A Spirit of Service

CAFNR students honored as Mizzou 18 and '39 recipients

Each year, the Mizzou Alumni Association Student Board selects 39 outstanding seniors and 18 outstanding graduate students for its annual Mizzou ‘39 and Mizzou 18 Awards. Mizzou ‘39 recipients are chosen for their academic achievement, leadership and service to Mizzou and the community. Mizzou 18 recipients are chosen for their world-class research, collaboration with faculty and staff, and their demonstrated leadership with undergraduate students.

In the spirit of service that was the cornerstone of the 1839 founding of the University of Missouri, these awards are presented each spring.

This year, the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (CAFNR) had four students receive the Mizzou ‘39 Award – Madeleine Brownfield, Lauryn Cureton, Lisette Perez and Stephanie Scott – and two students receive the Mizzou 18 Award – Shannon King and Jaime Luke.

Madeleine Brownfield (St. Joseph, Mo.) – Biochemistry

Madeleine Brownfield was only 6 years old when she made the decision to follow in her mother’s footsteps and attend the University of Missouri. Brownfield also chose the same field of study as her mother – biochemistry.

“I never wavered in that decision once,” Brownfield said. “I actually didn’t even tour or apply to any other schools! I majored in biochemistry because I have always loved science and exploring molecular and chemical pathways. I thought biochemistry would be a great kick start to a lot of different possible careers in the STEM field.”

Madeleine Brownfield
Madeleine Brownfield

Brownfield has been incredibly involved during her time as a Tiger, including a study abroad experience to Thailand and participating in research projects.

“If I had to put it in one word, my time in CAFNR has been critical in terms of preparing me for my future,” Brownfield said. “The amount of resources and support I have received from CAFNR has been astronomical. In addition, the opportunities presented, such as being a biochemistry mentor or studying abroad through CAFNR, have really changed my career path. I was fortunate enough to take part in a month-long study abroad program in Thailand over the winter term of 2019-20 focused on marine conservation and biodiversity. This changed my career path from being pre-med to wanting to explore the field of marine science, and that never would’ve happened without the opportunities CAFNR allowed me to take part in.”

Brownfield said being named a Mizzou ‘39 recipient was a huge honor for her as she finishes up her time as an undergraduate student.

“I remember watching the Mizzou ‘39 presentation as a freshman, not really knowing what it exactly was, and thinking how honorable the recipients were,” Brownfield said. “My freshman year I never would have dreamed I would have been recognized as one of those recipients myself. Excited is an understatement. Knowing that the legacy I am leaving behind as I graduate in May was found to be distinguished enough for such as award as Mizzou ‘39 is an incredible feeling. I know so many people in this Mizzou ‘39 class and it would be an understatement to say I’m proud to stand alongside them.”

Along with being honored as a Mizzou ‘39 recipient, Brownfield said being selected for Homecoming Top 10 Royalty last year was a major highlight from her time at MU. She said she has also enjoyed serving as a tour guide for prospective students and having the opportunity to meet so many great people on campus.

As Brownfield reflects on her academic career, she said she would always encourage students to ask questions and get involved.

“Don’t be afraid to ask for help,” Brownfield said. “Coming into college can be very overwhelming, and the amount of resources and experiences available can be ever more so. Everyone in CAFNR has your best interest at heart and wants to help. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people to get involved in research opportunities, find out about study abroad experiences, learn about the different clubs and organizations that exist within the school, or simply ask for a little bit of support. There are so many outlets for involvement, support and experience – don’t wait until you’re a senior to realize it!”

Lauryn Cureton (Calumet City, Ill.) – Biochemistry

When Lauryn Cureton walked on the Mizzou campus for the first time, she knew MU was the place she needed to be. Not only did she enjoy the feel of campus – Cureton knew she could find success in Columbia, Mo.

“When I came to campus for the first time in January 2017, I loved how beautiful the campus was, but I also loved how many resources and opportunities Mizzou had to offer me,” Cureton said. “I knew this would be the best place for me to excel academically.”

Lauryn Cureton
Lauryn Cureton

Cureton settled on studying biochemistry during her freshman year after going back and forth between biology and biochemistry.

“I ultimately decided biochemistry was the best route for me because it provided the ‘best of both worlds’ in terms of learning about the biological and chemical pathways of things that happen within our bodies,” Cureton said. “Because I was interested in possibly going to medical school, I also knew this major would best prepare me for that next step.”

