Preparing students for leadership in a complex world is goal of newest AE&L faculty member

Adam Cletzer believes that leadership is more than simply having a vision and getting others to follow you. The newest member of the MU Department of Agricultural Education and Leadership faculty hopes to prepare students for the real world of leadership. Cletzer, with a background in 4-H and organizational leadership, joined the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources this past August.

Cletzer grew up on an expansive cow-calf operation near Okeechobee, Florida.

“We had 16,000 acres with 4,000 to 6,000 head of cattle,” Cletzer said.

The family also had 120 horses and a full-time horse trainer.

“We were just really isolated, you know, out on the ranch and so I think my parents were like ‘man, Adam needs social skills’ and they knew I liked horses so they put me in 4-H to show my horses and meet other children,” Cletzer said. “It was good for me.”

Cletzer was persuaded to join a 4-H club by his younger sister Jennifer.

“She wanted to show her horses and my mom said that she would only let her do it if both of us do it,” Cletzer said.

His time in 4-H was primarily spent working with horses and in leadership development. Cletzer was the recipient of a National 4-H Congress Award as one of 29 students representing Florida. To receive this prestigious award, Cletzer submitted a portfolio and went through a series of interviews as a senior in high school.

Out of approximately 500 competitors at the state level, Cletzer was one of only a few male participants showing horses, and his best showing was when he placed third in horsemanship at state competition.

As a young boy, Cletzer originally believed his career would be in hospitality management because he liked working with people.

“In Florida, everyone does hospitality,” Cletzer said.

He later realized it was not so much that he liked people, but that he liked to teach people.

For six years, Cletzer worked as an extension agent on the east coast of Florida. He coordinated the county fair livestock shows and enjoyed assisting Florida 4-H, the National FFA Organization and other agricultural students with their projects.

Cletzer then worked at the state level for the Florida 4-H Foundation for two years before going to graduate school at Virginia Tech.

“Before I got into grad school, I had hobbies,” Cletzer said with a laugh.

His hobbies included surfing, kayaking, hiking and sailing.

This past summer, Cletzer completed his doctorate and accepted the MU position as an assistant professor with a specialty in leadership and communication. So far, Cletzer has enjoyed seeing students grow and work through the emotions involved with overcoming fears of public speaking this semester.

Cletzer explained that being a professor is “weird” because people tend to assume that you know everything.

“We’re still learning too,” Cletzer said.

Cletzer is still adjusting to the transition from Florida to Missouri.

“I was a little freaked out by the Wednesday tornado siren drill,” Cletzer said. “I was like ‘oh thank goodness, because all these people are really nonchalant about the fact that we’re all going to die.’”

Eric Kaufman, Cletzer’s doctoral adviser at Virginia Tech, believes that Cletzer explains things well and does not take things too seriously.

“In many ways, he is like a big kid,” Kaufman said. “He has a competitive spirit and didn’t want any of his peers to show him up.”

Derrek Hardy, a freshman agricultural education major at MU, is a student in Cletzer’s agricultural education leadership course.

“He was really able to build connections with every student,” Hardy said. “He was laid back and easy to get along with and had a great personality.”

Looking toward the future, Cletzer has two main goals for the department.

“[The department has] always had two or four leadership courses and a smaller group of kids that are in the leadership emphasis area,” Cletzer said.

One of his goals is to expand the leadership course offerings. To begin, Cletzer hopes to offer a new 4000-level course for the fall 2017 semester titled “Leading Organizational and Community Change.” The course will discuss communities and organizations as a system and is the next step in the traditional series of courses offered by the department.

In addition, Cletzer intends to grow the leadership emphasis area as a whole. According to Cletzer, there are currently 40 to 50 students enrolled in the area, but he sees tremendous potential for growth.

“It is the kind of things employers want,” Cletzer said. “Without ‘nerding’ you out here, I want a leadership program that reflects the complexity of leadership in today’s world.”

Cletzer believes that MU can distinguish itself from similar institutions by breaking away from the traditional linear approach to leadership with specific steps for an individual to complete.

“For a lot of people they come in and they’re like, ‘I like being around agriculture, but I don’t necessarily want to be in a field or a slaughterhouse or grow things in general, but I like the culture and the people that I’m around,” Cletzer said. “If that’s you, [Agricultural Education and Leadership] is the program for you.”

Holly Enowski

About the Author Holly Enowski

I am an Eldon, Missouri, native, best known for being “too busy” and for the circumstances of my birth – I am the only girl in a set of triplets! Born and raised on a family farm, agriculture has always been a large part of my life and growing up, that was not something that I always appreciated as I do now. Since the age of 5, I’ve been chasing big city dreams that led me to pursue a degree in science and agricultural journalism, and hopefully minors in rural sociology, agricultural economics, leadership and public service. I am interested in international food insecurity, policy, nutrition and a whole slew of other topics.