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CAFNR alum and CropLife America Chief of Staff returns as Executive-In-Residence

Four values – respect, responsibility, discovery and excellence – can often be read hanging from banners attached to the iconic Mizzou columns.

For Mizzou students, alumni, faculty and staff, the four words can evoke a certain pride. For College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources alumnus Kellie Bray, the values remind her of her time on MU’s campus.

Bray served as a member of the committee that helped create Mizzou’s value statement as a student in the late 1990s.

“Now to see those flags between the columns, I feel a lot of pride when I see them,” Kellie said. “I think those are strong, meaningful words.”

Kellie graduated in 1998 with a degree in general agriculture with emphasis areas in agriculture economics, food science and agricultural journalism and a minor in political science.

“It seems like kind of a strange combination in some ways,” Kellie said.

But now, working as the chief of staff for CropLife America, Kellie uses all aspects of her degree when understanding how food is grown and how to communicate that message to others.

“I guess it turns out I knew what I was doing even when I didn’t think I did,” Kellie said while laughing.

From Feb. 21-22, 2019, Kellie visited campus as CAFNR’s Robert O. Reich Executive-in-Residence. The program brings industry leaders to the college to share knowledge and experiences with students, faculty and staff. During her visit, Kellie spoke to students in CAFNR to provide insight gained throughout her career.

“I would love for students to know more about public policy and some of the things that happen in Washington D.C., but also how they play such a valuable role. Whether they end up going to Washington themselves, or if they work for an organization or just advocate on behalf of themselves or their own business,” Kellie said.

Kellie said her own journey to Washington D.C., happened “somewhat by accident.”

Kellie spent a summer interning with the National FFA Organization in Washington D.C., helping to lead the Washington Leadership Conference. Her experience with the city; however, was more from the tourist side, and not the policy side of Washington.

“I really did love the city and it’s a fascinating place,” Kellie said. “So I moved there after college and now it’s been two decades later and I’m still there and really enjoying it.”

After graduation, Kellie started her time in Washington as an intern on Capitol Hill. From there, she went to work for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and then took some time away from the agriculture industry to serve the National Association of Professional Insurance Agents (PIA) in various roles. Kellie said she really enjoyed her time with PIA and she learned a lot.

“But then I felt a great desire to come back to agriculture and be back with the issues and the people that I first worked on when I came to Washington, and that’s what led me to CropLife America over 10 years ago,” Kellie said.

For a decade, Kellie served CropLife America as a senior director of government affairs. In this role, she led government relations outreach on federal issues like endangered species, stewardship and homeland security. Kellie was promoted to chief of staff in January of 2019.

Kellie grew up in Cameron, Missouri where her family has a cattle, corn, soybean and wheat farm, and after graduating with a class of 86 other students, CAFNR, and Kellie’s twin sister, Kristie, helped make Mizzou’s large campus feel like home.

“CAFNR is such a family, it really is,” Kellie said. “My twin sister Kristie and I were here at the same time, so it definitely felt like family here. The friends that we made while we were in school and the professors that we still stay in touch with have been great mentors and friends to us.”

Kellie said it was an honor to be asked to visit CAFNR as an Executive-in-Residence.

“It’s really helped me feel even more connected to this great college,” Kellie said.

As an alumnus, she’s got some advice for students, too.

“Never hesitate to reach out to alumni and ask them a few questions or get their opinions on certain things,” Kellie said. “It’s really meaningful to us when we hear from you.”