GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Growing up, Christine Krebs enjoyed being in an academic environment. She looked forward to school and the excitement of learning new information. Knowing that no one in her family had attended college before, Krebs held the achievement of college graduation to be a personal goal of hers.
On Dec. 14, Krebs will deliver the student address at the UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) student recognition ceremony at 7:30 p.m. in the Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. The ceremony is part of the University of Florida’s commencement weekend. A wildlife ecology and conservation major, Krebs will join nearly 400 CALS students who will be graduating with their bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
While her parents were supportive of her college goals, Krebs said they were not familiar with the admissions process. The Clermont, Fla., native leaned heavily on her middle school and high school teachers who served as her mentors. She credits Leslie Noble, a faculty member at East Ridge High School, with coaching her through her college applications.
“She saw the potential in me to attend college,” Krebs said. “She would take the time to work with me on what it would take to enter and stay in college. She would review my admissions materials and provide the positive encouragement she knew I needed.”
Krebs had not visited UF prior to submitting her application. She had attended a Gator football game a few years earlier with her current roommate. She remembered sitting in the stadium envisioning herself at the university. When she finally received her acceptance letter to UF, she knew the cost would be a concern.
“Then I received a Machen Florida Opportunity Scholarship and this overwhelming relief flooded me,” Krebs said. “That was when I knew I had support here at UF. I knew I was meant be to be here.”
At UF, Krebs said she was given pride in her identity as a first-generation college student. This gave her the inspiration to explore different majors, career paths and all that UF had to offer. If Krebs had to describe college in one word, it would be serendipity.
“You plan for one thing and then a really great opportunity comes by that you can’t pass up,” Krebs said.
Classes at UF can be some of those opportune moments. Krebs’ career trajectory altered after taking the Wildlife of Florida course taught by Steve Johnson, a UF/IFAS associate professor in the wildlife ecology and conservation department. The way Johnson taught the material in a hands-on manner hooked Krebs.
“His class got me into my major,” Krebs said. “We had a class on frog calls where all of us erupted into a frog chorus! I remember thinking, ‘You know, I can see myself with these people for the next few years.’”
Krebs embraced her new major. Each class she took in the department provided her with valuable lessons learned through camping trips, swimming with manatees, networking with graduate students, and many more outdoor adventures.
As an ambassador for the college, one of Krebs’ favorite responsibilities involved visiting elementary and middle schools with wildlife specimens from Johnson’s office as she shared what it was like to be a wildlife ecology and conservation student at UF.
“Christine is a student, but she’s also a teacher,” said Johnson. “She helps spread the word about biodiversity and conservation to others. That’s a big service she plays in advancing the mission of UF and in making the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences more visible in the community. Christine is everything you’d hope for in a great student, but it is her positive attitude that is most noticeable. Her optimism follows her both inside and outside of the classroom.”
Krebs’ knack for teaching began after she completed the First-Year Florida course during her freshman year at UF. She became a First-Year Florida peer leader, which provided her the opportunity to learn how to teach a college class.
Once she began co-teaching, Krebs began to notice the transfer students in her wildlife ecology and conservation classes mention how overwhelmed they were transitioning to UF academically and socially. She saw an opportunity to put her First-Year Florida skills to use and pitched the idea of offering a transfer student version of the program to Charlotte Emerson, director of student development and recruitment in CALS. The CALS course was offered for the first time this fall.
“I learned CALS has one of the highest enrollments of transfer students at UF, and wanted to help them make the most of their two years at our university,” Krebs said. “It was neat to use the skills I learned as a First-Year Florida teacher to form a curriculum foundation with Dr. Emerson. It has been so rewarding to hear about the opportunities the students are currently applying for that they wouldn’t have known about if it hadn’t been for this class.”
After graduation, Krebs will begin her master’s degree in agricultural education and communication at UF in January. She plans to combine her knowledge of wildlife and the environment with communications skills. Ultimately, Krebs hopes to find her niche in conservation, and a career that will influence and inspire others to start their own life journeys.
“If you take the time to embrace your roles, whatever they may be, that organization or mentor is more than willing to give back to you and your individual growth,” Krebs said. “You walk in new to college, UF shapes you and then you leave with the responsibility to do the same for someone else – whether that be for another Gator or someone else in our global community.”
The College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) administers the degree programs of the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS). The mission of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences is to deliver unsurpassed educational programs that prepare students to address the world’s critical challenges related to agriculture, food systems, human wellbeing, natural resources and sustainable communities. The college has received more total (national and regional combined) USDA teaching awards than any other institution. Visit the CALS website at cals.ufl.edu, and follow CALS on social media platforms at @ufcals.