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The University of Illinois Agricultural Communications Program issues this e-newsletter to share updates on student and faculty accomplishments, academic activities, and other initiatives. Contact Lulu Rodriguez, Program Director, with questions or comments.

Hunger U exhibit raises awareness of food security issues
Ag Comm lecturer Alaina Kanfer joins students in raising awareness about food issues at the Hunger U mobile exhibits on the quad. 

The University of Illinois was part of a nationwide tour to raise college students’ awareness of nutrition and food security issues. On November 4, Hunger U, a mobile exhibit to educate college students about the significance of modern agriculture and how it affects the world’s food crisis, set up its van on the main quad.

Sponsored by Farmers Feeding the World, an initiative of the Farm Journal Foundation, Hunger U visits college campuses across the country to engage students in dialogues about food problems and highlight the role of modern agriculture in finding solutions.

Lulu Rodriguez, director of the Agricultural Communications Program, said the Hunger U’s visit not only sparked conversations about how today’s farmers are helping feed a hungry world, but also educated students about the critical role that modern agriculture plays every day in putting food on people’s tables.

“Advocating for agriculture or ‘agvocating’ through awareness campaigns is just one example of how agricultural communications can be applied. Hunger U is a prime example of Ag Comm in action,” she says.

Leia Kedem, Agricultural Communications instructor, agrees. “In our courses, students explore some of the most controversial and newsworthy issues of our time—GMOs, water quality and access, climate change, antibiotic usage, food labeling, and more,” she explains. “Hunger U on campus offered a great opportunity for students and the general public to learn more about today’s critical food issues.”

The Hunger U mobile was stationed at the Anniversary Plaza on the main quad. Students participated in interactive games to raise awareness about today's food issues. The van’s displays also exposed students to the state of food security in over 100 countries.

Litchfield receives NAFB Samuelson Scholarship
 Left to right: Chris Grams, CME Group Senior Director of Corporate Communications, Tim Andriesen, CME Group Managing Director of Ag Products, Orion Samuelson, and Orion Samuelson scholar Kelsey Litchfield.

Kelsey Litchfield, Ag Comm junior, won the National Association of Farm Broadcasting (NAFB) Foundation’s $5,000 Orion Samuelson Scholarship to continue her agricultural communications studies at the University of Illinois.

Read the full story at FarmWeekNow.

Homecoming Huddle tradition continues

Agricultural Communications celebrated University of Illinois Homecoming with the traditional Homecoming Huddle on Saturday, October 24, prior to the Illini football game. Numerous alumni and friends stopped by the ACES library to reconnect.

Loyal alumni also launched the Next 500 Agricultural Communications Scholarship Campaign. Organizers announced a challenge for alumni, based on the decade in which they graduated. The decade with the highest percentage of graduates contributing to the Next 500 campaign will receive special recognition! For more information, visit the Agricultural Communications website or contact the following individuals representing their decade of Ag Comm alumni.  

1960s - John Volk

1970s - Becky Doyle

1980s - Diane Martin

1990s - Holly Spangler

2000s - Josh St. Peters

Orwig honored as Illini Comeback Guest
Lyle Orwig, left, with Interim Chancellor Barbara Wilson 

The Student Alumni Ambassadors (SAA) of the University of Illinois Alumni Association honored Lyle Orwig, ’74 AGCOMM, as an Illini Comeback Guest during the 2015 Homecoming festivities. Each year since 1980, the SAA invites a group of distinguished alumni back to campus to participate in traditional activities such as the Homecoming Parade and Pep Rally.

Orwig, chairman of Charleston|Orwig, has received numerous professional honors. The ACES Alumni Association presented the ACES Alumni Award of Merit to him in 2008.  

Karr and teammates bag 2015 Borlaug CAST Communication Award
 Left to right: Julie Tesch (Executive Director, American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture), William Craft, Jr. (U.S. Department of State Deputy Assistant Secretary for Trade Policy and Programs), Dr. Channapatna Prakash (Dean, College of Arts and Sciences, Tuskegee University), Doyle Karr (Director, Biotechnology Public Policy, DuPont) and Kimberly Reed (President, International Food Information Council Foundation) celebrate the launch of a new curriculum aimed to educate 7th-10th graders about biotechnology and agriculture. Photo courtesy of the American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture and the International Food Information Council Foundation.

