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University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign College of ACES
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College of ACES Alumni News

Young Alumni & Career Achievement Award Ceremony

Join us in celebrating these outstanding alumni with the 2020 ACES Alumni Association Career Achievement and Young Alumni Award Ceremony!


Homecoming at Home 2020!

Join us for the traditional fountain dyeing (with a few special guest stars) or virtually tour campus to see what’s new. Reminisce with current students and alumni as we share memories, and plan your at-home tailgate menu with recipes from a few of our prominent chef alumni. And on game day, be sure to tune in for a special musical halftime show (you won’t want to miss this!). This will be an exciting week of virtual events leading up to the Illinois vs. Iowa game on December 5th. Visit the Homecoming website here

Award of Merit Leadership Panel

If you weren't able to participate in the leadership panel with the 2020 ACES Award of Merit recipients, you can still hear about their experiences and their persepectives on leadership. Check out the full recording here!

Call for Award of Merit Nominations

Nominate an ACES Alumnus for Award of Merit

Each year, the College of ACES Alumni Association honors three to five outstanding graduates of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences with the ACES Award of Merit. This award recognizes the outstanding accomplishments of living University of Illinois College of ACES alumni who have excelled in their careers, leadership or service upon graduation from college.

Scoring will consist of 48% Professional Accomplishments and Service to Professional Organizations, 27% Service to the University of Illinois and College of ACES, 16% Community Achievement and Service to the Community; 6% Awards and Honors, and 3% Nominator’s Letter of Endorsement and Letters of Reference.

Guidelines for Nomination:

2021 Award of Merit Nomination Form

  • Submit the completed nomination form. Complete applications should include all relevant information within the nomination form. (Letters of reference only serve to support the nomination and are minimally factored in scoring.) Nominee information is limited to the area available in each area of the form. Do not attach extra pages.
  • Attach two letters of reference in support of this nomination. One letter of reference must be from a University of Illinois past or current faculty or staff member. Names, addresses and an email must be included on reference letters.
  • Attach resume of nominee (no vitas please).
  • All nomination forms, resumes, and letters of recommendation must be completed and submitted electronically to Kendra Courson at
  • Applications are due January 15, 2021. 

No confirmation of receipt of the nomination will be sent.  All materials received for a single nominee will constitute that person’s nomination.  It is the responsibility of the nominator(s) to ensure that all materials have been received by the College of ACES Alumni Association office.

NEW - Applications will only be considered for one year.  The same application may be resubmitted for up to three years.  It is recommended to update the application with any new or missing information before re-submitting.  If a nominee is not selected within the three-year period, a new application can be submitted after 3 years.

Questions please contact:

Kendra Courson

Interim Director of Alumni Engagement

Director of Special Events

View all past award winners online:

ACES Family Academies - Save the date!

The College of ACES Alumni Association will once again host the ACES Family Academies program, June 16-18, 2021. Watch our Facebook page and your email for more information.

Congratulations to Diana Clark, a 2020 ACES Outstanding Young Alumni recipient!

Diana Clark knows meat and thrives on sharing that knowledge with a signature blend of skill, science, creativity and humor. Clark is a meat scientist for the Certified Angus Beef ® brand in Wooster, Ohio. The Chicago native develops high-impact training for retailers, butchers, distributors, and chefs at the Certified Angus Beef ® Culinary Center. Guiding them to break subprimals into saleable cuts, experiment with beef on the smoker and develop unique ground beef and sausage blends, she is enabling them to advance their beef knowledge and business success. She is a passionate advocate for the beef and agricultural industry and has been featured in many national publications.

Clark is a two-time graduate of the College of ACES, earning a B.S. in animal science in 2011 and an M.S., specializing in meat science and muscle biology, in 2014. During her undergraduate and graduate career, over two summers, Clark worked at Sara Lee. After graduating she worked at Sara Lee and then Ohio Farms Packing in quality and safety compliance.

While a graduate student, Clark was also the coach of the Intercollegiate Meats Judging Team, a program she continues to support today in her professional career. Additionally, she instructed meat science classes. Today she continues teaching and mentoring students at The Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute.

