‘An Important Family Feel’

CAFNR Office of Advancement strengthens its team with two staff additions

The College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources’ Office of Advancement strengthened its team with two staff additions, who joined the office at the beginning of the year.

Stefanie Gray and Amber Strong Helwig officially began their respective roles in January. Gray is the senior manager of donor relations. Strong Helwig joins the team as an executive assistant. Both come to CAFNR after working in central advancement at the University of Missouri.

“We’re so excited to have Stefanie and Amber on board,” said Darcy Wells, senior executive director of advancement. “They both come from great advancement backgrounds and are already familiar with the University of Missouri. Adding them to our office strengthens CAFNR even more.”

The Office of Advancement has already hosted a number of alumni and donor events and are in the process of preparing several more. While having some of those big events right when Gray and Strong Helwig joined the team was stressful, there were several great learning opportunities as well.

“Our donor relations experience really helped us to roll with the punches,” Strong Helwig said.

“It’s such an exciting time for CAFNR,” Gray said. “There are so many great things going on, and we’re excited to move forward together. These events have allowed us to jump right in and get to know our outstanding donors.”

‘An Exciting Time’

Gray, who grew up in Springfield, Mo., earned her undergraduate degree in journalism from Mizzou and her master’s degree in higher education from the MU College of Education. She worked in Greek life on campus before joining the central advancement team at Mizzou in 2014.

“I began working in donor relations, which really fit my interests,” Gray said.

As the senior manager of donor relations at CAFNR, Gray is tasked with keeping in touch with the college’s vast number of donors.

“After donors make a gift, I’m responsible for continuing to build that relationship,” she said. “I show how we are being true to our word and using their money in the way they intended us to. To be able to meet our donors where they are and connect with them is such a great opportunity.”

Gray worked with nearly all of the schools and colleges at the University of Missouri in her previous role. She always held CAFNR in high regard.

“I always said CAFNR is the dreamland,” she said. “CAFNR does such a great job of taking care of its students, alumni and donors. There is just a different kind of connection and an important family feel. That always seemed special to me.

“It has been so easy to settle in in my new role. I feel like we’ve all been working together for years.”

‘The Perfect Blend’

Strong Helwig is a Columbia native and earned an undergraduate degree in English from Mizzou. She began working in central advancement at MU in 2005, filling a variety of roles during her time in that office.

“My first job was as an administrative assistant for the Jefferson Club, a role that evolved as the donor relations office grew,” Strong Helwig said. “My responsibilities included everything from general office support to event coordination and most recently, gift club management and writing acknowledgment letters.”

Strong Helwig joins CAFNR as an executive assistant. Her past experiences in advancement made the role in CAFNR a great fit.

“I’m here to help out the office in any way that I can,” Strong Helwig said. “There are a number of efforts coming from this office, such as fundraising and donor relations. I’ll be involved in different ways in each of those efforts.

“This position is the perfect blend of everything I’ve done in the past.”

With her experience in MU advancement, the transition to CAFNR to has been a great one, Strong Helwig said. She had worked with the CAFNR Office of Advancement before, which includes Wells, Mark Langworthy (senior director for advancement) and Brent McCauley (director of advancement).

“The team is great,” Strong Helwig said. “Anytime you move into a new position, there is a learning curve. While that curve has been there, the team has made the transition so much easier. I’m grateful to be part of this team – and CAFNR in general.”