Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Blessed to give, not to have: UK DanceBlue Reflection

For The Kids (FTK).  Just three words- three small words- but the meaning behind those three words goes so much deeper.  In 2014, approximately 10,450 children under the age of 15 will be diagnosed with cancer.  This is a number that is much larger than it should be.  No child should have to go through this type of physical and emotional pain, but on February 22-23, 2014, 836 students at the University of Kentucky stood for 24 hours to fight against childhood cancer.  836 students participated in Dance Blue a 24 hour, no sitting dance marathon.  $1,436,606.24 (that’s 1.4 MILLION dollars!!) was raised toward UK’s Child Hematology/Oncology Clinic to help ease the pain of the childhood cancer patients across the bluegrass. 
            For the first time since 2007, the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment (CAFE) participated in a university wide, Dance Blue Marathon.  In August, a group of students decided that the CAFE should give back and participate in UK Dance Blue.  From September to January, students in the CAFE fundraised, sent donor letters, and emails to help raise money for Dance Blue.  The support that we got from our families, our friends and staff/faculty in the CAFE was endless.  Together, we had eight students on the CAFE Dance Blue team and with the help of many people we raise $2,900 towards the University of Kentucky Dance Blue Marathon.  For our first time having a team in a few years, I am so proud of what we accomplished.  I am also thankful for the kind words, Facebook "likes," support, money raised, smiles and high fives we got along the way from so many.  What I am especially proud of is our attitude towards the marathon.
            Around 12 hours into the marathon, I started to get a little discouraged.  Would I be able to make it to the end?  What if I could not finish?   But it was also around the 12-13 hour mark that I really started to realize who I and the other 835 students were dancing for.  The kids that we danced for have a disease that is constantly damaging their body.  These children do not get to “sit” down after the 24 hours is up.  The kids and their families will forever deal with the aftermath of cancer; even if they survive, cancer will always live with them.  This truly is a sad reality.  It break my heart to hear the number of children who have cancer and to see the strength in the children that were at Dance Blue. When I signed up to participate in Dance Blue, I knew the reason why I was dancing, but it was not until I was really struggling that I really understood who I was dancing for.  
            Around the time that I had this realization, my attitude towards the whole dance changed.  During the 11 minute line dance, which was done at the top of every hour, I was more energetic. I found myself giving words of encouragement to the dancers around me. And most importantly, I found myself not giving up.  If I found myself getting tired, I constantly reminded myself that I am completely capable of standing for 24 hours for someone who cannot and I was surrounded by 835 other dancers that were completely capable and willing to for 24 hours to help those around us.

I am proud of what we accomplished in 24 hours.  I am proud of the amount of people who did not give up.  I am proud of the amount of money that was raised.  I am proud of all of the people who came to support this event.  I am proud of all the leaders on the Dance Blue committees. But what I am most proud of is being a part of a University that wants to make a difference in our state and in our country. As humans, we are called to help those around us who are not capable of helping themselves.  We are designed to be loving, selfless, beings.  FTK are three words that kept us all going.  When our muscles ached, FTK.  When we felt tired, FTK.  When we did not think we could last the full 24 hours, FTK. I was blessed with the ability to stand for 24 hours for someone else and I was blessed to give, not to have. FTK.

Kelsey is a junior majoring in Community & Leadership Development.  She is from Pendleton County, Kentucky and is active in Sigma Alpha, UK Ag Ambassadors, UK Ag Student Council and other things across campus.  She was also a past Kentucky 4-H Officer.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

National FFA Week: Looking Back & Looking Forward

Happy National FFA Week everyone!
Whether you were an FFA member or not, this week is special in that people across the country are all celebrating American Agriculture and the continuing of educating our youth about it. For those of us who were always extremely involved in our home chapter’s FFA Week activities, this week can serve as a sad reality that yes, “I really am growing up.” We went from one year leading multiple philanthropy events, fundraisers, and workshops, to studying for the next test and making it through the first year of college. The first year I spent this week as a college student, there was a feeling of disconnect.  I felt like I was losing a part of myself since FFA was gone. I decided my friends at school didn’t understand, and that there was nothing that could fill that hole being an FFA member left behind. I couldn’t have been more wrong. For all of you new college students dwelling in what FFA and 4-H “was” for you, I’m here to tell you what they still ARE for you.