She is an active member of her community, supporting local causes as a volunteer and also volunteers for professional organizations like the American Meat Science Association. Clark currently resides in Wooster, Ohio with her husband and fellow meat scientist, Daniel, and their daughter Idamarie.

Congratulations to Ethan Luth, a 2020 ACES Outstanding Young Alumni Award Recipient!

Ethan Luth is a fifth generation farmer from Douglas County Illinois, and credits his success in the agriculture field to this upbringing and the knowledge gained while attending the University of Illinois. From a young age, he was curious about the operations of the family farm, and was active in 4-H and FFA, which developed the foundation for his leadership skills and contributions to the industry. While working on the family farm at the age of 12, his father told him the only way he would be a part of the farm in the future was to get a college education. That was the day he knew he wanted to attend the University of Illinois and major in the field of agriculture. Luth graduated in 2003 with a B.S. in Farm Management.

He began his professional career with Growmark, where he served as a certified crop specialist, providing agronomic insights to farmers in the areas of seed, crop protection, nutrition, and soil and water management. Thanks to multiple internships completed while at the University of Illinois, he was then recruited to join Bayer Crop Science as a field sales representative. During his 14 year career with Bayer, Luth has contributed to the agriculture community in many ways, and on a global scale. He has held many positions in the sales, marketing, and business strategy areas, including an international assignment in Monheim, Germany.

He has also enriched his education throughout his career, including the completion of a master’s degree in business administration from the University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School. The experience gained from the Illinois Agriculture Leadership Program showed him how important strong leaders are in our industry.

With continued education and development, Luth has contributed to agriculture in both his positions at Bayer and participation in his family’s farming operation. He also shares this love of agriculture with his wife and three young daughters who enjoy visiting the family farm and learning more about the importance of agriculture for our society.

Congratulations to Patrick Martin, a 2020 ACES Outstanding Young Alumni Award Recipient!

Patrick Martin graduated from the University of Illinois College of ACES in 2009 with a B.S in International, Resource and Consumer Economics with a focus in Policy, International Trade and Development.

He joined Cozen O’Connor Public Strategies as a Principal and Director of the Midwest two years ago. At just 31 years old, Martin was charged with spearheading development of a Chicago-based Midwest government relations and public affairs practice. Since joining the firm, he has built an independent book of business that rivals those of lobbyists over 20 years his senior. Today, Martin represents large national and international companies such as Exelon, Starbucks, Canopy Growth Corporation, Centene and Fortune Brands, just to name a few. While helping them manage their most complex government affairs matters, he distinguishes himself by providing sophisticated advocacy at the local, state and federal levels.

During last year's legislative session in Springfield, Martin and his colleagues represented marquee clients in every major policy discussion, from cannabis and energy to privacy and consumer protection. He also greatly expanded representation of the firm's Midwest clients in the nation's capital, winning recognition from The Hill magazine as one of the “Top Lobbyists of 2018” and again in 2019, in their “Hired Guns” category. Martin also was named to Crain’s Chicago Business’ prestigious “40 under 40” list this year.

Prior to joining Cozen O'Connor, Martin spent several years at the consulting arm of another AmLaw 100 firm, where he rose to become the youngest senior vice president in that firm's history. During this time, he also worked with former Indiana governor and U.S. Senator Evan Bayh both in government and private practice roles.

Since returning to Chicago, Martin has focused on reconnecting with the institutions that mean the most to him. He has been an active member of the University of Illinois Alumni Association, participating in clubs in both Chicago and Washington, D.C. - counseling students and interns on how to best pursue careers in government relations and public policy. He also serves on the Junior Board of Catholic Charities and was most recently named to the organization's government relations executive board. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he has provided pro bono lobbying services to the organization in an effort to help them secure funding and support.

Martin lives in Glen Ellyn with his wife Caitlin, and their two children, daughter Lucy and son George.

Congratulations to Nancy Moran, a 2020 ACES Outstanding Young Alumni Recipient!

Nancy E. Moran, Ph.D. is an assistant professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine. She conducts research on the role of dietary components found in fruits and vegetables in human health at the USDA Agricultural Research Service's Children's Nutrition Research Center, the world's largest, free-standing research center dedicated to the study of children's and maternal nutrition.

