Growing up in a town of less than 300 people, Elizabeth Gunter’s graduating class at DeKalb High School consisted of just 15 students. Coming to the University of Missouri, with enrollment above 30,000 students, was a big change of pace.
The MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (CAFNR) made that change much easier.
“It was definitely a little intimidating being in a lecture hall with more people in it than my entire town,” Gunter said. “However, through CAFNR I was able to meet so many students who had that same rural background who felt the same way. Having this immediate connection with so many other students made me feel right at home.”
Along with finding a group of students who shared similar interests, Gunter was able to jump right into the CAFNR Experience. She was given the opportunity to learn from award-winning faculty and took a job as a clerical assistant with the Missouri Orthopaedic Institute (MOI) her freshman year to help pursue her future goals.
Even with her interest in medicine, Gunter knew that she still wanted to pursue a degree within CAFNR when she arrived. She first found a passion for the agriculture industry while participating in FFA as a high school student, but she also wanted to combine her two interests. Gunter began her collegiate career as a biochemistry major but soon switched to animal sciences with a minor in food science and nutrition.
“I actually started with biochemistry because I was interested in medical school at first but still wanted to stay in touch within the agriculture sector,” Gunter said. “However, I soon realized that I wanted to be more hands-on within the agriculture industry. I fell in love with being in a laboratory learning about medicine, as well as taking what I was learning in the classroom and applying it in the field.”
While Gunter did make the switch from biochemistry, she did keep her Missouri Orthopaedic Institute position – a job that she has kept all four years as a student.
“At the time, this was a perfect way for me to get experience within the medical field,” Gunter said. “Even though I changed my major and decided against medical school, I decided to stay working at MOI because I love to learn. I knew it was important for me to get those different perspectives and viewpoints. By staying here, I have gotten to see firsthand the impacts of agriculture in healthcare.”
To go along with her job, Gunter also worked in the research labs under Tim Safranski, professor, and Allison Meyer, associate professor, both in the Division of Animal Sciences. Those experiences fit into the RISE Initiative, which states that all CAFNR undergraduate students will take part in at least one signature experience while on campus: Research, International, Service Learning, and Experiential Learning.
“Undergraduate research opened new doors for avenues that I’d always wanted to go down,” Gunter said. “Getting to be in those roles and have those mentors, I was able to make so many important connections that have benefited me during my senior year. Doing research helped me grow as an individual and helped me think outside of the box. I’m a curious person, and as a person in science, you should always be curious.”
Now, as Gunter finishes her senior year, she has spent the past year sharing how impactful getting involved in CAFNR can be. Gunter was named the CAFNR Student Council president in January and will serve in that role until December. In her role, she helps enhance CAFNR student academic and social experiences, as well as provides an avenue of communication among students, student organizations, faculty and administrators.
“I honestly don’t have the words to describe how meaningful it has been for me to serve in this role,” said Gunter, “When I began my collegiate journey, I experienced first-hand how impactful it was to get involved. So, I try to encourage all students to get involved. I find it rewarding to be able to help all CAFNR students find that spark.”
Gunter will graduate in May 2022. As of now she is looking into a few graduate schools but is not limiting herself if other opportunities arise. Ultimately, Gunter said she would like to be in a university setting as a professor in the future.
“I love to learn, and I love sharing that knowledge,” Gunter said. “I want to help students find who they are, and I love to see them make major progress, as I’ve been able to do in my role as president of the CAFNR Student Council.
“I just want to encourage all CAFNR students to find their ‘why.’ There are so many opportunities. For me, the CAFNR Experience is such a true expression. I encourage students to take a chance and see where it takes them.”