1.      It’s not actually over.

No, you can’t compete in Parliamentary procedure anymore or go to monthly meetings, but there are a lot of things you still can do as a college student. For FFA members, you are still eligible to show livestock, submit Supervised Agricultural Experience Proficiencies (SAEs) and apply for your American Degree. For 4-H members you can still attend State Conference, show at your county fair one more time, and be a Teen Leader at 4-H camp. There are always more activities to participate in just talk to your county agent or advisor and keep going!

2.      Become an active alumni.

Wow, that word made you feel old right? Well as much as I hate to say it, the day you graduated high school you became the alum of numerous organizations. But push away that negative connotation of the word and look at it just like a milestone- a sign of hard work to become the person you are today who will accomplish great things. Being an alumni is your chance to give back and help those after you have the opportunities you had. Even if you’re the definition of a broke college student, find a way to give back whenever you can. Send an encouraging text, stop by a practice when you are in for a weekend, or even volunteer with another chapter or extension office.  Anything you do will mean something to those members, teachers and agents.

3.      Join something new.

College gives us the opportunity to not only expand on what we enjoyed in high school but also to really find out more about ourselves. So maybe your college doesn’t have Collegiate 4-H or FFA. Joining organizations that aren’t identical to the clubs you were a part of in high school gives you the chance to find new interests and find that group of people that can be your support group and feel like family, just like you have had in years past.

4.      Share what you have gained.

You know how you can’t stop talking about all the awesome things FFA did for you or how you wouldn’t be the person you are today without 4-H? Well why not share this with others. Those new organizations you are joining are looking for passionate, hard working and strong willed people just like you to get active in their club and take future leadership positions. Why mope about what you miss when you can start planning for what you are going to implement to make your new organization even better? Be that active new member who isn’t afraid to speak up in front of the group and can work with any team. You’ll be amazed at how much joy can be attained just by finding your place and sharing your ideas. 

5.      Become an AGvocate.

Okay... the play on words may be cheesy, but the longer you are in college the more you will understand the increasing need for more of these. AGvocates are those that simply advocate for the agricultural industry. This seems like a quite a job for just a college 19-20 year old student but our voice is more important than you know. It’s the small things that can make the biggest difference. Using social media to highlight the positive side of our industry, such as posting pictures of feeding hay or tweeting about vaccinating your weaned pigs, every little bit helps. We don’t have to inform the world about agriculture all at once. We can start with our peers, the future consumers, and work our way up from there.  Use social media to also learn how others are being Agvocates and share others' experiences.    

I hope these tips help you to make it through National FFA Week with a more positive and enthusiastic outlook. Remember the more involved and immersed you get within your college and organizations the better your overall experience will be. The National FFA Organization and 4-H have given you these skills and experiences for you to share with others- don’t let them down!

Renee is a sophomore from Princeton, Kentucky and is studying Agricultural Economics.  She was involved in FFA and other activities in high school, and has involved herself as a CAFE Ambassador, a member of Sigma Alpha, Block and Bridle and other activities at UK.  

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Greenhouse: UK’s new environment and sustainability residential college

Ever since I was a little girl, one of the things I have loved most is wading through streams. I love feeling the coolness of the water on my legs. I love watching the water as it flows around bends and over rocks. I love turning over those very same rocks to find out what lives underneath. I have been lucky enough to play and work in streams in Kentucky, the U.S., and the world.

With each stream I visit, I think of a quote by the fluvial geomorphologist Luna Leopold: “The health of our waters is the principal measure of how we live on the land.” Some streams I have visited were healthy and functioning well, while others were not.  Because of my love of streams and the environment, I decided to spend my career working on ways to improve the health and functioning of streams.  Luckily for me, while working at the University of Kentucky, I have been able to combine my love of streams and the environment with my love of teaching.

