The first concert Kaleigh Summers ever attended was a Martina McBride show at the American Royal in Kansas City. As she waited for McBride to take the stage, she couldn’t stop watching the stage crew as they prepared for the show. It was something Summers felt would be fun to do.
“Right away I told my mom that’s what I wanted to do when I grew up,” Summers said. “She, of course, told me that I couldn’t be on the road all year.”
While Summers hasn’t traveled the world with a musical artist since she graduated from the University of Missouri in 2013, she has worked with numerous high profile stars as the event coordinator at the Sprint Center and the event manager at the Kansas City Convention and Entertainment Facilities. Those experiences have helped prepare her for her new role as the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources Alumni Relations and Lead Annual Giving Officer. The newly created position is based in the CAFNR Office of Advancement.
Summers earned her bachelor’s degree in agricultural education and leadership from CAFNR.
“I’m excited to come home to CAFNR,” Summers said. “This is exactly the job I wanted when I graduated from MU, but it obviously wasn’t there at the time. I think that was a good thing, as I’m more ready for the job than I would have been back then.”
Summers grew up in Slater, Mo. – a town of less than 2,000 people northwest of Columbia. She grew up on her family’s cattle, corn and soybean farm. Summers was highly involved in 4-H throughout her childhood. And when it came time to pick a college, she had an easy decision.
“I’m a third generation Mizzou student and a third generation CAFNR graduate,” Summers said. “My grandfather and dad were both CAFNR students. I was always a Tiger growing up, so I knew I wanted to go to MU.
“As I toured CAFNR during my senior year of high school, I fell in love with it. Coming to such a big place from a small town, CAFNR made everything seem smaller. Right when I got to campus as a freshman, CAFNR began to prepare me for my future.”
Summers was involved in Mizzou 4-H, CAFNR Student Council, CAFNR Week steering committee and Phi Mu during her collegiate career. She did an internship with Osborn Barr as well.
“I went into agriculture education and leadership as a way to stay involved with 4-H,” Summers said. “I thought I wanted to be a 4-H specialist. Once I got more involved, I really saw the vast opportunities that CAFNR offers. My internship with Osborn Barr opened even more doors, as I was able to use my voice for agriculture, which is incredibly important to me.”
After graduating from MU, Summers interned with Agriculture Future of America. She then served as the event coordinator at the Sprint Center for nearly four years.
“I really found a love for organizing events and being part of something bigger than me,” Summers said. “The experience at the Sprint Center was incredible. I dealt with the artists and their production crews. If Justin Timberlake was in the building, I was working with Justin Timberlake’s people. It was very high stakes and taught me a lot about working on my feet. I worked with a wide variety of people.”
Summers has spent the past year as the event manager at the Kansas City Convention and Entertainment Facilities.
“This job was similar to my event coordinator job at the Sprint Center,” she said. “This space features more public events. I helped coordinate conventions for 20,000 attendees and weddings for 100 people. It was a wide variety of work.”
In her new role in CAFNR, Summers will have a dual focus on alumni engagement and lead annual gifts. She will be tasked with taking the alumni relations and lead annual giving programs to the next level. Summers will be responsible for recruiting, training and motivating alumni volunteers to assist with meeting strategic goals for both CAFNR alumni associations; and planning and executing CAFNR alumni associations’ and CAFNR dean/division alumni events; among many other responsibilities.
“I made some of my best friends in CAFNR and I’ve kept those relationships,” Summers said. “Everyone has had a different experience while at CAFNR, and I’m excited to hear about those experiences. I want to know what makes them want to come back and give back as an alum.”
“We are thrilled to welcome Kaleigh to our team,” said Darcy Wells, senior executive director of advancement in the CAFNR Office of Advancement. “Her background and experiences make her the perfect person to fill this role. She will fit right in and take our alumni relations and lead annual giving programs to the next level.”