The ‘fun czar’ in CAFNR academic programs office, Freyermuth finds joy in her work with students

Her research has been published eight times. She is a member of seven scientific and educational organizations. She holds three Mizzou job titles and works in two departments with two separate offices. However, when asked about how she blazed her career path at MU, Shari Freyemuth said, “Well, you know it’s funny, because even in graduate school, if you had told me what I was going to be doing, I would never have believed you.”

Freyermuth wears many hats at the university. She’s been with Mizzou for 18 years and currently teaches Introduction to Biochemistry. In addition to teaching, Freyermuth is also an undergraduate adviser and assistant dean at the College of Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources. When Freyermuth began her undergraduate degree at the University of Georgia in 1980, she did not begin her degree in biochemistry but planned to become a doctor.

“I originally started majoring in chemistry … the first year was fine, but as I was doing my four-year plan, I looked at all the upper-level chemistry classes, and I was like ‘I don’t really like any of those,’ so I was searching for something, a different major,” Freyermuth said.

At that time, the University of Georgia’s long-standing genetics research program became an official undergraduate major, creating the perfect opportunity for Freyermuth. With only six students in the major, the personal attention in labs and classes led her to discover her love for the lab environment.

“I started working in a lab doing undergraduate research and I thought … I would rather do this than go to med school,” Freyermuth said.

After Freyermuth received a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and genetics in 1984, she attended graduate school at Duke University, where she planned to do research for the rest of her career.

“I really didn’t even want to be a person in charge of a lab, I just wanted to have my own research in somebody else’s lab,” Freyermuth said. After Duke University, she and her husband, Wilson, moved to Colorado to participate in a post-doctoral plant science research project. However, when he interviewed for a position at the University of Missouri’s law school, she went along.

“We have just a really great plant program here,” Freyermuth said. “In fact there were several people who had been in the same department as me at Duke” at MU.

Wilson accepted a professor position at the law school, so Freyermuth came to MU to conduct another post-doctoral research project..

“I realized after I’d been in the lab for quite some time that … I really enjoyed the interactions I was having with the undergraduates who were working in the lab,” Freyermuth said. “So I thought, ‘you know, I need to kind of think about teaching.’ ”

After she helped several professors in the biochemistry department teach, Freyermuth went to the department chair with a proposal. She said that the department lacked teachers because everyone was interested in research. She asked if she could teach and they accepted her proposal.

Throughout the years, Freyermuth moved from an instructor position to an associate teaching professor. She received an educational grant that allowed her to build the biochemistry curriculum and collaborate with professors at other institutions. It was during this period of her career that unfortunate circumstances brought her to the agriculture building.

When Bryan Garton became the associate dean after the previous one passed away, the assistant dean position was vacant. Freyermuth was nominated for the job and tested it out, unsure of how long she was going to stay in the position.

Although it was initially difficult to navigate two positions at once, Freyermuth discovered how the two jobs can work together with the help of her colleagues in the CAFNR office.

“Everybody’s been great,” Freyermuth said. “There’s a lot of ways that I can be an advantage to the department.”

Not only does Freyermuth speak highly of her colleagues, but they attest to her work ethic and passion for her job, too.

“Dr. Freyermuth is so in tune with her students,” said Cheryl Stevens, CAFNR administrative assistant. “To her coworkers around here she’s known as the ‘Fun Czar’ in the academic programs, and that’s because she’s a bundle of fun, a bundle of knowledge and a very caring person.”

The sincere enjoyment that Freyermuth feels when working with students is clear to those who work closely with her.

“We love working with Dr. Freyermuth, because she is such a caring and wonderful person,” said Laura Denker, coordinator of student services. “She really focuses on student success and does anything that she can to make sure her students have the best educational opportunities possible, whether … through research or being an adviser of the Biochemistry Club.”

Freyermuth’s colleagues aren’t the only ones to attest to her professional excellence.

“There were things in chemistry that I didn’t understand before her class,” said Brieanna Priebe, undergraduate biochemistry student. “[She makes it] enjoyable to learn new things and to me that is what a great teacher is supposed to do.”

Even students who have not had Freyermuth as a teacher have positive things to say.

“Dr. Freyermuth was my Summer Welcome adviser … and it was good to know someone who really welcomed you into CAFNR and biochemistry,” said Leslie Cooney, undergraduate biochemistry student. “I wasn’t sure if some of my credits would transfer, and every time I emailed her [with questions] she would respond right away. She is one of the nicest people … in CAFNR and biochemistry.”

Although she works primarily with biochemistry students, Freyermuth also helps a variety of majors in CAFNR.

“I feel like having the opportunity to work with a broad range of students has just given me better perspective on … students in general,” Freyermuth said. “Students come with different backgrounds, and I think that that works well; if you have a more diverse student pool, it’s better for everyone.”

Freyermuth said that working with these students has taught her about the agriculture industry.

“I grew up in suburbia, and the closest I came to anything [agriculture related] was I think in third grade,” Freyermuth said. “We took a trip to our local dairy, and I got to try to milk Rosebud the cow, who just peed on me.”

Freyermuth has two children currently attending college in Minnesota. In her free time, her husband and their friends enjoy running and currently train for a half marathon this May.

Elizabeth Wyss

About the Author Elizabeth Wyss

Hello, Corner Post Readers! My name is Elizabeth Wyss, and I am a freshman at the University of Missouri. I am from Russellville, Missouri. I entered my freshman year at Mizzou as a biochemistry major, with a grand plan of attending pharmacy school one day. However, I discovered that biochemistry was not for me, and my passion for defending and furthering the agriculture industry was stronger than my interest in science. So here I am, an undecided agriculture major, trying to decide between agricultural economics and science and agricultural journalism. Writing for Corner Post this semester is an exciting opportunity for me to explore what my future will be in the world’s most important industry!