Summers returns to her roots to lead CAFNR alumni relations

As a third-generation Mizzou graduate, Kaleigh Summers could not imagine working at any other university. Even on a calm Friday in the office, Summers wears her black and gold to show her school spirit. Ever since she was a young girl, she can remember making trips from Slater, Missouri, with her parents, grandparents, and siblings to watch football games at Memorial Stadium.

As she recalled her family memories and connection to Mizzou, Summers said that when she was accepted to the University, all she can remember thinking is, “Well, I have to go.”

She wanted to continue the family tradition.

Summers filled the position of CAFNR Alumni Relations and Annual Giving Officer in December 2018.

In this role, Summers connects with alumni through planning annual events such as CAFNR Unlimited and CAFNR Tiger Classic. These events, which occur every February and September, are designed to celebrate the college and allow alumni to come back to Columbia to visit with students, peers and campus.

This past January, Summers hit the ground running when she had just over a month’s worth of time to finish planning and preparing for the 2019 CAFNR Unlimited. With many changes, including city, venue, and online bidding software, there were challenges to overcome.

“It was trial by fire,” said Jayson Meyer, director of Alumni Engagement at Mizzou Alumni Relations. “We were deep into the planning process for CAFNR Unlimited with lots of changes – including, a completely different system for online registration and bidding. All of a sudden it became Kaleigh’s responsibility to figure out how to implement the system, and now she is the model for using the system for fundraising events.”

Planning large-scale events is nothing new for Summers. After graduating from CAFNR with a bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Education and Leadership, she worked in the Kansas City hospitality industry for five years. After completing an extended internship with Agricultural Future of America in event planning, Summers became an event manager at the Sprint Center in Kansas City. There, she learned how to manage high-profile clients, their teams of people, and all aspects that accompany planning concerts and conferences where more than 20,000 people will be in attendance. These past experiences helped prepare Summers to handle planning CAFNR Unlimited on such short notice.

Summers is looking forward to learning more about the advancement (fundraising) portion of her position.

“I am really excited to get to know people and find out what their interests are and say, ‘That’s fantastic! Let’s look at the opportunities that you could support through volunteering or financially,’” Summers said. “However that looks – I am excited to continue to use the alumni side [of CAFNR] to further the advancement side [of CAFNR].”

Summers said her goal for her position is to find avenues for alumni to donate or volunteer in areas they are most passionate about in order to create a more intimate and fulfilling experience for both alumni and current students within the college.

Brent McCauley, director of advancement for CAFNR, knew right away Summers would be perfect for this position.

“You could just tell she had that X-factor,” McCauley said. “Just with speaking to her on the phone, I was very at ease. That is important when you are fundraising — to have a personality that is comfortable in many settings. I could tell that she had that just from the first phone conversation.”

Alumni who are looking for a way to give back to CAFNR, but are interested in a more specific connection, can reach out to Summers at ksummers@missouri.edu.