Emerald McKinley had no doubt about her decision to attend the University of Missouri – it was the only college she applied to. McKinley became familiar with the university through her aunt, who worked on campus in residential life.
Growing up, McKinley spent numerous summers with her aunt, taking in campus life. Those experiences were more than enough for McKinley to know that she wanted to be a Tiger.
“Growing up around Mizzou, there was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to attend this university when I had the chance,” McKinley said. “When I began Summer Welcome as a freshman, I felt right at home and it solidified my decision. I love MU.”
McKinley started working in residential life as an administrative assistant during her freshman year. She moved into a resident advisor (RA) role as a sophomore, serving for two years in Schurz Hall. She has served as a residential life ambassador since her sophomore year, where she travels to Meet Mizzou events and talks to interested students through different events and fairs.
“Being able to see the students progress through their freshman year, seeing their struggles and helping them through those struggles was a really rewarding and a unique experience,” McKinley said. “It was also pretty cool to interact with students who were excited about their potential Mizzou experiences. I had the opportunity to share my love for MU with each of them. I enjoyed being part of their decision-making process.”
McKinley chose the biochemistry degree program when she arrived at MU – and she will graduate with that degree this December. The biochemistry degree allowed McKinley to combine her passion of agriculture with her strong interest in health.
“I wanted to do something related to health, but I also had a love for agriculture,” McKinley said. “I grew up on a farm, my mom is an ag teacher and I was very involved in FFA. I knew I wanted to stay connected to agriculture, but I also wanted to see how I could combine that with my interest in health.”
It was actually at the state FFA convention where McKinley was alerted to the possibility of a biochemistry degree. A visit to the Mizzou booth led to the suggestion that the degree program would be a perfect fit for her interest areas.
“They thought that would be the perfect path for me, and I definitely agree,” McKinley said. “It’s such a well-rounded major. It’s very challenging, but I love biochemistry.”
Along with her experiences as an RA, McKinley also spent some time helping maintain the laboratory of Michael Petris, a professor of ophthalmology and biochemistry.
She was also very involved in Sigma Alpha, a professional agricultural sorority.
“I joined the sorority to keep me connected to my agriculture background,” McKinley said. “It really kept me in the loop. I made great connections and was able to stay in touch with the industry. It was also great bonding with all of those ladies.”
McKinley will take a gap semester before beginning professional school at the University of Missouri-St. Louis (UMSL). She is planning on going to optometry school to become an optometrist.
“When I began my degree in biochemistry I was actually pre-med, but I soon realized that it would be a lot of school and a lot of money,” McKinley said. “Someone mentioned optometry as an option, so I started doing some research and found it to be really interesting.”
McKinley shadowed an optometrist in her hometown of Warrensburg, Mo., and decided that route was perfect for her.
“The eyes are fascinating,” she said. “I learned so much during my time shadowing and was able to have some fantastic patient interactions. That experience really prepared me for when I begin school next year.”
McKinley added that her time in the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (CAFNR) also prepared her for her future.
“Mizzou is such a great school,” McKinley said. “I love the traditions, and it’s really cool to be part of the community. I also appreciate the community that CAFNR fosters. Those in the college really care about their students, especially the faculty in biochemistry. It’s been phenomenal working with them during my time here.”