Q&A With Mason Ward

Ward is a junior in agriculture

Why did you decide to come to the University of Missouri and major in agriculture? What do you enjoy about the program itself? The field of study?

Initially, agriculture was not my intended major, but I am glad that I ended up here! After touring Mizzou and meeting with the agricultural education faculty, I was sold. The professors genuinely cared about my well-being and career goal as an agriculture teacher. However, life had something else planned for me. Being a highly indecisive person, I decided that agricultural education was not for me and I ended up going through two major changes after I left agricultural education. I eventually found myself in the major agriculture, and looking back, I would not change this decision! The major is highly flexible and allows you to sample the different majors that CAFNR offers. What I enjoy most about the major is that you become well-versed in multiple disciplines and you can tailor the degree to your preference. For example, my concentrations include plant science, environmental science and agriculture leadership, and so I have chosen the three majors that best complement my career goals. I knew the University of Missouri and CAFNR had the best faculty in the Midwest, and I am so glad I found my home within my university, college and major.

How have you used resources in the CAFNR Academic Programs Office (student services, career services, advising, study abroad)? What was your experience like?

Here in CAFNR, we are very lucky to have an outstanding staff that work tirelessly to ensure that the well-being of students is priority number one. I have been fortunate to have an advisor that is invested in my career goals, my mental health and career goals. I have also utilized CAFNR Career Services to enhance my resume and prepare me for important interviews. I cannot thank the CAFNR Office of Academic Programs enough for making CAFNR my home away from home.

CAFNR’s RISE Initiative encourages students to have a variety of extracurricular experiences during their time at Mizzou (Research, International, Service Learning, Experiential Learning). What parts of the RISE initiative have you taken advantage of so far, and which do you plan to? What have you enjoyed about these experiences?

I have been fortunate to take part in the Research aspect of CAFNR’s RISE initiative. During my freshman year I participated in the Freshman Research in Plants (FRIPS) Program where I conducted research with my mentor Dr. Deborah Finke and her graduate students. My project was looking at the effects of drought-stressed hosts (Rhopalosiphum padi) on parasitoid wasp behavior (Aphidius colemani). Specifically, I analyzed the interactions of antennation, stinging, and the reproductive rate of Aphidius colemani on Rhopalosiphum padi that were subjected to specific levels of drought. The research has important implications to the agriculture industry as it allows us to predict insect outbreaks, and the effectiveness of the reproductive capability of parasitoid wasps. My mentor and graduate students were very helpful, attentive, and treated me as their own. The FRIPS Program allowed me to participate in Mizzou Life Sciences Week where I presented my research. I received third place in the poster competition; however, I owe it all to the wonderful individuals that cheered me on through every aspect.

What has been your favorite activity or experience of being a CAFNR student?

My favorite experience being a CAFNR student is connecting with prospective students. Being a CAFNR Ambassador has allowed me to connect with students from across the country and share with them not only my experience, but also listen to theirs. It is important to recognize and understand different backgrounds and experiences others have faced to become more aware of the world that we live in. Having the opportunity for prospective students to be open and honest with me is an absolute eye-opening experience that I appreciate and cherish.