She earned a bachelor's degree in molecular and cellular biology with honors from the University of Illinois in 2005 and a doctorate in nutritional sciences in 2010. Her research program is currently funded by the National Institutes of Health and US Department of Agriculture, and she has published 27 research articles.

Moran’s professional interests include Carotenoids, Nutritional Biochemistry, Genetics, Nutritional Pharmacokinetics, Cancer Prevention and Survivorship, and Pregnancy and Lactation. She has been a member of the American Society for Nutrition since 2005, the International Carotenoid Society and the Dan L. Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center, Baylor College of Medicine since 2016. Additionally, she is an Editorial Review Board Member for the Nutrition Research Journal.

Moran has a record of local and national scientific leadership, and was elected to serve as the chair of the Carotenoids and Vitamin A Research Interactive Group of the American Society of Nutrition. She is an advocate for cancer prevention research and has raised over $5,000 for cancer research through participation in charity bike rides. She is a long-time advocate for research trainees and currently directs a seminar series for postdoctoral trainees in her research center, supporting the careers of over 20 young scientists.

Congratulations to Wyatt Muse, a 2020 Young Alumni Award Recipient!

Wyatt Muse has been deeply involved in the food supply chain on many levels his entire life and is proud to contribute to a safe and healthy food supply. He grew up on his family’s row crop farm in Piatt County, Illinois. After studying agribusiness at the University of Illinois and at Wagengingen University in the Netherlands, he started his career in the commodity grain elevator business at The Andersons.

Muse joined Clarkson Grain Company as a merchandiser of specialty grains and was soon promoted to be the merchandising manager for the specialty grains division. At Clarkson Grain, Muse contracted with farmers who raised non-GMO, certified organic, and other IP grains, while connecting buyers to a consistent source of food grade corn. In 2017, he further committed to his growing farm operation, all of which are dedicated to specialty or seed crops. In addition, he joined McDonald Pelz Global Commodities as a cash grains broker with a focus on building their work in organics and specialty grains.

Muse is deeply rooted in his community and takes his roles very seriously, ensuring he is always providing value and advancing the efforts of the organizations with which he serves. He has served on numerous boards, including the Policy Advisory Board for Allerton Park and Retreat Center, The Land Connection and the Piatt County Soil and Water Conservation District. As a board member, he contributed significantly to advance these organizations and their missions. As vice chairman of the Soil and Water Conservation District, he has contributed to multiple projects, including the electronics, and tire and oil recycling drives and initiating fundraisers utilizing wildflower seed and sunflower bird seed. As a member of the Land Connection, he has delivered farmer training and served on numerous committees, including the Organic Grain Conference committee. He is an out of the box thinker and has partnered with another board member and landowner, Mary Gelder, whom shares similar values and interests in sustainable farming practices, to develop, implement, and promote innovative land access strategies.

Congratulations to Dean Dittmar, a 2020 Career Achievement Award recipient!

Dean W. Dittmar has been a constant in Illinois agricultural education for more than six decades. When the Facilitating Coordination in Agricultural Education (FCAE) launched in 1990, he was the first southern Illinois program advisor for the statewide project. He held this role for 27 years. In August 2018, Dittmar was selected to head the statewide FCAE program, based in Champaign, which to date has allocated over $65 million since its inception. He is currently still involved with this project.

Dittmar grew up on a farm near Galena, Illinois, and attended Galena High School. There, he took college preparatory and agriculture classes, becoming a leader and president of his local FFA Chapter. Upon graduation from the University of Illinois in 1985, Dittmar taught agri-science for five years at Waterloo High School in Waterloo, Ill., where he was recognized early as an exceptional agri-science teacher.

Over his nearly 35 year career, Dittmar has been instrumental in establishing 33 high school agri-science programs and 24 new FFA alumni chapters, with even more opportunities for statewide growth in his new position. He has led agri-science curriculum and program improvement workshops for over 17,000 participants. Dittmar initiated an agricultural economic study in the St. Louis region, 5 Illinois counties and 6 Missouri counties, showing 16 percent of the region’s workforce and 11 percent of the total economic output.

