Audrey Ochtrup-Dekeyrel ’22Environmental Studies and Geography Major
Posted on November 22nd, 2022 by

“From farmhand to food researcher, Gustavus planted the seed for a new career path—that of professor.”

A “terrible, bratty child” when it came to helping on her family’s farm in southeastern Minnesota, a younger Ochtrup-DeKeyrel couldn’t have imagined making a career out of agriculture. Now, shaped by her upbringing and her experiences as an environmental studies and geography double major, she plans to pursue graduate and PhD studies related to food geography, with the hope of teaching at a small liberal arts college.

Thanks to the student-centered ethos among Gustavus faculty, Ochtrup-DeKeyrel was able to develop meaningful connections with professors who felt passionate about research. Her junior year, she conducted her own research on the impact of Minneapolis urban gardening. “I thought, ‘wow, this is really where it’s at.’” Later research courses sparked questions that she plans to explore in graduate school, such as how to make sustainable growing practices more accessible to farmers. It’s a subject that hits close to home. “Farming gets a bad rap for its environmental toll, but accessibility and affordability stands in the way of farmers being able to use regenerative growing practices.”

To Ochtrup-DeKeyrel, addressing these types of social issues is part of what makes an effective professor. “We’re lucky to be equipped with an education, and we have a duty to use that education outside of our institution to affect positive change,” said Ochtrup-DeKeyrel, who’s already put her education into practice as a sustainability intern and co-president of Big Hill Farm. “It’s up to a professor to help students determine how.”

Empathy is another key trait of a great professor. She’s seen it time and again in her Gustavus professors, from their support during the COVID-19 pandemic to their jokes that brighten students’ days. Those connections are what made Ochtrup-DeKeyrel’s time at Gustavus special, and she looks forward to making those same connections with students as a professor.

She’ll never be too far from the farm, though. “Sometimes I think about how ironic it is that arguably my father’s one child who seemed the least interested in farming is now pursuing graduate studies in his field. I think he’s pleased to see me come full circle.”


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