Finding the Perfect Fit

Agriculture degree program has allowed Ellen Phillips to pursue her passions

In high school, Ellen Phillips gained an appreciation for law and policy through the local YMCA’s youth and government program. While Phillips originally thought a career in criminal justice was in her future, when she decided on attending the University of Missouri she veered toward another of her passions – agriculture.

Phillips, who grew up in Mexico, Mo., was active in both 4-H and FFA throughout her youth and grew up around the farm life.

“I honestly don’t know why agriculture wasn’t an option in my mind at the beginning,” Phillips said. “I come from a rural background and grew up around agriculture. I knew there would be so many opportunities in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (CAFNR), as it’s a leader in agricultural education. This is where I needed to be.”

Phillips originally declared as a natural resource science and management major but then switched to the agriculture degree program, as it allowed her to tailor her education to her interests. Phillips kept natural resource science and management as one of her three concentration areas, and added agribusiness management and agricultural education as her other two.

Phillips, who is from Mexico, Mo., was active in both 4-H and FFA throughout her youth and grew up around the farm life. Photo courtesy of Ellen Phillips.
Phillips, who is from Mexico, Mo., was active in both 4-H and FFA throughout her youth and grew up around the farm life. Photo courtesy of Ellen Phillips.

“The agriculture degree program is such a great major,” Phillips said. “It fits perfectly with what I want to do. The degree is also a great way to become a well-rounded individual and pursue areas that I’m interested in.”

While her degree program has kept her plenty busy, Phillips, a senior by credits, has been incredibly involved during her time on campus. Phillips serves as the philanthropy chair for the Sigma Alpha sorority, the fundraising chair for the Swine Club and a member of the Conservation Leadership Corp.

Phillips also serves as the vice president of communications for the CAFNR Ambassadors. This is the second year she has severed as an ambassador. The CAFNR Ambassadors wear multiple hats for the college, including promoting CAFNR’s scholarships, extracurricular activities and organizations.

“We do a lot, which I really enjoy,” Phillips said. “I originally didn’t know if I was going to attend Mizzou, so I like being able to serve as a resource for students who may be on the fence. I love talking about our majors and showcasing all of our hands-on learning opportunities.”

Phillips has spoken to students and parents after their campus tours, as well as shared her CAFNR experiences with students at various college and career fairs. She also talked with students during the National FFA Convention, where she said she hoped to inspire at least a few of those students to consider MU.

Serving as a CAFNR Ambassador touches on experiential learning, a key part of the RISE Initiative. The RISE Initiative states that all CAFNR undergraduate students will take part in at least one signature experience while on campus: Research, International, Service Learning and Experiential Learning. Experiential learning offers students real-world learning experiences outside of the classroom, through industry engagement, internship programs and learning laboratories.

“That personal touch is vital,” Phillips said. “I think being able to share our experiences really shows what students can come to expect when they arrive on campus.”

Phillips said she is interested in pursuing agriculture law after graduation next year. She is currently preparing for law school by studying for the LSAT and taking several policy-related agriculture courses.

“A big thing for law school is your personal statement; essentially it’s the primary reason for attending law school,” Phillips said. “For me, my grandfather passed away unexpectedly around six years ago. We had to get everything with his farm in order and do his estate planning. I really want to be a resource for individuals in rural areas to help them make they have everything in order.”

Phillips said she is also interested in property rights and environmental issues.

“For many farm owners in the state, their land is a centennial or bicentennial farm, so there’s a major sense of pride in that land,” Phillips said. “I want to help them protect that. To go along with that, I want to help them be more sustainable and make sure they are on top of all the rules and regulations.”