He spearheaded the Illinois effort to have high school agri-science courses count toward college entrance requirements, a huge achievement that few other states can equal. Finally, he has served in a number of leadership roles with the National Association of Supervisors of Agricultural Education and the National FFA Organization. The statewide Illinois agricultural education program stands apart from other states’ nationally, and Dean has been a leadership constant over the entire nearly 30-year history of FCAE.

Congratulations to Barbara Kochanowski, a 2020 Career Achievement Award recipient!

Barbara Kochanowski has spent more than 35 years working as a scientist, consumer health care products research and product development manager, and strong reformer of the regulatory system that oversees the majority of over-the-counter medicines in the United States.

Kochanowski began her industrial career at the Procter & Gamble Company (P&G) as a bench scientist, applying her training in nutrition to develop new technologies and conducting scientific research on a variety of dietary supplements and over-the-counter medicines. Her patent on calcium citrate malate is the subject of significant clinical and pre-clinical research, numerous publications, and was utilized in several marketed products by P&G and other licensees. Her career progressed into management of research and product development at P&G, working on significant product innovations for iconic brands like Metamucil and Pepto-Bismol.

Following her retirement from P&G she moved to Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) in regulatory and scientific affairs, a position she holds today. As senior vice president, she is responsible for all interactions by the Over-The-Counter (OTC) medicines industry with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other regulators in an effort to improve public health and safety. Most recently, her work to reform the OTC medicines regulatory system came to fulfillment with the passage of the CARES Act in March 2020. This bill included major reforms to the outdated regulatory system overseeing the majority of OTC medicines in the U.S. and has been widely supported by stakeholders from industry, FDA and consumer groups as transformative.

While advancing in her career, Dr. Kochanowski has developed others into successful managers to follow in her footsteps. She and her husband Ken, also a graduate of the University of Illinois Division of Nutritional Sciences (DNS), have contributed financially to the College of ACES and DNS, showing a very strong commitment and willingness to give back to those who made their education possible while also challenging other ACES alumni and friends to do likewise.

Kochanowski’s accomplishments in the advancement of science and policy, along with her service to the College of ACES, are recognized with a College of ACES Alumni Association Career Achievement Award.

Congratulations to Asgerally (Asgi) Fazleabas, a 2020 Career Achievement Award recipient!

Asgerally (Asgi) Fazleabas is recognized world-wide for his outstanding research in women's health, specifically in endometriosis, hormonally controlled early events of implantation, and pregnancy in humans. He has developed a non-human primate model that has allowed many scientists to make significant discoveries and clinical applications regarding endometriosis, a disease which affects 10% of women of reproductive age. As a professor, he has educated many graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and medical students.

Fazleabas earned a bachelor’s degree from California State University in Fresno, Ca. in 1974 and a master’s degree in dairy science at the University of Illinois in 1976. Fazleabas obtained his Ph.D. in Reproductive Physiology at the University of Illinois under the mentorship of Professor Charles Graves in 1980.

Fazleabas completed postdoctoral training (1980-1983) at the University of Florida, under the superb mentorship of two renowned professors of Reproductive Physiology, Dr. Fuller Bazer and Dr. Michael Roberts. He then joined the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Illinois – Chicago as a research associate.

 In 1985, Fazleabas became an assistant professor in the same department and quickly moved through the academic ranks becoming a full professor in 1995. He served as Director of the Center for Women's Health and Reproduction at the University of Illinois from 2002 to 2009. Since 2009, he has been at Michigan State University where is serves as associate chair for research in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Biology; director, Center of Women's Health Research, co-director, Reproductive and Developmental Sciences Program at Michigan State University. He also holds the rank of University Distinguished Professor and MSU Foundation Professor. 

His service to the scientific world has been most significant through his research, serving on many federal grant review panels, and holding major leadership positions in scientific societies, particularly the Society for the Study of Reproduction. 

There are few other scientists in women's health who have a similar scientific impact, making Fazleabas most deserving of a College of ACES Alumni Association Career Achievement Award. 

Do you know a student interested in the College of ACES?

Freshman and spring transfer applications are now open, and prospective students can learn more about virtual visits and so much more on the College of ACES future students page. ACES offers virtual options for class and group visits, too.
Share these resources with young people in your life! 

