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 Dr. Sean Fox
 Dr. Sean Fox

Dear Alums and Friends,

Greetings once again from Mumford Hall where, in the Department of ACE, we are certainly living up to the new College of ACES tagline – MORE THAN MEETS THE I !

In a recent strategic planning exercise, our faculty identified priorities for our undergraduate program.  These included: a) continuing to focus on experiential learning, and b) ensuring our graduates have data skills and are career ready. With those priorities in mind we continue to focus on the mission of preparing our students for their post-graduation lives.

In February, Jon Scholl led the biennial trip to California for students in his Farm, Food & Environmental Policy course (more on this below). Earlier, over winter break, Dean Emeritus Bob Hauser led an IBIP class to Brazil, while Paul McNamara brought a group to Sierra Leone for an international development immersion course. In May, Michel Robe’s faculty-led program to Europe will provide a unique international perspective on commodity risk management. Plans are already underway for next year’s IBIP trip to India. 

Student reviews of these trips invariably refer to the life-changing nature of the experience. Reading those reviews reinforces my conviction that we should aspire to give every ACE student a meaningful international experience during their time with us.

Our faculty are also creating new learning experiences in the traditional classroom setting. Angela Lyons, for example, has revamped her ACE 476 (Family Economics) class to shift the focus onto problem solving related to consumer behavior. This semester, the course, now titled ‘Behavioral Economics and Financial Decision Making,’ featured students working in teams on five different business consulting projects for Synchrony Financial, a leading consumer financial services firm with a newly established presence at the U of I Research Park.

In end-of–semester reflections, students raved about the skills they developed and the personal growth they experienced through working in teams, interacting with the company, and presenting their final reports in a professional setting. A lot of work was the consensus, but also a lot of fun. The project was, as one student put it, “unlike anything I’ve done in my college career.”

There are so many things happening in ACE that it’s impossible to do them justice in a few paragraphs. The incomplete list:

  • New classes in Applied Statistics, Intermediate Applied Microeconomics, Digital Marketing, and The Economics of Food & Environmental Justice.
  • Hiring three extension-focused tenure track faculty!
  • An incoming class of 23 graduate students, up from 13 last year!
  • International Research Grants for three ACE grad students - well done Kwabena Krah, Ben Norton, and Chi Ta!
  • A prestigious Postharvest Loss scholarship for another grad student – well done Gowthami Venkateswaran! 
  • A new research initiative on the economics of sustainability, enthusiastically endorsed by our External Advisory Committee! 
  • A newly invested Soybean Industry Chair in Ag Strategy – congrats Gary Schnitkey!
  • A new non-thesis master’s degree in which, pending some high-level approvals, we should see our first enrollees in 2019, and discussions underway for a new ‘ACE + Data Science’ undergraduate degree. 
  • Record numbers of freshman applications and an incoming class 25% bigger than last year!

Thanks again to all our alums and friends for your ongoing generosity with your time, talent and treasure in support of our many programs. Without your help, many of the things listed above simply could not happen. Now, here’s hoping for a few dry days to get some corn planted in Central Illinois! 

Sean Fox, Head
Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics

Students studying in California 
Students studying in California 

“Agriculture is our wisest pursuit, because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals, and happiness.” I’ve long held this famous quote by Thomas Jefferson close to my heart. Growing up on a corn, soybean and beef cattle farm, agriculture played a significant role in shaping me into who I am today. After deciding to pursue a career in agriculture, I realized there would be no better place to equip myself for that future than the University of Illinois. This decision - and these people and these classes - will forever have an impact on my life and career.

This spring, I took a step out of my comfort zone and decided to take a course called “Farm, Food and Environmental Policy in California.” This class was one of the first examples of a wise pursuit at the University and it strongly influenced my love for agriculture. Before traveling to California during spring break, I had a strong passion for the agricultural industry and knew my future would in some way involve agriculture. During the trip, we had the opportunity to tour businesses and farms, along with getting to meet Secretary Karen Ross. She grew up on a farm in Nebraska and amazed me with the amount of knowledge she had on agricultural issues. She and other speakers and industry professionals made me realize that I, too, can make an impact within the industry.