Cureton credits CAFNR for continuing to help her prepare for life after graduation throughout her collegiate career.

“My time in CAFNR has been very important in preparing me for my future career,” Cureton said. “I received great advising from my advisor, Brenda Peculis (associate professor emerita of biochemistry) in both academics and in preparation for my potential next step/career. I have also learned much from my professors that will aid me in graduate school. Lastly, I appreciated hearing from CAFNR’s career services in my classes, as it helped me learn of new opportunities and options for careers that were available for me. I have truly appreciated all the levels of support CAFNR has provided me during my time here at Mizzou. With this support, I feel prepared for my next step after graduation.”

Cureton has stayed active during her time at MU, and the Mizzou ‘39 honor recognizes her excellence throughout her four years on campus.

“It was very exciting to receive this honor,” Cureton said. “I remember as a freshman going to the Mizzou ‘39 ceremony on Traditions Plaza. At the time, I was amazed at all the seniors who had made an impact on Mizzou during their time here, and I was just hoping that one day I would be in their same position. Receiving the honor this year made my Mizzou experience come full circle, and I am extremely happy to be recognized for my leadership, academic achievements, and service for both Mizzou and the community throughout my time here on campus.”

Cureton said one of her favorite memories while at MU was her Tour Team reveal. She was told to run to the columns one very cold, icy morning. When Cureton arrived, she was greeted by members of the Tour Team, who welcomed her into the family.

For future Tigers, Cureton said taking charge of their academic success is key.

“Getting involved on this campus is very important for it makes the campus smaller and makes your college experience so much better,” Cureton said. “You can get involved in CAFNR, but also many other great organizations on campus that pique your interests. Secondly, it is best to take charge of your own academic success by reaching out to professors and other resources on campus like the Student Success Center. If you are interested in something, such as an internship, I say apply for it because the worst they could say is ‘no.’ Don’t be afraid to fail – just remember to get back up and try again.”

Lisette Perez (Chicago, Ill.) – Natural Resource Science and Management

Lisette Perez has spent a good portion of her collegiate career serving others, especially underrepresented students at the University of Missouri. That desire to help others began in the Multicultural Center at MU and continued through TRiO and the CAFNR Inclusivity and Diversity Committee.

Hailing from Chicago’s South Side, Perez knew that Mizzou would open several doors for her. She also enjoyed learning about the environment, so a major focused on that subject matter made sense.

Lisette Perez
Lisette Perez

“I visited Mizzou my sophomore year of high school and fell in love with the campus,” she said. “It is a feeling that is hard to put into words. When I walked around the campus during my visit, I felt like I can see myself thriving as a Tiger. I knew I liked the environment and decided to go with Natural Resources Science and Management. I took a leap of faith and four years later here I am still loving my major.”

As a TRiO ambassador, Perez provides academic and career guidance for first-generation, low-income students enrolled at the University of Missouri. In her role as a member of the CAFNR Inclusivity and Diversity Committee, Perez helps determine the specific needs of underrepresented CAFNR students and stakeholders, as well as help develop a philosophy statement and working plan to guide CAFNR in its aspiration to become a more diverse and inclusive college.

Perez said those experiences, especially the ones in CAFNR, have really prepared her for the future. Her professors provided incredible support as she looked to complete her goals.

“My time in CAFNR has been important for my future career,” Perez said. “It has allowed me to see the possibilities and opportunities available. My professors have been awesome! They have been there for me when I needed it – they gave me professional advice and have exposed me to so many opportunities.”

Perez said receiving the Mizzou ‘39 honor puts an exciting bow on the end of her collegiate career. She said being honored in that way was very humbling.

“I was super excited to receive this honor,” Perez said. “It had been a dream of mine since freshman year. It was super thrilled to receive it.”

Perez has numerous favorite memories of her time at Mizzou, especially from her freshman year.

“Some of my favorite memories at Mizzou include running through the columns my freshman year, the midnight barbeque and my first college course ever,” Perez said. “Freshman year was full of many new experiences that forever changed my time at Mizzou. I cherish those moments. I am truly going to miss this place.”

As Perez reflects on her time at MU, she said incoming CAFNR students shouldn’t be shy when it comes to interacting with their professors. She said making those connections with her professors served her well when she had questions or needed advice.