All Roads Lead to Chocolate

Tens of thousands of people across the country love chocolate and can’t imagine a world without it. Kara VanderLeest is one of these people. VanderLeest found a way to use her love of chocolate and food science to create a career. The food science major graduated from the University of Illinois in 2013. She says this program helped her build a strong foundation in food principals that allowed her to open her own chocolate company in Door County, Wisconsin.

After graduation, VanderLeest accepted a job with ADM Cocoa where she worked in the Product Service and Development department as a technologist. She made samples, met with customers and managed product development. When the company split, she moved to Door County, where she started a new job as a kitchen manager at a local candy shop. In this position, she learned how to produce candy on a smaller scale. Experiences from these jobs led VanderLeest to open her own business, DC Chocolate Design, in 2018. DC Chocolate Design’s business is mostly wholesale, with online orders and catering to special events, VanderLeest explains.

“Experiences at the University of Illinois helped me learn how to develop new products and look at food in a more scientific way,” she explains. Additionally, attending the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) allowed relationships with professors and peers to prosper and have the small school feel, while still being able to use the big university resources, she shares

Although COVID-19 brought along many challenges for someone running a small business, VanderLeest said it helped DC Chocolate Design grow in many ways. “COVID helped us expand online sales and we were forced to learn more about online marketing and how to use social media to promote our products,” VanderLeest says.

She suggests those interested in starting a business should be an expert in their product, know their market and for everything else have a great support team of experts. With the knowledge and experience that she gained from the University of Illinois, VanderLeest was able to create a career that suits her passions.

Join the hunt for the Animal Head Medallions

In addition to the food and fellowship of the Celebrate Food and Agriculture event, this year’s celebration included the reveal of custom terra cotta animal head medallions.

When the University of Illinois Stock Pavilion was constructed in 1913, it featured 52 terra cotta animal head medallions on the exterior north wall. The designs featured 10 different species viewed as important to the livestock industry (two each of beef cattle, dairy cattle, horses, pigs, and sheep).

During Stock Pavilion renovations in the 1950s, the animal heads were removed and many were damaged. Intact medallions were stored on the South Farms, but many were lost over the decades.

Watch a video about the animal head medallions.

In 2018, five of the pieces were returned to the Department of Animal Sciences. Two other medallions were found in a campus storage room and in a local garden.

During recent efforts to reinvigorate the interior and exterior of the Stock Pavilion, Longshadow Planters of Pomona, Illinois, was contracted to create molds of the remaining pieces to reproduce dry cast limestone medallions. Five of the reproductions were selected for incorporation in the wall on the south exterior of the Stock Pavilion.

The John N. Chester Estate Endowment supported the recreation of the animal head medallions. The recovered original pieces remain on display in the Stock Pavilion.

The search continues for three of the original 10 medallion designs. Help the College of ACES find the Holstein and Jersey cows and Poland China pig. If you have any information about the missing medallions, contact the College of ACES Office of Advancement at 217-333-9355 or

Learn More

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We want to stay connected to you!

All invitations to events and college updates will be sent via email only. Please update your email address to stay connected today!

With the rising cost of postal mail, email communication is a cost-effective way for the ACES Alumni Association to stay connected and provide updates, event announcements, and invitations to you as our alumni. Please feel free to share your email address with us by sending it to 

Join the 4-H Alumni Association

Were you a member of 4-H?  The University of Illinois Extension, Illinois 4-H, and the Illinois 4-H Foundation invite you to join the newly formed Illinois 4-H Alumni Association. A free life-time membership is available online . We hope your 4-H memories bring a smile to your face. We're creating memories daily with today's 4-H members.

Stay Connected on Social Media

Online social networking is a great tool to stay in tought with alumni and friends from the College of ACES! We want to stay connected to you! We post regular updates about activities, alumni profiles, on campus happenings, etc. Stay connected with us!

ACES Alumni Association hosts the following groups online: 

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Be sure to share any special times in your life with the ACES Alumni Association to keep your fellow alumni updated! Newly married? New job? Promotion? New book? New baby? We hope to hear from you. 

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