What else did I learn? Sometimes, it takes stepping away from the family farm to realize how incredible agriculture is and its importance in society. Through this class, I gained the opportunity to do just that and more. In his quote, Jefferson mentioned that agriculture contributes to happiness. I saw that in California, where people were passionate about agriculture. Although not every moment in agriculture is a pleasant one, the end result for almost all individuals is an overall feeling of happiness. As agriculturists, our main mission is to feed the world and at the end of the day, who wouldn’t be happy knowing they are doing just that? We met California families who work together to not only make a living but to live off the land, and are happy with what they have. Nothing makes me happier than seeing everything my family has accomplished together in agriculture.

Through this experience, I have realized that the wisest pursuit I can have is a connection to agriculture and farming. It is because of opportunities like this one that students have the ability to learn about agriculture and grow the same sense of love for the industry that many agriculturists do. Whether I am on the farm day to day, or helping educate consumers on the importance of agriculture, this industry is one I am passionate about and know I will have a future career in.
This article was written by Katelyn Eathington, a freshman studying ACE: Agribusiness Markets & Management.

Richael Young 
Richael Young 

Richael Young received her M.S. degree from the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics in 2014. Her path to studying economics was accidental. “I was a civil engineering undergrad at the time. I had a wonderful advisor, Dr. Mike Hirschi, who oddly insisted I take an ACE 100 class,” Richael said. “There I was, a senior in engineering, with 19 freshmen—I couldn’t believe I had been duped into taking it.”
It ended up being one of her favorite classes at Illinois. Her professor, Dr. Nick Brozovic, would end up being her research advisor, and the two would eventually start a company together, Mammoth Trading.

Richael pursued a dual M.S. program in the Departments of Agricultural and Consumer Economics and Civil and Environmental Engineering. “I joke that I was hedging my risk in starting the ACE program,” Richael said, “but truth be told, the programs were quite complementary for my career goals in water management.”
Richael’s thesis research compared the performance of policies to manage groundwater pumping that reduced baseflow to hydrologically connected surface water.

Amid research and a double course load, Richael was the Entrepreneurial Lead for a National Science Foundation Innovation Corps award to commercialize university research. “Our research group was developing state-of-the-art water markets in a research setting. The goal was to explore their commercial potential.”

It was then that Richael discovered the importance of getting out of the lab and into the field. She interviewed 80 agricultural producers and water managers in six weeks, learning about their biggest challenges for water management and whether water markets could help. It was a success. Richael and Nick opened the doors to Mammoth Trading weeks before Richael defended her thesis.

Richael is president and CEO of Mammoth Trading, where she led the development and implementation of the world’s first “smart markets,” or algorithmic clearinghouses, for surface and groundwater. Richael also consults on water market design, water risk, valuation, and strategy, and the cost-effectiveness of water management policies. She has presented her work at the first-ever White House Water Summit, Stockholm World Water Week, and the Imagine H2O and Milken Institute’s California Water Policy Challenge.

Today, Richael lives in Denver, Colorado where she is close to areas in need of water markets and opportunities for great outdoor activities. Among her closest pals in Denver are two classmates from her ACE cohort, Camila Stark and Kegan Reiswig. “My experience in ACE set me on a trajectory to have the best career and job imaginable for me,” Richael said. “The icing on the cake is the lifelong friends and mentors.”

Linlin Fan with her dissertation committee 
Linlin Fan with her dissertation committee 

Dr. Linlin Fan received her M.S. degree from the Department of ACE in 2012 and her Ph.D. from ACE in 2018. She now works as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics at Mississippi State University. She credits her success to the rigorous training and supportive environment she enjoyed in ACE.