Ag Comm alum Doyle Karr, DuPont’s Director for Biotechnology Public Policy, was part of a team that received the Borlaug CAST Communication Award during the World Food Prize celebrations in October. The award recognizes “outstanding achievement by a scientist, engineer, technologist, or other professional working in the agricultural, environmental, or food sectors in contributing to the advancement of science in the public policy arena.” Karr and his team were recognized for the Bringing Biotechnology to Life toolkit, a curriculum they designed for 7th to 10th graders, unveiled at the World Food Prize 2015 Borlaug Dialogue international symposium. 

During the symposium, the American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture (AFBFA) and the International Food Information Council Foundation announced the global launch of this free educational resource that aims to facilitate learning about agricultural biotechnology and its role in food production. “This classroom resource is fact- and research-based and has been reviewed by an array of scientists, so the science behind it is very sound,” said Julie Tesch, executive director of the AFBFA. “Consumers do not understand the impact of biotechnology on agriculture and our lives,” Tesch explained. “Our goal is to provide students with the tools they need to make informed decisions about the practical uses of biotechnology.”

The toolkit includes seven sequential lesson plans for educators, which address national learning standards for 7th to 10th grade students. It guides students through the process of understanding DNA, selective breeding, biotechnology and GMOs. Students also are presented with tools to evaluate the reliability of information they see and hear.

“The concepts I learned in the Ag Communications campaigns class (AGCM 320) about knowing and understanding an audience, developing messages for that audience and using the most effective channels to reach them are the same ones I use in the development of communication materials we need today,” Doyle explains. “A lot of those went into the making of this award-winning toolkit,” he adds.

The Bringing Biotechnology to Life learning kit is available for download at no cost online at or

Evans, Heiberger publish farm safety study

An original research article titled “Fitting Farm Safety into Risk Communications Teaching, Research and Practice” by Ag Comm professor emeritus Dr. James Evans and ‎Scott Heiberger, communications specialist at the National Farm Medicine Center and University of Illinois alumnus, appears in the latest issue of the Journal of Applied Communications.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, agriculture has the highest rate of occupational death across all U.S. industries – 22. Fatalities per 100,000 workers – ranking it ahead of transportation, mining, and construction. This study examined the potentials for improving the engagement of the agricultural media, which serve as farmers’ primary channels for farm safety information. It focused on potentials for strengthening skills in farm safety communications through teaching programs in agricultural journalism and communications.

To gather data for the study, Evans and Heiberger conducted an online survey of faculty representatives in 23 agricultural communications programs at universities throughout the nation. Their findings reveal an encouraging potential for integrating farm safety into agricultural communications courses. Those who responded offered positive views about the importance of occupational safety in farming, identified special skills needed for communicating about farm safety, and showed interest in gaining access to related teaching resources. They expressed concern about how effectively safety is communicated with farmers, farm families, farm workers and others in agriculture. They also expressed interest in teaching resources about farm safety communications involving topics represented in all three functional areas of risk communications—care, consensus, and crisis/risk.

In a broader sense, the study helps fit a “lost cousin” – occupational safety in farming and agriculture – into a growing family tree of risk communications related to food, natural resources, renewable energy, rural development, sustainability, and other dimensions of agriculture.

The article is the first of four publications funded by a pilot project grant from the Upper Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center based at the University of Minnesota. Another research piece, titled “Agricultural Media Coverage of Farm Safety: Review of the Literature,” is slated to appear in the January issue of the Journal of Agromedicine.

This research was conducted jointly by the Communications Program, National Farm Medicine Center of the Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation in Marshfield, Wisconsin and the Agricultural Communications Documentation Center of the University of Illinois. Funding was provided by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health through the Upper Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center, a Center of Excellence in Agricultural Disease and Injury Research, Education and Prevention with headquarters at the University of Minnesota.