Craig Lemoine, has been guiding student teams to some success in Financial Planning competitions. In April, ACE sophomores Presley Fee and Jocelyn Li took 2nd place in the International Association of Registered Financial Consultant's financial planning competition at the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina. That competition began in September with 47 teams from around the country!  That followed another 2nd place finish in October in the Financial Planning Challenge at the National Financial Planning Conference in Nashville. Team members on that occasion were Eric Schaefer, Seth Elam, and Michael Sacco.

Our ability to provide students with opportunities to participate in those competitions and to travel to events like the National Agri-Marketing Association conference (more on that below) is increasingly reliant on the generosity of friends, alums, and corporate partners. I want to close with a word of thanks to all who support what we do in the Department. We truly appreciate the way in which our alumni and alumnae support our efforts be it through helping the next generation with internships or career advice, through visiting us and solidifying partnerships and networks, and through generous financial donations. That support does make a huge difference in the lives of our students. On that note, I also want to say a special word of thanks to our friends at Farm Credit Illinois who recently increased their endowment in support of the farmdoc program.  Support from our alums and friends in industry make possible many of the things we do, and for that support we are indeed truly grateful.

In what follows below, we will introduce you to one of our newest faculty members, Dr. Ben Gramig, and provide an update on one of our Emerita faculty, Dr. Vicki Fitzsimmons. You will also learn about some recent award winners in the Department, and you’ll hear from a student who participated in a recent Ag Policy and Leadership trip to Washington, D.C.

Best wishes,

Sean Fox

 Dr. Benjamin Gramig
 Dr. Benjamin Gramig

Dr. Benjamin Gramig joined the ACE faculty in Fall 2017 as an assistant professor. Dr. Gramig earned his B.S. in Natural Resource Conservation and Management at the University of Kentucky in 2000, his M.S. in Agricultural Economics at the University of Kentucky in 2004, and his Ph.D. in Agricultural Economics at Michigan State University in 2008. From 2008-2007, Gramig held faculty appointments in the Department
of Agricultural Economics at Purdue University.

Dr. Gramig works on issues at the interface between humankind and the environment related to water quality and quantity, and climate change mitigation and adaptation. He conducts research to understand farmer behavior, and designs policies and programs to increase economic efficiency in agricultural conservation. He develops decision support tools and conducts outreach to train extension educators and farm advisers. Dr. Gramig has a strong interest in the economics of climate change, ecosystem services, information economics, choice modeling, and economic management of spatial-dynamic processes in the environment. 

 ACE 292 Participants in Washington, D.C.
 ACE 292 Participants in Washington, D.C.

This semester I had the opportunity to take ACE 291, Agricultural Policy and Leadership, led by Jon Scholl. The course covered current policy issues impacting agriculture and the legislative and rulemaking process. I was excited to begin the course as I have had many friends and peers highly recommend taking it. The course culminated in a trip to Washington, D.C. After this trip, I am confident that ACE 291 was one of the most valuable and impactful classes I took throughout my college career. 

During the trip to Washington, we met with agricultural policy leaders in a variety of areas.  We met with legislators, farmers’ organizations, environmental groups, government agencies, lobbyists, and more. By the end of the trip, it seemed as though we had connected with virtually everyone relevant to agricultural policy. One of my favorite visits was the day we spent on Capitol Hill. Each student met with someone from their respective congressional office.  In my congressman’s office, I met with his legislative assistant in charge of agricultural policy and learned a lot about policymaking and, more generally, about how congressional offices operate. 

I have always had a personal interest in policy and have a particular passion for agriculture.  After participating in this trip, I fully intend to pursue a policy-related career in Washington, D.C.  Regardless of everyone’s motivations or expectations going into the trip, I know my classmates and I all had an incredibly valuable educational experience beyond what we could have hoped for.

This article was written by Peter Laudeman, a May 2018 graduate from ACE: Public Policy and Law.

ACE NAMA Team in Kansas City 
ACE NAMA Team in Kansas City 

The National Agri-Marketing Association (NAMA) team headed to Kansas City in April to compete at the National NAMA Conference. NAMA is the nation's largest association for professionals in marketing and agribusiness. The University of Illinois NAMA chapter is a dedicated group of individuals committed to learning and improving their business planning skills through competition. The NAMA student club is advised by Drs. Brenna Ellison and Nick Paulson, both of whom are professors in the Department of ACE.

To prepare for the NAMA competition, students work together to research and develop a marketing plan around a value-added agricultural product or service that has a clear financial benefit to producers. This year, the team’s product was Smashed Farm Grown Vodka, which was pitched as a gluten-free, non-GMO vodka distilled from pumpkins. The product was developed to reflect Illinois’s standing as the top pumpkin producing state in the country. Most pumpkins are grown within a close proximity to Morton, Illinois, so the NAMA team saw the potential to develop a marketing plan that would benefit producers who are facing a depressed pumpkin market.