As an international student coming to the United States for the first time, Linlin was uneasy about balancing the adjustment to a different culture and language, coursework, master thesis and job hunting at the same time. She was unsure about her future career paths and therefore tried several different directions. Thanks to the great patience, compassion, and guidance of her advisor, Professor Kathy Baylis, Linlin decided to finish her Ph.D. and work as a researcher addressing critical food policy issues. All of the training and support Linlin obtained during her program of study led her to successfully land a tenure-track Assistant Professor position in the highly competitive American academia job market despite being an international student speaking English as a second language.

Linlin now conducts research on health economics and food policy, which extends her dissertation work at ACE. Specifically, she analyzes the policies on improving food access, reducing food waste, food insecurity and obesity in the United States. Given the alarming fact that over 70% of American adults are overweight or obese and 1 in 8 Americans are food insecure, Linlin is passionate about finding ways to combat the obesity epidemic and end food insecurity in the United States. Her experience in ACE has trained her as a rigorous and insightful researcher in tackling these important issues, which has empowered her to provide scientific evidence for policy discussions on the well-being of hundreds of millions of people.


This article was written by Dr. Linlin Fan, recent graduate and recipient of ACE Outstanding Ph.D. Dissertation for 2018.


Virginia Guthrie 
Virginia Guthrie 
Virginia Guthrie

Join us in remembering emerita associate professor of family and consumer economics, Marjorie Virginia Guthrie, who passed away earlier this year at the age of 103. Virginia was a beloved member of the College of ACES family who dedicated her career to serving the University and state of Illinois.

Virginia graduated from Carthage High School and subsequently spent nearly a decade teaching in rural areas in Hancock County. She completed her bachelor of science degree at the University of Illinois, which enabled her to serve as the Moultrie County home advisor for several years. Virginia continued her education at the University of Illinois, completing her master’s degree in home management in 1951. After a brief tenure teaching at Michigan State University, East Lansing, we gladly welcomed Virginia back home; she taught at the University of Illinois until her retirement in 1980.

Many will remember Virginia’s great involvement with the Home Management House on campus, a laboratory in which students could study home economics. We are grateful for her contribution to the field of consumer economics and for Virginia’s kind and humorous service over the years.


College of ACES Funk Awards
Gary Schnitkey won the Paul A. Funk Recognition Award.
Peter Goldsmith was the winner of the Faculty Award for Global Impact.
Craig Gundersen received the Faculty Award for Excellence in Research.
Jon Scholl won the Specialized Faculty Teaching Award.

Earl M. and Mildred S. Hughes and Undergraduate Teaching Enhancement Award
Michel Robe, The Clearing Corporation Foundation Professor in Derivatives Trading
Mindy Mallory, ACE Associate Professor
Angela Lyons, ACE Associate Professor
Paul McNamara, ACE Associate Professor

Undergraduate Awards
Certificate in Management and Experiential Learning: Cody Lewis, Elizabeth Orihuela, Alyssa Pedersen, Riley Russell,
Steven Sabatini, Yiqian Zhang
James Scholars: Daniel Hom, Madison Merdian, Steven Sabatini, Mengyuan Zhu
Bronze Tablet: Una Deng, Joshua Keske, William Ladas
ACE Undergraduate Research Award
Vivian Zhang, First Place for research on agroforestry in China with Dr. Daniel Miller in Natural Resources & Environmental Sciences
Slam Dunk Award: William Ladas
C.J. Elliott Award: Ailie Elmore

Graduate Awards
Outstanding MS Thesis 2018: German Mandrini
Outstanding Ph.D. Dissertation 2018: Linlin Fan
Outstanding M.S. Student: Felipe Avileis
Outstanding Ph.D. Student: Yujun Zhou
Outstanding Ph.D. Student Honorable Mention: Mateus Souza and Hemant Pullabhotla
Best Second Year Paper: Siyu Bian
Special thanks to the Graduate Student Officers serving this year: Kun Peng, President; Mateus Souza, Vice President;
Samantha Forrest, Treasurer; Brittani Edge, Secretary

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