Coming from a small town in Southern Illinois, I get a lot of weird reactions when I meet new people on campus from Chicago and other large cities. A typical response often sounds something like, “You only had 83 people in your graduating class? I had 800 in mine!” Often times, people then infer that coming to such a large university must be like living on a whole other planet for me. Yes, while the College of ACES at the University of Illinois is slightly larger than my 450 person hometown of Flat Rock, Illinois, it is anything but alien. The College of ACES is unique as it gives students access to some the top agricultural programs in the nation while providing students with the family atmosphere of a small college. With study abroad programs, over 40 registered student organizations, and departmental learning trips, students in the College of ACES are able to network with industry professionals and gain real world experience before they enter the job marketplace. As an ACE major with a concentration in Agribusiness-Markets and Management, one registered student organization that I have been a part of is NAMA or the National Agri-Marketing Association. This RSO, which typically features many ACE students, is unique as it is the only RSO that is both a club and a class where students can earn credit that goes toward degree fulfillment. NAMA revolves around creating a detailed business plan for hypothetical ag- related product that benefits the producer in some way. This plan is then pitched to a panel of judges at a national competition that shares a similar premise to the popular show “Shark Tank”.  To date, our University of Illinois chapter is the only one to make the finals three years in a row having finished sixth, fourth, and third in the last three years respectively. For me, NAMA has given me the opportunity to meet many professionals within the agricultural industry and provided me with a way to create a home for myself here at college.  Making lifelong friends, networking with professionals, getting involved outside the classroom, and deciding on a career path is easy in ACE whether you come from a town of 450 or 450,000.

Thomas Weger profile picture
Blog Writer
Theresa Miller, Visiting Academic Advisor and Marketing Coordinator