In the spring, the team traveled to Kansas City to participate in the National NAMA Competition where they competed against approximately 30 other colleges from across the U.S. and Canada. In addition to presenting their marketing plan to a team of judges, team members had the opportunity to attend professional development sessions and network with industry partners. While they did not advance to finals this year, the team experienced exceptional growth as a team and as individuals through this experience.

This article was written by Cody Lewis, a sophomore in ACE: Agribusiness Markets and Management.

Women in Bangladesh 
Women in Bangladesh 

Every day across the world the Integrating Gender and Nutrition within Agricultural Extension Services (INGENAES) project is creating space for gender and nutrition improvements in extension services. In Sierra Leone, a young woman steps up to educate youth on nutrition while a new fish feed technology leads to higher incomes for women farmers. Young professionals in Uganda and Nepal gain skills to help them put their efforts towards building up nutrition security and rising up to be the next leaders in agriculture.

Meanwhile in Bangladesh, the INGENAES team strengthens extension services and market connections for women and men at a large scale through a rigorous project impact evaluation of two pilot projects in two low-income rural districts of Bangladesh.

Beginning in 2013, Caritas Bangladesh partnered with Catholic Relief Services (CRS) to implement the two projects: Egiye Jai (“Move Forward”) and Nijera Gori (“We Build it Ourselves”). INGENAES, led by AgReach at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, engaged with these two nongovernmental organizations to generate rigorous evidence concerning nutrition-agriculture linkages for Egiye Jai and Njera Gori through performing an impact evaluation. The evaluation determined that the projects led to smallholders yielding higher year-round quality homestead production and improving their household food security and nutrition through adopting agricultural innovations, access to extension services, and linkages to markets.

Backed by robust data, AgReach’s Dr. Paul McNamara and Dr. Han Bum Lee found that the projects increased beneficiaries’ income (on average of 23-25 dollars a month in Egiye Jai and 35-44 dollars a month in Nijera Gori), the likelihood of rearing and marketing poultry and planting vegetable gardens with more plant varieties. Additionally, the projects enhanced women’s empowerment, as they were more likely to be actively involved in a greater number of community organizations and make marketing decisions. The projects also improved women’s access to markets and positively affected income and spending on healthcare, education, and transportation. These factors became the means to improving household food security and dietary diversity scores.

Ultimately, INGENAES’s project evaluations enabled CRS and Caritas to prove whether the intervention strategies successfully addressed the needs of the poor and understand how and to what extent the projects affected the households. In addition, strengthened research components in the projects enhanced the implementers’ capacities to implement, operate, and manage the extension projects, as well as deliver robust evidence for contemporary issues. CRS and Caritas have expanded their projects to the national level and are using evidence found through INGENAES’s impact evaluation to adjust program design and implementation to better suit the needs of rural households in Bangladesh. 

This article was written by Katy Mosiman, Communication Specialist, INGENAES.


Bum Lee, H., McNamara, P., & Bhattacharyya, K. (2017). Women Farmers’ Access to Integrated Livestock Extension Services and the Impact on Livelihoods in Bangladesh. Journal of Gender, Agriculture, and Food Security, 3, 2, 19-42. Retrieved from

 Vicki Fitzsimmons
 Vicki Fitzsimmons

Emerita faculty member, Dr. Vicki R. Fitzsimmons, has spent 30 years helping her students and the individuals in her community be better stewards of their financial resources.  Earning her B.S. and M.S. degrees at the University of Arizona, Vicki found that her passion centered around personal financial planning and resource management.  After completing her Ph.D. at the University of Illinois, she taught at the University of Kentucky and Michigan State University before returning to Illinois in 1984, where she was instrumental in creating the Consumer Economics and Finance undergraduate concentration. Her work, in partnership with Dr. Tom Frey, provided the foundation for the Department’s Financial Planning major.

Under Vicki’s instruction, the ACE 245 (Personal Finance) course grew from an enrollment of 35 to full capacity at 88 students and a waiting list. Vicki transformed the student learning experience by changing the course to a lab format with an emphasis on experiential learning, a new concept at the time. She also developed the first financial planning and counseling capstone course, featuring in-depth case studies and “real-life” client counseling opportunities for students. According to Meg (Webster) Cline, VP for Gift Planning at the UI Foundation, “Dr. Fitzsimmons provided her students with unique learning opportunities that were instrumental in shaping our educational experience. I, along with many other former students, will forever be indebted to her for the investment she made in our success.”

Vicki partnered with several organizations and financial planning and brokerage firms to provide internship and placement opportunities for her students. One of those partnerships was with Jan Young, owner of Lincoln Land Credit Counseling.  Speaking about Vicki, Jan said, “We worked together to develop an internship program in my credit counseling business. This gave her students first-hand insight into the issues involved in financial counseling. She inspired me to be a better educator, counselor, and friend. I am proud to say that, through our professional time together, we have developed a strong and lasting friendship.”

