It is not an overstatement to say Jon Simonsen loves his students. Whether it is his dedication to the Litton Leadership Scholars program or how open and willing he is to sit down and talk through problems with any students who show up to his office, his enthusiasm for his job is obvious.
Simonsen, an adviser and assistant professor in the MU agricultural education and leadership program, came to Mizzou six years ago. He grew up in a small town in Nebraska, where he lived on a diversified family farm. “Simo,” as he is affectionately called by his students, graduated with 37 others from a small high school and went on to study agricultural education and economics at the University of Nebraska, where he obtained his Bachelor’s Degree. After graduation, he took a high school teaching job in a small Nebraska community, where he stayed for ten years.
“I really enjoyed it,” Simonsen said.
He then had the opportunity to go to graduate school at Ohio State, so he moved with his wife and two small children to Ohio to pursue a Ph.D.
“Upon completion of that, we landed here in Columbia, Missouri,” Simonsen said. “We enjoy Columbia. My wife and I and our boys, my boys are elementary age now, we enjoy the community and enjoy the University of Missouri.”
John Tummons, Simonsen’s colleague in the MU agricultural education and leadership program, speaks highly of him.
“Jon’s a very personable guy,” Tummons said. “ He really cares about the students, you can tell.”
Students share those same sentiments.
“My first impression of Dr. Simonsen was that he was very upbeat,” said Amanda Smith, a senior agricultural education and leadership major and one of Simonsen’s advisees. “You could tell right away that he was a leader. He was also very willing to work with me, what I wanted to do, and kind of guide me in the direction that I wanted to go.”
In addition to his work advising and teaching, Simonsen is also the director of the Litton Leadership Scholars program.
The Jerry Litton Leadership Scholars program is designed to develop students to better prepare them for life’s uncertainties. It is open to second-year students at the university and helps to foster student growth through leadership education coursework, academic and field based mentorship, and impactful change. For more information about the Litton Leadership Scholars program, visit the page on the CAFNR website.
“I would have to say that my favorite time spent with Dr. Simonsen would probably have to be during the Jerry Litton Leadership Scholars program,” Smith said. “Dr. Simonsen has put a lot of work into that program, he is a staple to the program and one of the reasons why we have it here at Mizzou. I thought you had leadership or you didn’t, but Dr. Simonsen changed that for me.”
That is, after all, really what he is here for.
“My favorite part (of the job) would be the actual teaching and the working with students,” Simonsen said. “Working with them at the college level and then seeing them when they graduate they’re headed out to the real world I guess, or headed out to jobs — whether that’s potentially marriages and families and all that, it’s seeing them move into that next stage of life.”