For CeCe Leslie, director of student recruitment for the MU College of Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources, every day is a whirlwind. The key to success in managing her hectic schedule is the level of passion and energy she carries.
Both of these qualities became evident the moment Leslie burst through the door with a smile while expressing her apologies for being late and explaining that her day had been filled with family tours.
Leslie attributes many of the skills she uses to cope with her day-to-day obligations to her life growing up with eight siblings in the Chicago area.
“You learn conflict resolution day in and day out,” Leslie said as her eyes lit up while reminiscing about the past. “I think you also learn a sense of teamwork.”
Leslie said that her childhood experiences also sparked many of the interests that she has today.
“I honestly think it’s where a lot of my interest in public speaking and even sales and marketing came about,” Leslie said. “Public speaking came very easy because every day you were communicating with a large contingent in the house.”
Although her skills and interests all seem to point toward a career in recruitment, Leslie said that finding the right major was a difficult task.
“I was the kind of student who could not decide on a major,” Leslie said. “I started in elementary education thinking I wanted to be a teacher, then I decided I didn’t enjoy the courses for that. Then, I switched to business and after one semester of accounting I decided that wasn’t for me. I switched to secondary education thinking maybe I did want to teach but maybe not elementary. At the time, the most courses I had certainly would lead more toward a social science degree, so I ended up with a psychology degree.”
During this period of settling on a major, Leslie met her future husband, Phil. She said he convinced her to decide on a major quickly because he was Air Force ROTC.
Even after Leslie decided on a degree, a great length of time passed before she settled into her career. Leslie said she traveled with her husband before deciding on a career.
“Because my husband had to go into the Air Force, in the first year or two we moved from a home that we had both had for four and half years at Mizzou to Florida, to Minnesota, to Hawaii, and then ultimately the Philippines,” Leslie said.
While her husband was in the Philippines, Leslie came back to Mizzou to work on a graduate degree in counseling and personnel services. Leslie said while she was working on her graduate degree, she missed her husband and decided to move to the Philippines to be closer to him.
In the Philippines, Leslie was not allowed to stay with her husband because he was on a remote assignment. She said that living on her own in the Philippines was her own study abroad experience that ultimately changed her as a person.
“When students talk about study abroad, that was my study abroad,” Leslie said. “It really did change me as far as understanding how fortunate we are in the United States to have what we have. Basically, it was a population where many families had nine or more children and very little to eat, but they were so hospitable. That changed me quite a bit, realizing what we have and the importance of sharing.”
When her husband was done in the Philippines, Leslie moved back to Columbia and worked several different jobs before she ended up as the director of student recruitment for CAFNR. By her side during these job changes was Stephanie Chipman, a good friend of Leslie’s and the career services director for CAFNR.
Chipman said she met Leslie around 20 years ago when she worked for a different university. They saw each other at conferences for the Missouri Association for College Admission Counseling.
“I actually knew Cece back when I worked in admissions at a different University,” Chipman said. “She and I would meet each other occasionally on the road, but also at MOACAC Conferences.”
Chipman said she has always admired Leslie’s work ethic.
“Even then, I thought of her as somebody who was really good at her job, but what was distinctive of her was she made everything fun,” Chipman said.
Chipman’s first impression of Leslie has continued throughout their friendship.
“I would describe her as smart, caring, and lots of fun,” Chipman said.
These characteristics have allowed Leslie to fit in well at CAFNR. Leslie said that it wasn’t a background in agriculture that motivated her to work for CAFNR, but rather the environment the college presented.
“My only background in agriculture is that I truly like to eat and of course I do get dressed every day,” Leslie said. “You honestly feel a different environment in this college. There is a culture of caring in this college that is immediately sensed in the people around you.”