The faculty and administrative professionals listed on this page are dedicated to the Agricultural Communications Program and its students. They share a deep understanding of the intersection of communications, food, agriculture, energy, and the environment. Because Ag Comm is an interdisciplinary program between the College of ACES and the College of Media, the faculty and students of the Program work closely with those of the two colleges.
Lulu Rodriguez has 20 years of experience in communication education, research, and outreach initiatives in support of national and international development programs. She designs, implements, and evaluates the impact of communication campaigns related to agriculture, renewable energy, the environment, food safety and food security. Her research focuses on the communication of risks related to scientific and technological breakthroughs, investigating people’s basic mental models of hazard and their opinions about innovations that cause controversies or may be perceived as risky. she began graduate studies in communication at Cornell University. She teaches communication campaign planning, implementation and evaluation, and visual communication theories and principles and their application. She received her B.Sc. degree in Development Communication from the University of the Philippines, her M.Sc. in Communication from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, and her Ph.D. in Mass Communication from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Taylor Ruth's teaching and research efforts work toward the goal of helping members of society make decisions related to agricultural, consumer and environmental sciences that are based in facts rather than feelings and fear. Dr. Ruth's primary teaching role is to improve the writing and science communication skills of students in the College of ACES. She received her Ph.D. and M.S. in Agricultural Education and Communication and her B.S. in Microbiology and Cell Sciences from the University of Florida.
Heather Miller teaches courses that strengthen journalism and communications involving the food complex, natural resources, rural-urban interactions, and other dimensions of agriculture and the environment. She also aids in coordinating student service activities such as advising, career services, and profession relations. She has more than 15 years of teaching experience in agricultural communications, agricultural science, and other topics in face-to-face and online settings. She is consistently in the list of University of Illinois faculty members rated excellent by their students.
Rick Danzl brings 25 years as a photojournalist to the classroom to share his experiences and knowledge of all aspects of photography to students. He has won numerous state and national awards for his photography and videography work. He is part of the staff the the News-Gazette in Champaign that is consistently recognized for excellence in journalism. Danzl takes his passion for photography to the agriculture and environment domain to teach students skills that will help them communicate visually for a lifetime.
Samantha Koon is an experienced marketing and communications practitioner, educator, and entrepreneur. She currently runs two businesses in Central Illinois and works on consulting projects for clients with marketing, strategic planning, and training needs. Samantha has nearly 20 years leading the marketing and communications function for several non-profit and higher education organizations. Her areas of expertise include market analysis, strategic planning, corporate communications, and marketing execution for products, events, and causes. Samantha frequently leads workshops and conference sessions on marketing and strategic planning topics. She has also been affiliated with the University of Illinois Agricultural Communications faculty for several years.
Alaina Kanfer has a passion for learning about cutting-edge science and sharing it with others to advance the adoption of new technologies in society. She received her doctorate in Mathematical Social Science with a focus on social networks from the University of California at Irvine. She has taught classes and published scholarly articles on the sociology of science and on the social impact of emerging technologies. With her husband, Larry Kanfer, she has also published several coffee table books including Barns of Illinois and Illini Loyalty. She serves as Director of Engagement & External Relations at the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology.
Dr. Evans’ distinguished career spanned 33 years of teaching and research in agricultural communications. He has been recognized nationally for his leadership in an agricultural communications program and recognized internationally for his exceptional academic credentials. He is also a staff associate for the Agricultural Communications Documentation Center in the ACES Library. Dr. Evans is still active and involved in the Program on its committees as well as an advisor for students and alumni. Students wanting to meet with him on campus to discuss careers may send him an email.
Following stints as newspaper reporter, public relations writer, and magazine editor, Bob Hayes served as assistant professor of Ag Comm in 1975. He was later named head of the teaching/research section and advising coordinator, and had a joint appointment in the Department of Journalism after gaining tenure. He received the Gardner Award as outstanding ag college advisor, and won back-to-back distinctions for teaching and research from the then Association for Communication Excellence (ACE). He served in the U.S. Army and holds three degrees, including an interdisciplinary Ph.D., from Southern Illinois University. His publications include academic journal and popular periodical articles and ten books. Two of his novels have been honored with Pushcart Prize nominations. He retired in 2008. (Photo courtesy of the News-Gazette.)
Jean Drasgow assists undergraduate and graduate students in career exploration, internship and career placement, and coordinates the ACES and Sciences Career Fair. Previously she managed the University of Illinois Center for Human Resource Management (CHRM). Prior to this post, Jean worked for a regional outplacement firm as a human resources consultant, which involved a variety of career placement activities including coaching professionals in their search for appropriate employment. Jean has her MA in Human Resources, MS in Rehabilitation Administration, and a BS in Horticulture all from the University of Illinois.
Christy Allen, an Ag Comm junior, is the Program’s intern and ambassador-at-large. A consistent honors student, she is a recipient of the outstanding new member award in 2016 from the ACES Student Advancement Committee for which she is the ACES Council Representative. She recently bagged the Sophomore Activator Award from the Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow, the flagship student organization of the Agricultural Communications Program. Christy hails from Arthur, IL.
For advising, admissions, transferring, or arranging a campus visit, ACES Academic Programs and the Media Student Services can help you!