GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Like many college freshmen, Kristen Kempfert thought she had her future completely figured out.
Kempfert wanted to go to law school, so she enrolled at the University of Florida as an English major. When that didn’t feel right, she switched to political science, then to linguistics, then to engineering. Suddenly, she felt adrift, uncertain about which path to choose.
At the end of her freshman year, Kempfert had to take four credits over the summer to keep her scholarship. Having already found a three-credit course, she was browsing the list of course offerings when she stumbled upon “Plants, Gardening and You,” a one-credit course offered by the department of environmental horticulture in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS).
Kempfert had always enjoyed tending her small herb garden back home—so she signed up.
Now a horticulture science senior, Kempfert says taking that summer course was a turning point. “I realized that I really loved plants,” she said. “Working with plants was a career I’d never even considered or realized was an industry.”
For her CALS honors program project, she’s researching mycorrhizal fungi, a special kind of fungus that lives in the soil and can help plants better absorb nutrients and water. It’s a subject she never gets tired of. “The more I read about how these organisms work together, the more I realize there is so much we don’t know about them,” she said.
Kempfert credits finding her passion to her initial CALS adviser, Amy Vasquez, who helped her transition into CALS. “My favorite thing about CALS is the advising,” Kempfert said. “We have a really big support system. I can email my adviser and she is always available to see me.”
Kempfert encourages all students to take advantage of academic advising, especially if they are unsure of which direction they want their college career to take.
After getting her bachelor’s degree, Kempfert plans to pursue a master’s degree and then a doctorate in plant pathology. However, she acknowledges that nothing is ever set in stone when it comes to the future. “I’ve learned that you can’t plan everything,” she said.
By: Samantha Grenrock, 352-294-3307, email@example.com
Sources: Amy Vasquez, 352-273-4573, firstname.lastname@example.org
Kristen Kempfert, 904-303-6192, email@example.com