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ACES dean honored with STEM award for 25 years of recruiting, inspiring minority students

Published May 27, 2014
Jesse Thompson Jr.

URBANA, Ill. – After 25 years of fostering the collegiate and career success of talented students from under-represented backgrounds in the University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES), assistant dean for academic programs Jesse Thompson Jr. has received the 2014 Ebony Excellence Award for Excellence in STEM Education.

Thompson was honored by the Illinois Black Alumni Network and the U of I’s Bruce Nesbitt African American Cultural Center for his work as the long-standing director of the Research Apprentice Program (RAP) in the U of I’s College of ACES. The award was presented by Ashley Davis, a RAP alumnus, now assistant director of the Nesbitt Center.

“Since RAP’s beginning, Thompson has worked tirelessly in recruiting under-represented high-school students for intensive summer programs in U of I professors’ science laboratories, championed RAP students’ admissions to the university, mentored them to ensure classroom success and in choosing a career, and advocating for them in placements in companies concerned with food, agriculture, and environmental science,” said Laurie Kramer, associate dean in the ACES Office of Academic Programs.

He has been an integral part of the program’s success, she added.

RAP 1 and 2 are rigorous four- and seven-week career exploration, academic enrichment, and science-based experiences that help students identify with the university and leave them wanting more, Thompson said.

One of the nation’s premier STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) programs for high-school students, RAP will be celebrating its 25th anniversary on Saturday, Aug. 2, at the I Hotel. The evening includes a reception at 6 p.m., dinner at 7 p.m., and a program at 8 p.m. for $50 per person. Please register by July 15 at or call 217-333-3380 to secure your place at the party.

As part of the 25th anniversary celebration, the College of ACES is establishing the Jesse C. Thompson Scholarship fund to support RAP graduates who enroll in an ACES major at the U of I. Anyone interested in supporting this fund should visit and indicate that the gift is in support of the ACES JCT Scholarship.