Mary Hendrickson and her husband had been itching to do some traveling. Hendrickson had kicked around the idea of applying to become a Fulbright Scholar, or find something in the same vein. An opportunity of that nature would give her the chance to not only travel, but to teach and do research on another continent.
Carol Lorenzen, a professor in the Division of Animal Sciences, found just the opportunity. Lorenzen alerted Hendrickson about a Fulbright opening in Iceland. It was a perfect fit.
“This is all really Carol’s fault. She saw the posting and sent it right to me,” said Hendrickson, an assistant professor in the Division of Applied Social Sciences. “I didn’t think I would be much of a fit, but as I began reading it, I realized I was actually qualified for it. I applied and was lucky enough to be chosen.”
The J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board awarded Hendrickson with a 2019-20 Fulbright U.S. Scholar grant. She will be in Iceland from January to May 2020. She will be teaching sustainable agriculture, with a focus on socio-economics, at the Agricultural University of Iceland, in Hvanneyri, which is about an hour north of Reykjavik.
Hendrickson will also be collaborating with professors at the Agricultural University of Iceland on developing new courses. She’ll use the trip as a learning opportunity, with a focus on bringing back any sustainable agriculture ideas she encounters.
“I’m really thrilled about it,” Hendrickson said.
Hendrickson has a teaching and research focus at MU. She teaches undergraduate sustainable agriculture and food system courses, as well as a graduate course in food systems. She has served as a guest lecturer in numerous classrooms as well, from animal sciences to nutrition to peace studies.
Hendrickson’s research tackles a variety of food system topics. She examines food system structure; alternative ways of participating in the food system for farmers, consumers and communities and the social, economic and ecological impacts thereof; and the impacts of food system organization and technological change on international farming systems.
“I’m interested in a number of things, primarily those related to food systems, as well as topics related to economic structure, consolidation issues and assessing fairness in the agriculture markets,” Hendrickson said.
Hendrickson earned her bachelor’s degree in agricultural honors and agribusiness from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She earned her master’s degree and Ph.D. from the University of Missouri, both in rural sociology.
“I grew up on a farm,” Hendrickson said. “I never knew anything about sociology. After receiving my bachelor’s, I was planning on going back and getting an agricultural economics degree. Right before making that decision, I was working for at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln on a USAID project. I was transcribing interviews from a rural sociologist who was working with Moroccan farmers. I was fascinated with his work.
“The job sounded really cool. I decided then that I wanted to do this. I didn’t know anything about rural sociology, but I decided to go to graduate school and get a degree in exactly that.”
Hendrickson participated in the National FFA Organization’s Work Experience Abroad program and worked on a German farm for six months. She then coordinated the National FFA Organization’s high school international programs for two years after receiving her bachelor’s degree. Those experiences gave her an appreciation for international work, as well rural sociology.
“When you grow up in a small town in Nebraska, you want to shake the dust off your boots and go places,” Hendrickson said.
Hendrickson’s family farm was quite diversified. They raised hogs, sheep and cattle, and harvested corn, soybeans and wheat.
Those rural roots helped Hendrickson as she transitioned into an MU Extension role after she completed her Ph.D. She served as a state specialist for nearly 15 years before moving into her current position.
Hendrickson is currently planning for the course she will be teaching in Iceland. This is the first time Hendrickson will have been to Iceland. She has traveled to several countries, including Norway, Sweden and Denmark.
“I’ve done some international work, but not a ton of it, so this is a great opportunity,” Hendrickson said. “This will be the first time I’ve lived outside the United States since I was in my early 20s. It’s going to be an awesome adventure.”