As a teen in trouble with his mother, Michael Smith found himself “punished” by having to attend the ACES Research Apprentice Program (RAP). Little did he know that years later he would teach for the program.
Upon coming to the U of I as an undergraduate, Michael found himself struggling to fit in. After taking Ag Ed 100 he knew that he wanted to become a part of the agriculture education program, and he hasn’t regretted it.
“The program has helped me open up to new ideas. I was nervous interacting with and speaking in front of others, but my classes allowed me to see that everyone was there to support me and help me through. I’ve gained persistence and drive through the coursework,” Michael says.
The ag ed curriculum requires internship experience of students, so Michael fulfilled that requirement by serving as the leadership course director for RAP. He instructs students—enhancing their leadership skills and helping them recognize their strengths and weaknesses—teaches leadership theories, and hosts academic support sessions.
“It sounds cliché, but I feel like a farmer. Just as a farmer plants seeds and watches them grow, I too get to watch my students grow from the knowledge that I am sharing with them,” Michael says.
RAP brings students interested in science, technology, engineering, and math-related careers in the food, human, and environmental sciences to campus for a seven-week laboratory and academic development experience. Participants interact with researchers, take classes, and become familiar with campus.
“U of I has been a great fit for me. Within ACES, personnel are always willing to meet and help students better themselves. I’ve never had a professor at the U of I that wasn’t willing to go the extra mile for a student. It means a lot to me that they are educators and not just researchers who have to teach a class,” Michael says.