Agricultural Leadership, Education, & Communications

Major Description

Agricultural Leadership, Education, & Communications (ALEC) at Illinois is the only program in the country that interweaves the study of agricultural, consumer, and environmental sciences with that of journalism, advertising, public relations, marketing, multimedia communications, and more. Students access scholarships, internships, study abroad, career services, professional development, and research opportunities offered by the two colleges that sponsor this major—the College of ACES and the College of Media.

ALEC graduates build careers in advertising and branding; print, broadcast and online journalism; multimedia communication; media planning; public relations and promotions; corporate communications; and sales. They work for Fortune 500 companies, media groups, advertising and public relations agencies, government entities, universities, and nonprofit organizations. Many are communication strategists for organizations that strive to achieve food security and international development. 

The ALEC curriculum combines scientific expertise and communications competence.


Students choose one of two communication concentrations—Advertising and Journalism—which they apply to subject areas related to food, feed, fiber, renewable energy, natural resource management, rural development, law and policy—locally and globally. Students learn more than skills—they become experts in communication strategy. 


Students who choose the Advertising concentration are exposed to the creative and account dimensions of advertising within businesses, agencies, and the media. They explore consumer psychology as it relates to food, agriculture, energy, and the environment, and build core competencies (knowledge, experience, analytical skills) necessary in advertising professions. Students are introduced to the structure, issues, and language of the industry; learn the tools of the industry; and apply these tools to solve real world advertising problems related to agriculture and the environment. 

Those who opt for the Journalism concentration are prepared for careers in varied media outlets, including newspapers, magazines, radio, TV, online and social media. Students investigate and report on important and often critical agricultural and environmental issues. Courses teach students the nuances of communicating agricultural and environmental topics to various audiences using traditional, online, and emerging media. Students get real-world experience working with faculty in small laboratory classes that are, in effect, working newsrooms. The stories they produce are broadcast on UI-7, the public access, educational cable TV channel operated by the University, and the Illinois Public Media. Stories are routinely published in the Daily Illini, the independent student newspaper, other campus media, and the News-Gazette, the local newspaper serving the Champaign-Urbana community. 

Courses That Introduce the Major:
  • ACES 101—Contemporary Issues in ACES 
  • AGCM 110—Intro to Ag & Env Comm
  • ADV 150—Introduction to Advertising
  • JOUR 200—Introduction to Journalism
  • AGCM 220—Communicating Agriculture

Students should consult with an academic advisor regarding course selection prior to the advanced registration period.

Minor in Food and Environmental Systems

The ALEC curriculum includes a built-in minor in Food and Environmental Systems, which provides scientific and technical grounding. Students take coursework in a variety of scientific and technical subject matter areas, enabling them to develop strengths in animal or crop sciences, food science and human nutrition, natural resources, environmental sciences and policy, agricultural and consumer economics, human development and family studies, or agricultural engineering and technology. 

Possible Career Opportunities:

An agricultural communications degree can lead to career opportunities with advertising, public relations firms, government agencies, commodity promotion groups, newspapers, radio and TV stations, magazines, non-profit, and other organizations.

  • Strong writing
  • Public relations
  • Public affairs and investigative reporting
  • Advertising and promotions
  • Public speaking
  • Radio and television broadcast production
  • Research 
  • Interpersonal communication
  • Account executive/manager for ag- and environment-oriented advertising/public relations agencies
  • Ag/Farm broadcaster (radio, TV, online)
  • County manager
  • Creative director
  • Customer relations
  • Dealer communications specialist
  • Development officer
  • Director of communications
  • Editor, writer, reporter, publisher
  • 4-H program coordinator
  • Industry relations specialist
  • Marketing specialist
  • Media communications specialist
  • Media relations and public relations manager
  • Meetings and events coordinator
  • Multimedia designer
  • News group editor, manager
  • Online content editor
  • Photographer/photojournalist
  • Press secretary
  • Public relations specialist
  • Sales and marketing associate
  • Social media coordinator
  • Sustainability specialist
  • Technical writer
  • Videographer
  • Web content manager
  • Web master

Some careers may require education beyond an undergraduate degree.

Enhancing Your Academic Experience:
  • Participating in undergraduate research
  • Applying for a study abroad experience
  • Utilizing resources of The Career Center
  • Exploring and taking advantage of the resources of the campus broadcast and news production facilities
  • Joining a Registered Student Organization (RSO) related to this major, such as:
    • Illini Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow (ACT): helps members develop professional skills and relationships in the communications industry while growing friendships with peers in agricultural and environmental communications and other related professions.
    • American Advertising Federation at the University of Illinois: offers professional development opportunities in advertising through a nationally accredited organization.
    • JAMS: unites students across majors in the College of Media and other colleges to work on a variety of communication projects, form new friendships with a diverse group of students, and enrich leadership skills.
Further Information:

There are several professional organizations dedicated to Agricultural Communications. Their websites provide a glimpse into the world of journalism, public relations, publishing, and advertising. These include the Association for Communication Excellence, AAEA- The Ag Communicators Network,the National Farm Broadcasters Association, International Federation of Agricultural Journalists, the Public Relations Society of AmericaAmerican Society of Newspaper Editors.

For more information about the Agricultural Communications Program, please contact Lulu Rodriguez, Director (