In the next few months, I will have the opportunity to continue working with students on environment and sustainability issues. Starting in the fall of 2014, the University of Kentucky will open the doors to a new living learning community focused on the environment and sustainability.  Located at Woodland Glen II, this new community called Greenhouse is open to freshman and sophomores of all majors with an interest in the environment and sustainability. Greenhouse is a partnership between the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment (CAFE) and the College of Arts and Sciences (A&S). Mary Arthur (Forestry), Shannon Bell (Sociology), and Alan Fryar (Earth and Environmental Sciences) and I are co-directors. 

Greenhouse is designed to foster the development of an environment- and sustainability-focused community on UK’s campus by helping students make connections with each other as well as faculty, staff and community professionals. The intent is that these campus community connections will lead to student-driven contributions that will improve the environment and advance sustainability on campus and beyond. In essence, these are the four C’s of Greenhouse: campus, community, connections and contributions.

Students in Greenhouse will enroll in a two-credit hour connected course (AS 100 Pathways and Barriers to Environmental Sustainability) in the fall and a one-credit hour course in the spring.  Co-curricular activities such as weekly coffee chats, tours and field trips, guest speakers, and movie nights are planned. You can find out more at http://greenhouse.as.uky.edu/.

While I think of a quote by Luna Leopold when I think of streams, I think of one by his father, the famous conservationist Aldo Leopold, when I think of Greenhouse: “We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.” With Greenhouse, we want to build a community of engaged students who can improve the environment and sustainability at the University of Kentucky and beyond.

To apply for the Greenhouse Living and Learning Community, please visit  http://greenhouse.as.uky.edu

Carmen Agouridis, Ph.D., P.E.
Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering

Monday, December 23, 2013

A Big Blue Year in Review: 2013 Edition

[Author's Note: To put yourself in a proper frame for reading, please turn on your favorite holiday music, sit by a fire (or candle), pour yourself some coffee, hot cider, or hot chocolate, and enjoy.]

2013 has certainly been a great year for the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment!  We have so much to be reflective on in this season of togetherness and celebration of love.  Below are some reasons that 2013 has been such a banner year for us all.  This is no way serves as an official list, but one of reflection and promise as we look toward a bright 2014. Check out the University's holiday greeting and then come back to check out the rest of the blog........

What's In a Name?
This year brought on a name change for our College. Our new name has stirred emotions of alumni, students and others, bringing on much discussion.  The new name, College of Agriculture, Food and Environment truly does encapsulate who we are and what we do by today's standards.  For those in the industry, agriculture is such an implied word.  But what about for generations removed from the farm? The addition of "...,Food and Environment" helps focus on some of the pressing challenges for the industry in the future and helps with public education on some of the issues we are working so hard to research, educate and extend ourselves into Kentucky's communities.  The name change allows the general public to better understand who we are: The landgrant College focusing on contributions and innovations in animal sciences and animal health; in crop, plant and food production; in the health and well-being of Kentuckians through nutrition, family development and activity; in food production, development and food security; in environmental stewardship through design, alternative fuel approaches, woodland and natural resource management; and in personal development through leadership, economic and humanitarian measures.

In short, the new name allows us to prepare for the challenges of 2014 and beyond.  We are poised to better tell our story and continue making a difference in the lives of Kentucky and beyond.

Our Students
Our student body currently sits at its largest in UK history.  The University is now nearly 30,000 Wildcat strong.  The many accomplishments of our students through awards in undergraduate research, leadership roles taken throughout campus and nationwide in organizations, and the high academic caliber of our student body make this a big pride point among our Big Blue Nation faithful.  As a top ten research college of agriculture, we hold high esteem for the accomplishments of our students- in and outside the classroom.

Our college's largest undergraduate and freshman classes have came the past two years.  As over 400 freshman and transfer students have entered our door, our undergraduate student enrollment is at 2699 students, and with adding graduate students, we sit at just shy of 3200 total students. The scholastic achievements of our students make them our college's most academically talented group in our history.  This year's mid-fifty percantile for our incoming class was a 22-27 ACT and a 3.3-3.9 high school GPA.  One of our incoming freshman, Megan Harper, of Calloway County, was named a Belles of the American Royal and Agriculture Future of America Scholar.  Others received many top scholarships from around the University and around the country.