“What I would like to tell incoming CAFNR freshmen would be to always introduce yourself to your professors,” Perez said. “There are some great individuals at CAFNR and getting to know them enriches your experience. Also, do not be afraid to ask questions. That allows you to grow as an individual.”

Stephanie Scott (Jefferson City, Mo.) – Biochemistry and Nutritional Science

The allure of three swimming pools made the University of Missouri a prime university choice for third grader Stephanie Scott. While her reasoning for attending Mizzou transformed over time, Scott always knew MU was the place for her.

The decision to study biochemistry happened completely by chance.

Stephanie Scott
Stephanie Scott

“I always knew I wanted to attend Mizzou,” Scott said. “I am from Jefferson City, and when I was in third grade my class took a field trip to Mizzou’s campus. When I saw there were three swimming pools here, I decided that this was where I was going to college. Obviously my reasoning for coming here has changed, but it always felt right.

“I chose Biochemistry by chance. I emailed an admissions advisor asking what a good major is for someone who is pre-med. She suggested biochemistry. I took my first few classes and I was hooked.”

Scott actually didn’t know if getting into science was the right decision early into her collegiate career. But overcoming doubt is advice that she wants future MU students to remember.

“My advice to incoming freshmen would be don’t give up,” Scott said. “I actually failed my first exam in a chemistry course my freshman year. I was questioning everything, and I couldn’t decide if a career in science was actually right for me. However, with some hard work I was able to turn it around and score an A in that class. It is possible to turn any bleak situation around with hard work and dedication. Don’t ever let your own doubts hold you back.”

Scott said being able to leave her mark as a Mizzou ‘39 recipient is very rewarding.

“I was extremely excited to receive this honor,” Scott said. “When I was a junior last year, I got to watch the Mizzou ‘39 ceremony because my graduate hall coordinator was selected for Mizzou 18. I was extremely proud of her and hoped to follow in her footsteps. I wanted to attend the ceremony as a member of Mizzou ‘39 my senior year. I also thought the T-shirts were adorable and I wanted one of my own! Getting to send the anonymous emails out to my friends and family was so much fun.”

Scott said her best memories while at Mizzou came from her time with the Baptist Student Union. The friends she has made through that campus ministry really helped her during her four years.

“Most of my best memories at Mizzou were created at my campus ministry called the Baptist Student Union,” Scott said. “I met all of my closest friends there who have supported me and cared for me throughout my entire time here. We have gone on photo scavenger hunts that involved jumping in the fountain, played games involving painting each other and worshiped Christ together.

“Another favorite memory of mine is getting the email from my PI, Dr. Richard Ferrieri (research professor of chemistry) and finding out that our manuscript would be published in the ISME Journal, which is affiliated with Nature.”

As Scott wraps up her undergraduate studies, she is thankful for her time in CAFNR. The college afforded her numerous opportunities as she prepares for her future career.

“CAFNR has been extremely helpful with preparing for my future career,” Scott said. “Biochemistry labs have taught me techniques that other undergrads don’t get to learn until they begin their work in industry. Additionally, I got to go on the agribusiness trip my sophomore year and tour different companies in Indianapolis. This trip help solidify that I want a career in science, hopefully as a physician.”

Shannon King (Plattsmouth, Neb.) – Biochemistry

The Interdisciplinary Plant Group (IPG), one of CAFNR’s Programs of Distinction, is a community of MU faculty, students, postdoctoral fellows and professionals who are pursuing novel, creative and transformative ideas in the field of plant biology. The distinguished group is one of the primary reasons that Shannon King wanted to come to Mizzou.

“I wanted to attend Mizzou and the biochemistry department because of Mizzou’s strong plant sciences reputation,” King said. “I knew I wanted to go to a school that would allow me to work in biochemistry with an agriculture focus and Mizzou is one of the best places in the world to do that. Specifically, I came here because of the Interdisciplinary Plant Group (IPG). I knew being a part of that program would allow me many opportunities to work with plants, regardless of my actual degree program, and that cross-discipline collaboration was really attractive to me.”

Shannon King
Shannon King

The cross-discipline collaborations have allowed King to work with numerous researchers and see the value of those specialties coming together on a project.

