LEXINGTON, Ky. (Dec. 16, 2016) — For many people, public speaking is an anxiety-inducing activity which they will try to avoid at almost any cost. Not so for University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment graduating senior Mary Elizabeth Wood. Wood, who will shake the hand of UK President Eli Capilouto at Friday afternoon’s Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony and receive her bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics, is looking forward to addressing her fellow graduates and an audience of thousands in Rupp Arena as the student commencement speaker.
Wood got her first experience in public oratory while she was a fourth grader in Frankfort, when her family moved to Kentucky’s capital city from Owensboro, Kentucky.
“In elementary school, I became very interested in public health and actually worked to get city and county clean air ordinances passed,” Wood said. “I discovered I had the courage to speak in front of adults and express my thoughts without getting overly nervous.”
First introduced to agriculture during her high school years at Western Hills High School, Wood took an active role in the school’s chapter of Future Farmers of America (FFA), holding executive office during her junior and senior year. In turn, this led to more opportunities to refine her public speaking skills.
“I became immensely invested in agriculture. I learned the importance of the industry and how it is the only industry that touches the lives of every single person multiple times a day,” said Wood. “In fact, one of my favorite quotes reads: ‘Despite all our accomplishments, we owe our existence to a six-inch layer of topsoil and the fact that it rains.’ I knew that I needed to continue my journey in agriculture. UK’s College of Agriculture, Food and Environment is held in high esteem nationally and around the world and so it became a natural choice as the place to continue my education.”
Wood added, “I also chose UK because it’s in my blood. I can remember attending football and basketball games with my dad as a child all dolled up in my Wildcat cheerleader outfit. My dad earned his bachelor’s degree in philosophy here, then went to law school at UK. This university really is a family tradition.”
Wood said that when she took a campus visit as a prospective student, “I fell in love with the culture and atmosphere of the place. UK just felt right.”
As a college freshman, her intent was to follow a course of study which would eventually lead her to medical school and a career as a pediatric oncologist. Yet Wood missed the immersion in agriculture she so enjoyed in high school and changed her major to agricultural economics.
“My decision was affirmed the first day of my microeconomics class,” Wood said. “I had a fabulous professor and fell in love with the material.”
Since that day, this College of Ag Student Ambassador has never looked back.
“I interned for the Kentucky Department of Agriculture in the summers of 2015 and 2016,” Wood said. “Through working on the Farm to School and Junior Chef programs, I was entrusted with coordinating a competition for high school students using Kentucky Proud ingredients to create their own dish. As a result, I met the president and CEO of Custom Food Solutions. I now have a part-time position in the company and will begin working full time after graduation.”
Wood intends to further her education within the next few years, pursuing a master’s degree in public policy and/or agricultural economics.
Marriage plans also are in the works — she is engaged to Michael Goss, a December 2015 UK graduate who works as a nurse in UK HealthCare’s Cardiovascular ICU and will be pursuing his certified registered nurse anesthetist degree.
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