Our students continue to impress through academic research, like Devin Henry through the agricultural biotechnology programAmanda Pesquira who received the Alltech Young Scientist Award, or landscape architect students, Jared Kailen, Justin Menke, and Thomas Wortman, who received Oswald Awards for research and creativity.

Our UKAg students hold leadership positions across the ranks of campus as well.  DanceBlue is a student-ran philanthropy on campus and involves many of our students.  This year's overall student chair is Claci Ayers, an agricultural biotechnology student and UK's current Homecoming Queen.  Many of our other students, including Christa Childers, a dietetics student, who serves on the Family Relations Committee, and Alex Bugg and Kaitlin Klair, serving as team captains of the CAFE Cow Tippers DanceBlue Team, a group consisting of students from across the College. DanceBlue is one of my favorite things our students do each year and it truly brings our campus together.  If you have never been, try and check it out February 22-23, 2014. The video includes last year's reveal and the group dance number at the end, and is sure to inspire you and get your toe-tapping.

Our faculty and staff
We are widely known for our committed faculty and staff that serve the College in so many ways.

We began 2013 with two of our professors, Dr. Roberta Dwyer and Dr. John Grove, being named Outstanding Teachers at the University.  We will begin 2014 by having another recipient, Dr. Mark Coyne, receiving the same distinction.

On a national front, Dr. Bill Silvia, Animal Sciences, was recognized as a Regional National Teacher by the USDA and APLU. Also from Animal Sciences,  Dr. Debra Aaron received the Distinguished Service Award from the Southern Section of the American Society of Animal Science.

Dr. Kelly Webber, Dietetics and Human Nutrition, received a NIH grant for work on weight loss.  The year's Patricia Brantley Todd Award Recepients were recently named from our School of Human Environmental Sciences, including Jason Hans, Family Science,  for the teaching award.

Some of our student programming won awards at the annual NAADA Conference, including programs for National Ag Awareness Day and Ag Bash.

Finally, we want to thank and acknowledge the leadership and administration of Dr. Scott Smith.  Dr. Smith leaves our College where he has been Dean since 2001.  We appreciate his work and commitment to the Commonwealth and wish him the best, although he's not going very far and will be teaching some sections of GEN 100 for our students.

We also want to welcome Dr.Nancy Cox into the role of Dean effective January 1, 2014.  We know that she will be a visionary dean and lead UK Ag to even greater heights.

In Summary......
It's been a great year to be a Wildcat, and hope that some of you who may be prospective Wildcats or parents of a soon-to-be-Wildcat see the many proud accomplishments for our College this year, in years prior and in years to come.  How will you prospective Wildcats engage your potential here at UK and make your mark?  We look back on an exciting year for our College, and look forward to the greatness that 2014 will bring for our UK Ag Family.  

Remember that our Incoming Freshmen Scholarships are due January 15, 2014!

Happy Holidays!!

- Jason H.

Jason Headrick is the Director of Student Relations for the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment.  He is a 2002 graduate of UK with a B.S. in agricultural communications and is set to complete his MA in May 2014.  He serves on the board for the National Agricultural Alumni and Development Association.  He also is on the board for the Fayette County UK Alumni Club.  

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Be Bold. Be Beautiful.Be Empowered.

In becoming a College of Agriculture, Food and Environment Ambassador, I did not know what to expect nor did I understand what I was in to at the time. All I knew was that I was applying for something great and maybe I would be selected.

When I received the phone call that I,Kenya ,had been selected to be apart of the 2013-2014-ambassador team I could not believe it. Not because I was unsure of myself but because I had accomplished something great. I challenged myself and conquered, I put myself out there and achieved.