Vicki also held an Extension appointment and in that role she coordinated the Illinois High School Financial Planning Program. Her leadership helped Illinois rank consistently as one of the states with the highest enrollment in the country. With a team of Consumer and Family Economics Educators, she developed the award-winning curriculum, “All My Money,” which was adopted throughout the country to help low-income audiences achieve higher degrees of financial wellness, and continues to be utilized and adapted today. This program was awarded the Outstanding or Innovative Program-Group Award by the University of Illinois Extension and the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education (AFCPE). Vicki was also part of the team that launched the “Plan Well, Retire Well” Program.

Vicki served in many professional and advisory capacities to advance the work of the profession. These included serving as an advisor to the Epsilon Chapter of Omicron Nu, as a consultant for the Consumer Credit Counseling Services of Central Illinois, and as an editor or editorial board member of a number of academic journals including, among others, the Journal of Family & Economic Issues, and the Journal of Consumer Education.

Upon retirement in 2000, Dr. Fitzsimmons and her husband, Reverend James P. Fitzsimmons, relocated to Green Valley, Arizona where they spent a number of years engaged in a variety of not-for-profit endeavors. Close to their hearts is St. Andrew’s Children’s Clinic in Nogales, Arizona. The mission of the clinic is to provide free, specialized medical care to children living in Mexico who cannot get or afford the care they need in their home country. In 2001, Vicki took the helm of the Clinic’s newsletter. In taking the publication to two editions per year and expanding the website, she helped better inform prospective donors and friends about the clinic’s work and, as a result, helped it to increase its impact and serve more children.

In 2005, Vicki began hosting annual voice recitals to raise funds for the “Give a Child a Voice,” program which provides I-pads and voice software for children who cannot speak. For her efforts, Vicki was recognized by the Council of Alumni and Friends of the Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences of the University of Arizona with the Professional Achievement Award. She and her husband were also recognized for excellence in community service at St. Andrew’s Children’s Clinic by the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Sadly, in October of 2017, Jim passed away from complications associated with ALS/Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Our thoughts go out to Vicki and their many friends as they mourn the loss of a wonderful servant to the local Green Valley community. Please keep Vicki in your thoughts and prayers as she continues to battle a rare form of Leukemia.

This article was written by Meg Cline, longtime friend and colleague of Dr. Fitzsimmons'.


In December, 2017, Emeritus Professor Darrel Good received the Charles B. Shuman Distinguished Service Award, the highest award given by the Illinois Farm Bureau.

In January 2018, Amy Ando was one of six faculty on the campus named a University Scholar. Amy joins four ACE colleagues - Madhu Khanna (2004), Peter Barry (1993), Lowell Hill (1992), and John Braden (1989) – to have earned the recognition.  

Todd Kuethe and Todd Hubbs were named winners of the 2018 Outstanding Research Award by the Agricultural Finance and Management section of the Agricultural & Applied Economics Association for their article “Bankers’ Forecasts of Farmland Values: A Qualitative and Quantitative Evaluation,” published in the Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics.  

Craig Lemoine received the 2018 Jonathan Hughes Prize for Excellence in Teaching Economic History.

College of ACES Funk Awards

Ann Finnegan won the Professional Staff Award for Sustained Excellence in Advising, Teaching, and Outreach.

Amy Ando was the winner of the Senior Faculty Award for Excellence in Research.

Mary Arends-Kuenning earned the Faculty Award for Global Impact.

The INGENEAS team (Integrating Gender and Nutrition within Agricultural Extension Services) led by Paul McNamara and including Andrea Bohn, Maria Jones, Jan Henderson, Han Bum Lee, Amber Martin, Kathryn Mosiman, Austin Peterson, Lulu Rodriquez, Colby Silvert, Juan Andrade won the Team Award for Excellence.  

College of ACES Alumni Award of Merit

Eric Jackson (B.S. 1983, Chief Executive at Pipeline Foods) and John Reifsteck (B.S. 1977, Chairman of the Board and President of GROWMARK) both received the Award of Merit from the ACES Alumni Association.  The Award of Merit is the Alumni Association’s highest recognition.  

Undergraduate Awards

Certificate in Management and Experiential Learning: Andrea Cho, Michelle Cozz, Jenna Davis, Effie Lu, Haley Maples, Sydney Mumm, Michelle Paulus, Claire Pigors, Dana Torres, Shelby Schweitzer, Christina Wong, and Nicole Wu
Robert M. Harrison Award: Sydney Miller
Hugh P. Morrison Award: Ali Nation
James Scholars: Anna Kanfer & Ashley Yu
Bronze Tablet: Ali Nation
ACE Undergraduate Research Award
Anna Kanfer, First Place for research on impact of senior community service employment program on health of older adults
Joshua Hendrie, Second Place for research on the economic factors that influence unemployment rates in the U.S.
Slam Dunk Award: Ali Nation
C.J. Elliott Award: Emily Bloemer

Graduate Awards

Outstanding MS Thesis 2017: Anna Fairbairn
Outstanding Ph.D. Dissertation 2017: Andres Ham Gonzalez
Outstanding M.S. Student: Samantha Forrest
Outstanding Ph.D. Student: Bryan Parthum & Andre Fernandes Tomon Avelino
Best Second Year Paper: Siyu Bian

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