“My time in CAFNR has been critical to my future career,” King said. “The opportunities I have had to work with many people in different disciplines, both in CAFNR and across campus, have really helped me prepare for the future of science. The scientific world is very collaborative and multidisciplinary, so having those experiences to practice that in my graduate career is fantastic. Those experiences have really opened a lot of doors for me and allowed me to grow professionally.

“Additionally, professional development programs like Preparing Tomorrow’s Leaders in Science (PTLS) have help me polish my soft skills that will be integral to my future career. These experiences, in addition to my research, have really helped shape what I want in my future career.”

King earned her undergraduate degree in chemistry, with an emphasis in biochemistry, from Northwest Missouri State University. She also minored in agronomy. While at Mizzou, King has worked with Scott Peck, professor of biochemistry; Felix Fritschi, C. Alice Donaldson Professor in Bioenergy Crop Physiology and Genetics in the Division of Plant Sciences; and Robert Sharp, Curators’ Distinguished Professor of Plant Sciences and IPG director.

“In terms of research, you cannot beat the amazing work done here,” King said. “However, what I think is even more important is the strong sense of community there is amongst the IPG and CAFNR. You really feel like everyone wants you to succeed and to help you do the best you can. I can say without a doubt I would not be where I am today without that support. That community is one of Mizzou’s best assets and I believe that is what makes the IPG and CAFNR such a success.”

King said she’s made numerous amazing friends during her time at MU, and those memories are invaluable. She was very excited to be named a member of Mizzou 18.

“It is incredibly exciting to be selected as a member of Mizzou 18,” King said. “I have had the wonderful opportunity to work with some amazing student leaders during my time here at Mizzou, and it feels great to be honored alongside them.

“On top of that, I have had the chance to attend a workshop and conference in China and Israel. Both of those were once-in-a-lifetime experiences and they were absolutely phenomenal. I am so happy I was given the opportunity to attend those and learn as much as I did.”

Jaime Luke (Stanberry, Mo.) – Agricultural and Applied Economics

Jaime Luke earned her undergraduate degree in agricultural economics from MU, and she enjoyed her time within the Division of Applied Social Sciences so much that she decided to further her education as a master’s student. Her experiences have continued to be top-notch.

“I grew up on a row crop and beef cattle farm in northwest Missouri where I became interested in agriculture at a young age,” Luke said. “I have also always enjoyed math. The field of agricultural and applied economics allows me to meld these two interests, and I am able to work on topics that impact farmers like my dad and brothers. I chose to pursue my master’s at Mizzou because of the existing relationships I had with faculty members from my time as an undergraduate at the University of Missouri. I knew that by returning to Mizzou I would be learning from some of the best!”

Jaime Luke
Jaime Luke

Luke was honored as CAFNR’s Outstanding Senior in 2018. While an undergraduate student, Luke interned for the Missouri Pork Association, the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) in Washington, D.C., and the Missouri Corn Growers Association. Luke also worked as a career services intern and Summer Welcome peer counselor in CAFNR, and as a teaching assistant in the Division of Plant Sciences.

“My time in CAFNR has been integral in teaching me the importance of conducting timely, applied research that addresses real-world issues,” Luke said. “As I graduate, I feel equipped to take on diverse, significant challenges because I know I can lean on the expertise of the numerous CAFNR students and faculty I have gotten to know during my time here.”

Luke said that agriculture is an enticing and exciting field to get into because there are always going to be challenges to overcome.

As a master’s student, Luke’s research interests include commodity markets and agricultural policy analysis. She works with Scott Brown, director of strategic partnerships for CAFNR and associate Extension professor of agricultural and applied economics.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better grad school experience than what I got in CAFNR,” Luke said. “From engaging interdisciplinary classes to faculty who truly care about students’ success, CAFNR is a special place to learn and grow. I am consistently amazed by all the experiences I have been able to have through my involvement within the college.”

Luke said she has enjoyed her time as a Mizzou student, and has made important memories that will last a lifetime.

“My favorite memories at Mizzou all center around the amazing people I have met during my time here,” she said. “Having grown up in a small, rural town, it’s been incredible to get to know and spend time with people from all over the world.”

After several years as a Mizzou student, earning the Mizzou 18 honor was another highlight for Luke. She was humbled to be recognized among the honorees.

“I am very excited to receive this honor,” Luke said. “I know there are a lot of outstanding graduate students on campus, so I am very honored to be chosen for Mizzou 18.”