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Christi Sudbrock, 28
Instructor and Outreach Coordinator, Darr School of Agriculture at Missouri State University
The daughter of teachers, Christi Sudbrock swore she’d never teach. But apples don’t fall far from the tree, and after two degrees in agricultural economics and business (from the University of Illinois and Missouri State University, respectively) she’s now helping the next generation of agricultural leaders find their way to careers.
As outreach coordinator, one of Christi’s biggest achievements in her four years at Missouri State has been to establish the George Washington Carver Academy. Named for the famous scientist and farmer from Diamond, Missouri, the academy teaches young people around the state—many of whom don’t have any knowledge of agriculture or a clear path to college—about the possibilities of the industry and how to navigate hurdles like FAFSA, the ACT and more.
“Many people think a degree in agriculture is just a ticket to go back and farm,” Christi says. “But actually very few do that. Most go out into industry and government and pursue higher degrees.”
Christi also participated in an outreach program, sponsored by Springfield’s Downtown Rotary group, which allowed her to travel and study in Central America. She also has organized an exchange with a Brazilian university where students there and from MSU visit one another’s campuses and countries to learn about agriculture.
Job title and where you work: Instructor and Outreach Coordinator for Missouri State University’s Darr School of Agriculture
Education: M.S. Agricultural and Consumer Economics from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, B.S. Agricultural Business from Missouri State University
City or town where you live: Ozark
1. How did you end up at your current job/profession?
Both of my parents were teachers so growing up, I swore that I would never teach! I saw all of the long hours, the struggles and heartbreaks that can go hand-in-hand with teaching. They would always laugh and say, “Never say never!” While completing my masters I had the opportunity to be a teaching assistant for an introductory agricultural economics course that including teaching four sections of a discussion, and I was completely hooked. I’ve experienced the long hours, the struggles and the heartbreaks, but it has been worth every second.
2. Where do you find passion to do what you do?
The students! They’re really pretty fantastic. Even when they make you want to pull your hair out, it’s a joy to work with students. Helping students navigate difficult concepts and watching the light go on as everything clicks is the best feeling. Actually, what’s better is watching students grow over the course of their studies at MSU. I’m getting ready to start my fourth year here at MSU, so the first batch of students that came in as freshman are getting ready to be seniors, and it seems completely surreal to have watched them go from goofy and awkward, to confident and competent adults that I am fiercely proud of. And yes, I will cry like a baby when they graduate!
3. Are you single/married, and do you have any kids?
I am married. My husband’s name is Brian Sudbrock and he works for Burlington Northern Railroad here in Springfield, and we’ve been married for four years in August. We met during college in soils class and he used to throw things at the back of my head during lecture. No children yet but we do have two boxers that we treat like children. Beau is 6 and Rosie is 3 years old.
4. What are your hobbies (when you’re not working)?
I love to read more than almost anything! My husband will get so frustrated with me because I will stay up until 2 or 3 in the morning to finish a book. And I hate electronic books! I love to skip ahead to make sure characters are still alive, and the way that library books smell is the best. My husband and I also enjoy kayaking, fishing and running around in the outdoors once the weather warms up.
5. Are you involved in any charitable organizations?
I am a regular attendee at Schweitzer United Methodist. This is one area that I hope to grow in, in the future.
6. Are you a member of any professional organizations?
I advise for the professional agriculture sorority Sigma Alpha on campus. This is also an area I hope to grow in the future.
7. How would you define the secret to success?
Never be afraid to try new things, always be ready to forgive yourself and others for past failures, never underestimate the value of kindness, and never forget the power one individual has to elicit change. One of my favorite quotes was a sign someone had taped to their office door at the University of Peace in Costa Rica: “If you ever think you are too small to make a difference, try going to bed with a mosquito in the room.”
8. What's your favorite thing about your career?
This is a draw between students and variety. I love that I get to do something different every day. One day I’ll be teaching, then I’ll spend two weeks at the State Fair in Sedalia recruiting, or I’ll head to one of our farms to get pictures of our students in hands-on learning experiences. Dr. Elliott, the Director of the MSU Darr School of Agriculture, is amazing because he is always encouraging us to try new things, try going in different directions so that we can cultivate our strengths and provide a better experience for the students. In April of 2013, I got to go to Central America for an entire month with the Group Study Exchange program put on by Rotary International. I made lifelong friends along the way, touched the side of the Panama Canal and visited with a woman’s cooperative in Nicaragua. My job now incorporates a serious international component because of that experience which includes leading a group of students annually to Brazil. I also get to share those experiences in the classroom and hopefully that adds a great perspective for the students in class.
9. What's your favorite thing about working in 417-land?
Part of my job includes recruiting and one of the best selling points for our program is Springfield. There’s an incredible sense of community here that’s absolutely contagious! I grew up in a town with a population of 5,000, and I love that so many of the things I loved about my small town—the sense of community, the feeling of welcome, the ease of driving—are present in Springfield. However, there’s also a thriving art community, outstanding performance art, shopping and community services including parks that you just don’t find in smaller communities. In my opinion it’s the best of both worlds.
10. If you could go back and give the high school version of yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?
Don’t be so closed-minded to teaching! Get a passport, and never be afraid to try new food.
11. What was your “dream job” at age 5?
I wanted to be a marine biologist more than anything. I read books, watched documentaries, and was completely obsessed. Then it began to dawn on me how many of the creatures I was reading about could do real and lasting damage. And I decided a safer career goal was in order!
12. List three traits that define a successful career:
- Passion for what you do.
- Kindness for all that you meet.
- And courage to try something and fail (but hopefully succeed).
13. Why are you a 20 Under 30?
I hope that I am! It’s such an honor to be chosen and knowing past recipients of this award it feels pretty surreal! I like to think though that with a great team to work with, I’ve been really lucky to be a part of some really cool projects that are hopefully making a difference for students and our community.
14. What projects do you have on the horizon at your job that you’re excited about?
Well there’s always something new and exciting on the horizon! I’m working on a number of grants that aim to build partnerships among institutions to provide better access to students in terms of course content and course delivery. We will also be holding our second George Washington Carver Agricultural Academy this July. The Academy aims to build on the legacy of George Washington Carver who was a champion for agriculture and education by encouraging students from a variety of backgrounds, to explore the area of agricultural science and opportunities to continue their education beyond high school.
15. What completed project are you most proud of?
This would again probably be the George Washington Carver Agricultural Academy. I am so lucky to be part of an amazing team that put together this program last year and will be continuing this year. We had nine students for our first year from Springfield and St. Louis. We had them do a number of activities but the one that stands out in my mind is that they actually got to ride a horse. We did a demonstration of therapeutic riding, and the participants had the opportunity to ride, as well as assist with different therapeutic exercises. They loved it and it was so much fun to watch them throughout the week as they engaged with the various activities and us.
Fill in the following blanks with five words or less:
Passion makes life worth living.
A day at work wouldn't be complete without students (and coffee).
Ten years from now, I hope I'm still being challenged by students and adapting to their needs.
If I won the lottery tomorrow, I would establish a fund so that every student would have the opportunity to study abroad.
The best part about being a 20 Under 30 is the party! Just kidding, I am excited to meet the other recipients and hear about the amazing work that they are doing.