Breaking Loose

CAFNR graduate students broaden their horizons, make new connections, through inaugural pool tournament


or graduate students, life can easily become all work and no play. Research can dominate their lives, so it is easy to miss out on the chance to build relationships with students outside their own departments.

Jordan Wendt and Max Nunes, natural resources master's students, take home trophies for ranking first out of 22 teamsFrom left: Jordan Wendt and Max Nunes, natural resources master’s students, take home trophies for ranking first out of 12 teams.

“I know as a graduate student it’s really easy to be extremely focused on what you’re doing in the program,” said Shari Freyermuth, assistant dean for academic programs. “Most departments do have events where at least people within the same department get to interact, which is helpful. But they don’t often have the opportunity to interact with people from pretty widely different areas within our diverse college.”

The College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources recently hosted a pool tournament for graduate students in an effort to foster a stronger bond within the College’s community.

The event took place at Billiards on Broadway. CAFNR provided 60 graduate students who attended with free food, drinks and pool. The winning team, natural resources master’s students Max Nunes and Jordan Wendt, took home two trophies also provided by CAFNR.

“It was a good way to force us to go outside our bubble,” said Zach Morris, natural resources master’s student. “A lot of the fields we want to go into are related. If we can make connections and build those relationships while we’re in school, if anything it allows us to do team building. It also lets us make connections we may need to use in the future.”

Keeping it in the ‘Family’

The two-hour event was part of Dean Thomas Payne’s Improving CAFNR for the Family college-wide initiative. Within this committee are subcommittees for faculty, staff and students. Associate Dean and Director of Academic Programs Bryan Garton and Freyermuth are in charge of the student subcommittee. One of its goals is to create more activities for graduate students.

Other key players in coordinating the event James Hundle, assistant to the vice chancellor and the dean, and Lilly Pogue, who is a sophomore in hospitality management and a CAFNR Communications intern.

The idea to hold a pool tournament sprouted last September when Freyermuth and Garton invited students to a happy hour at The Heidelburg to discuss what would be the best way to get students to interact outside of their departments.

“There was this idea that there has to be something that will make graduate students interact,” Freyermuth said. “If it’s just a social and people are just coming and eating and drinking, they are going to tend to sit with people they already know. We needed to make something that would encourage them interact.”

Sheri Freyermuth, assistant dean for academic programs, announces the next set of games on the bracket.Shari Freyermuth, assistant dean for academic programs, announces the next set of games on the bracket.

The pool tournament gave students the opportunity to interact with a randomly selected teammate as well as opposing team members as they moved through the tournament’s bracket.

“I think it helps everyone’s morale to be able to come here, hang out and relax with so many other people who are after the same goal,” said Samantha Brady, a biochemistry doctoral student.

Brady decided to attend the University of Missouri for her graduate degree because of the collaboration between labs within her department. But although she has developed close relationships with people within biochemistry, she rarely gets the opportunity to meet students from other departments within CAFNR, she said.

“I don’t know anyone in other CAFNR programs,” Brady said. “I only know biochemistry people. So I thought that if I wanted to get out of my dark, creepy biochemistry corner, I should come here… I know our program is pretty small. We only have seven people come in each year. It’s nice to broaden your horizons and get to know people with other backgrounds.”

The start of something new

The event benefited doctoral student Nick Sievert in another way.

“I study fisheries and wildlife, but I do climate change work with fisheries,” said Sievert. “My partner ended up being an atmospheric science student who makes climate models. So we talked a lot about that. I use the models for my research, but don’t always have a great understanding of how they work. So it was a great opportunity for me to learn more details about something I use but that is not a part of my expertise.”

Going forward, the hope, Freyermuth said, is that graduate students themselves will take the potentially annual or bi-annual event and make it their own.

“Bryan and I thought we’ll do this first one just to get things going,” Freyermuth said. “After this it’s up to graduate students. We’re happy to help support it and send out emails.”

Brady already has ideas for the next CAFNR-wide affair for graduate students. Her suggestions include bowling and trivia nights.

“We could do it on campus, and then just do random teams,” Brady said of the activity. “And then you could get to know five people from five different programs.”



From left: Graduate students Nick Sievert, Elisa Baebler, Alex Edge and Zach Morris hang out during billiards tournament.



Rebekah Holtsclaw, biochemistry doctoral student, follows through on her shot.



From left: Graduate students Wenlin Pan, Gabriela Tammasia and Samantha Brady sit at a corner table during the tournament.



Tunde Ojewola, natural resources doctoral student, shoots pool during the tournament at Billiards on Broadway.



Graduate students Jordan Thomas and Miranda Wilson talk during the final game of the tournament.



Chelsy Richley, atmospheric sciences master's student, lines up to shoot.