Now that I am an ambassador, my experience has been great nonetheless. I am surrounded by great people each time we get together; people that I would not know or hold a conversation with if it was not for being an ambassador. Not because I would not want to but because the opportunity would not be there. I am also placed in positions that challenge my nerves and the fear of speaking in front of people on demand. I now understand that I can speak publicly in a group or in a crowd and there is nothing to be afraid of. I am geared with the knowledge of the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment that I would not have had if it were not for this experience. As I continue to go through my college career, I would not trade being an ambassador for anything, as it is helping to empower me to do great things and inspiring me to help others challenge themselves.

Representing this fine college in all that it is and all that is shall be has been nothing but an honor and privilege.

I want to wish the best of luck to all of my fellow Wildcat classmates as they have finals next week. 
Be Bold. Be Beautiful. Be Empowered.
You will do fine!

 Kenya is a Family Science junior from Louisville, Kentucky.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Growing Trees Is Like Growing Gold

The Eastern Kentucky Coal Fields of the Cumberland Plateau
The eastern Kentucky Coal Fields of the Cumberland Plateau is a distinctly unique physiographic region of Kentucky with a rich cultural heritage.   Eastern Kentucky is especially known for its verdant mountainous terrain, diverse and beautiful hardwood forests, turbulent history, and its proud and fiercely independent inhabitants. I grew up in the gently rolling foothills of the Cumberland Plateau in Laurel County Kentucky where I have descended from generations of farmers, woodsmen and mountain folk who knew how to live off the land. My heritage and upbringing has defined me as a person and has established my destiny—I’ve been called a farm girl and I’ve been called a tree nerd and my response is always a smile of delight and a beam of pride!
 Growing up on a small sheep and goat farm, I understood from an early age why my family was heavily invested in growing vegetables, fruit trees, honey, and livestock. The forests on my family’s hill farm were a source of profit for us as we cut firewood, gathered nut crops, hunted squirrels, and harvested saw logs for lumber.  As I grew older, I realized the importance of agriculture in sustaining human populations across the United States and the globe.  But it wasn’t until I began my studies in Forestry at the University of Kentucky (UK) that I fully understood the importance of forests in an agricultural context.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture houses a multitude of agencies, including the U.S. Forest Service.  In the same way, the UK’s College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment (CAFE) is
 far-reaching in its diversity of academic departments and programs.  The CAFE’s Department of Forestry has enabled me to appreciate the practice of forestry as a farming enterprise.               

UK Forestry students planting native hardwood seedlings on a surface mine in Pike Co., KY
Trees are a crop just like corn or tobacco. The differences between trees and row crops are obvious. A crop of soy beans will take one year to mature, whereas in southern pine plantations, foresters may harvest their stands anywhere between age 15 and 35 years depending on what the wood will be used for (i.e., saw timber, biomass, pulpwood, etc.).  High value hardwoods like oak, hickory, walnut, and black cherry require a longer time for the trees to fully mature and be ready for harvest (80+ years).  Perhaps the most significant aspect of forests as an agricultural resource is their capacity to provide a suite of ecological services while growing wood products for human use.  No one can dispute the value of forests for their ability to clean the air and water, provide wildlife habitat and recreation, and protect the soil from erosion, as well as provide valuable wood products, fuel, and wood    fiber – growing trees is like growing gold!

                During my studies in the UK Forestry program, I learned that planting trees and restoring the ecological services of the original forests on drastically disturbed sites is a better reclamation strategy than establishing an herbaceous cover of grasses and legumes.  I learned that foresters, reclamation practitioners, and soil scientists are planting trees on barren, unproductive surface mined land in my eastern Kentucky homeland.  Green Forests Work (GFW) is a non-profit organization that was founded in the UK Department of Forestry in 2009.  GFW is dedicated to restoring healthy, productive forests on surface mined land initially reclaimed as unproductive grasslands.  Their mission extends throughout the entire Appalachian coal fields, which spans across eight states- from Pennsylvania to Alabama.
                  Forests are a renewable resource. By reestablishing forests where we have barren land, the economic opportunities provided by GFW will not only provide for the Appalachian people today but will put those lands on a path that will ensure that a forest is available for use by future Appalachian citizens.  Support for GFW is growing and I am optimistic that in time a skilled green workforce can be developed to restore, protect, and manage this natural resource that is so vital to the region’s current and future prosperity. Native trees that are being planted on these surface mines will grow into functioning forests, providing humans with key ecological services and economically valuable wood products for generations to come.  For more information on GFW see www.greenforestswork.org.

