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Aaron Walz

Aaron Walz

Director, Ag Data Services | Purdue College of Agriculture | Class of 1997

We say Illinois, Aaron Walz says ... Quad — which took the future Purdue ag services director longer than most students to see for himself.

And for good reason.

“I had an interesting realization the first time I had a class on the Quad,” he says. “I’d transferred into Engineering as a junior, and my first semester all my classes were on the engineering campus north of Green Street.

“As a married student with a young daughter back in Orchard Downs, I didn’t spend much time on campus apart from classes. In my second semester, I had a class on the Quad.

“As I ventured south of Green Street for the first time, it seemed like I’d been transported to a completely different school. There were students playing Frisbee. They were napping under trees. They were standing around talking. They were relaxed and smiling.

“I remember thinking: ‘Why aren’t you all in class?’ and ‘Where is your 60-pound backpack full of heavy engineering texts and manuals?’ and ‘Aren’t you freaking out about some upcoming project or exam?’

“Of course, I eventually realized that even engineering students do smile on occasion, and that everyone else was working hard, too — even south of Green. But that first exposure was quite a shock.”

Walz would go on to viait the Quad many times, between his undergrad years and the almost 12 he spent as a UI employee. He left for his current Big Ten campus in 2014.

“One of my most (other) memorable moments at the U of I was a test I had in a General Engineering — now Industrial and Enterprise Systems Engineering — class. I think the professor was Edward Kuznetsov.

“He put an office chair up on a desk and told the class: ‘Analyze this chair. Make whatever assumptions you need to make, just make sure to write them down.’

“At the time, it was really daunting to be given such an unstructured challenge. Years later, I realized that this had been a pivotal point in turning us into fearless problem solvers.”