Hands-on learning opportunities are a key part of the CAFNR Experience. Those opportunities showcase the uniqueness of the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, and include student-run retail, competitive judging teams, research labs and policy centers.
For Lauren Quinlan, these types of opportunities are exactly why she chose CAFNR. She has worked with Tiger Garden, the full-service floral shop ran by MU students, for the past year.
“Hands-on experience is truly the backbone of CAFNR,” Quinlan said. “I am a very hands-on learner, so I thrive off of the opportunities to apply what I have learned in the classroom. My experiences with Tiger Garden are some of the most valuable because, oftentimes, they are the ones I couldn’t have learned in a textbook or lecture – interacting with customers, practicing design techniques, and learning from trial and error. In addition, taking classes with lab portions allows me to feel a sense of competence and further solidifies key concepts covered in class.”
Quinlan has spent her first two years at MU gathering as much hands-on experience as she can, and has been rewarded for her hard work. She is a CAFNR student ambassador, a Litton Leadership Scholar and part of the Dickinson Scholars Program.
Quinlan can now add CAFNR Outstanding Sophomore to the list of her accomplishments.
“Words cannot describe how honored I am to receive this award,” Quinlan said. “I honestly did not see this coming, so it came as a huge surprise to me. There are so many incredible individuals who were also nominated – and even more who were not – that deserve to be recognized for their involvement and accomplishments within CAFNR. To be selected out of such a talented group of students is humbling to say the least.”
“Ms. Quinlan is an excellent student,” added Adam Cletzer, assistant professor in the Division of Applied Social Sciences, in his nomination letter. “She maintains a perfect GPA while taking challenging coursework, even double minoring in the bench sciences. I have had Ms. Quinlan in every course I teach, and in each one she’s a terrific classmate, loved by her teammates and always submits above-and-beyond work. Ms. Quinlan is also a visible member of our college community. She works in Tiger Garden, is a member of several student organizations, and has served as a CAFNR ambassador where she shares her CAFNR experience with high schoolers and their families.
“Finally, Ms. Quinlan has already made an impact on Missouri agriculture through her passion for communication and writing. She collects and shares farmers’ personal stories through Missouri Farmers Care, while also freelance writing for FARM360 and CAFNR Corner Post. No doubt, her impact will continue to grow.”
Quinlan, from Mexico, Mo., is studying agricultural education at MU. She is also working toward a dual minor in animal sciences and plant sciences. The decision to attend Mizzou was an easy one for Quinlan, as she has several ties to the University, including her brother Caleb, who is a senior plant sciences major in CAFNR.
“I was raised in a very black-and-gold family – my grandma, my dad and his siblings all attended the University,” Quinlan said. “I grew up hearing stories of their ‘glory days’ and attending countless basketball and football games, so I always knew I wanted to be a Tiger one day.
“I decided to major in agricultural education, leadership and communications because it ultimately allowed me to combine all of my passions into one. Agricultural education provides the flexibility to select classes that target my interest areas, but also gain experience in a variety of content areas. As someone who has several different career options in mind, this degree program allows me to gain both hard and soft skills that will be beneficial in whichever direction I choose.”
Lauren and Caleb grew up on a family farm and got plenty of hands-on experience from a young age. Having an opportunity to spend a couple of their collegiate years together has been a blessing for Lauren.
“Being at Mizzou together is an experience that I will forever be grateful for,” she said. “It is not often that you get to experience such a memorable chapter of your life with someone so close to you. I will always value the times we shared in the stands of football and basketball games, at club meetings, or around campus. Caleb has always been someone I have looked up to – and relied on – every step of the way. He helped me get my feet grounded within CAFNR and was a piece of home I could bring with me to college. If you ever get the chance to go to the same school as your sibling, do it.”
Not only have the siblings been able to share several special moments together at MU, they both earned CAFNR Outstanding Student awards this year — Lauren as a sophomore and Caleb as a senior.
“Caleb actually texted our family saying he had been named the Outstanding Senior,” Lauren said. “I was so caught up celebrating and congratulating him that I completely forget to check my own email until much later. Once I received the news, I was even more in shock! Needless to say, my parents were super surprised.”
While Quinlan already had one strong relationship when she arrived on the Mizzou campus, she’s built several more with her professors and classmates.
“The relationships I have built with my professors and fellow classmates are invaluable,” Quinlan said. “When I first came to college, people assured me I would eventually find ‘my people.’ As cliché as this may sound, it is so true. Surrounding myself with like-minded peers challenges, encourages and enables me to succeed. The fact that most of my professors know me on a personal basis ultimately allows me to feel a greater sense of belonging. Any time I ask my friends and classmates to describe CAFNR, the majority say ‘family,’ ‘community’ and ‘home.’ I think this speaks volumes about the type of environment CAFNR strives to provide to its students.”
Quinlan said she is considering multiple options as far as future careers go. It’s part of the reason she is studying agricultural education, as well as working on dual minors.
“Right now, I have a few different career ideas pulling at my heart. I have always loved working and interacting with kids (both of my parents are teachers), so I’m strongly considering pursuing a career in elementary agricultural education. I think it would be so cool to shape the future hearts and minds of America’s youth – and show them how awesome agriculture is. I could also picture myself working in agricultural communications, journalism or public outreach, since I enjoy creating content and sharing the story of agriculture. I’m definitely trying to keep my options open and explore my interests.”