Hannah is a senior forestry major from London, Kentucky.  

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Student List: The Top 4 Classes at UK

As a fifth year senior in a five-year program, I have nearly 150 credit hours under my belt here at the University of Kentucky. Believe me when I say that, like the Clint Eastwood movie, I have seen "the good, the bad and the ugly" of a lot of different classes. Sometimes as students we want a little heads up on what the “fun” classes are, and we don’t always know what’s out there for us to take. What I would like to share with you are some of my favorite class experiences. I have put together a list of 4 of my all time favorite courses that are available to everyone to take (no prerequisites needed).  I hope that you read the following course list and consider these options as you create your future schedules:

4.Introduction to Floral Design (PLS 240)
Why it made the list: Anyone who has a creative side, wants to learn more about plants, likes event planning, or simply has a passion for floral arrangements should take this course. It is a great class to take amidst my busy senior schedule. This course allows me to relax a little and focus on my creativity.  In this course, my professor, Sharon Bale, discusses the key elements to creating boutonnieres, corsages, bouquets, and table arrangements. Don’t worry gentlemen, the class is composed of roughly 30% guys, so don’t be afraid to sign up! Want to know the best part of the class? You get to keep just about everything you make! I don’t know about you, but I’ve had fresh cut flowers in my kitchen all semester. This course has rightfully earned a number 4 spot in my countdown of favorite classes

3.  Any International Study Abroad Program (ISP 599)
Why it made the list:  Alright, so I know that this isn’t a specific course, but hear me out! I attended my first study abroad trip this summer through the landscape architecture department and had an absolute blast. Not only did I get to eat delish food, walk the streets of three different countries, and experience South American culture, but I got to do it as school credit! What better way to learn than getting out of the classroom and exploring the world?  

2. Living on the Right Side of the Brain (LA 111)
Why it made the list: I took this course in the spring of 2011, and have never wanted to take a class twice more in my school career. This course helps students tap into their creative side and put it to good use. You don’t have to be naturally creative to take this class; all you need is a willingness to try. Ryan Hargrove, the professor of this course, does an excellent job of getting everyone involved and harnessing the creativity and imagination of every individual class member. This course includes things like keeping a creativity journal, watching inspirational videos, group discussions, and providing feedback on a class blog.
Warning: This class will require you to think outside the box and be open with your inventive ideas.

1. Wine Appreciation (GEN 300) 
Why it made the list: For many reasons this has become my favorite class at the University of Kentucky. Now, I know most of you are thinking I like the course because I get to drink wine for a grade. Although that is enjoyable, it is far from the truth. Let me take you back a couple years. As a third year landscape architect student we were required to create a mock winery on an existing plot of land. We did our research by visiting neighboring wineries, and learning about vineyards through guest speakers. We were required to determine the type of soil, climate, slope and other key elements that were conducive to the growth of grape vines. That’s where my interest in vineyards and wine production began. When an email came saying that this class would be available for the first time ever this fall, I seized the opportunity to further my interest.
            In this course taught by professor Michael Barrett, we learn all about wine, from grapes growing on the vines, to the time it is bought and drank by the consumer. Half of the class is a lecture based. This is where we learn about the different types of wines, where they are grown, wine production, and overall characteristics of different grape varieties. The second half is a wine tasting, followed by a discussion of the things we had previously read and learned about in the lecture portion. Honestly, No class has made me want to read the required text book more than this class, making it my favorite class at the University of Kentucky.
Side Note: You must be 21 or older to take this class.

Well there it is folks, 4 of my favorite classes at UK. I hope that in your future you are lucky enough to get into these amazing classes!

Hillary is from Cincinnati, Ohio and is a Landscape Architecture senior.