Cody Christenson is a Kansas-based farmer and college student. Currently, he attends the University of Kansas, where he is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Biology with an emphasis in Pre-Medicine. In addition to his ongoing academic studies, Christenson also holds an Associate’s degree from Johnson County Community College where he participated in the Phi Theta Kappa honors society and graduated with honors distinction. In addition to these accomplishments, Christenson’s academic background includes attendance at Washburn Institute of Technology’s Diesel Technology Program, where he received a formal education on repairing, servicing, and maintaining diesel powered equipment.

Christenson’s work history boasts more than a decade of experience in the agriculture industry, formerly with High Point Ranch and currently with Christenson Farms—a family-owned venture. Among his wide range of responsibilities on the farm, Christenson’s role includes planting corn, soybeans, alfalfa, clover, turnips, and rye. He is also widely responsible for conducting routine maintenance, stocking ponds, caring for aquatic life, repairing farm machinery, managing land rentals to local ranchers, cutting and maintaining trails, and more. In much of his role, Christenson deals often with operating and maintaining heavy agricultural equipment—a skill in which he has obtained both formal training and longstanding hands-on experience.

How does being a student during Covid-19 differ from your previous experiences?

The pandemic has caused drastic changes to my education and learning. I am taking five courses this semester and only one of them meets in person. Even the Lab sections for a few of my classes are conducted online (Molecular & Cellular Biology and Chemistry 2). Assignments, quizzes, exams, projects, and lectures are all online. I am constantly having to snap photos of my work, send them to my laptop, and then send them to a professor or program that I must use to complete work (extremely inconvenient). Face masks are to be worn at all times, everywhere on campus (including walking to and from buildings/classes). Desks are spaced apart, seating in the hallways and libraries are spaced apart, drinking fountains are taped off (restricted). In order to gain entrance to a building, a symptom check is required (by using a specific app) Covid-19 testing was required before the start of the semester. The campus is empty, there isn’t the same amount of activity as there used to be. The college experience has been stripped away and it’s very unfortunate. The semester ends at Thanksgiving, finals will be taken at home. Also, the Spring semester will not start until February, and there will not be a Spring Break. Covid-19 has directly impacted me and my education. I do not like all this online learning, and the college experience isn’t exciting at all. I am very upset about all of this.

How are you remaining motivated during online learning?

My motivation comes from my determination. I am determined to get through school, get a degree, and begin a career of my choice and in an industry I have a passion for. I chose to go back to school simply because I believe in doing something I enjoy and have a passion for. I want to wake up every morning and look forward to my work. I want to make a difference in other people’s lives (why I chose to pursue a career in the health field).

My motivation comes from being disciplined. I am no longer young and dumb. I am a man now and I am mature. My education is my work at the moment, and I feel that I have an expectation or duty to succeed and make good grades. I believe that hard work pays off. As long as I am doing the next right thing, good things will continue to happen for me. Also, working on a farm has instilled in me a strong work ethic. I am constantly being productive in my days. I am either doing schoolwork, working on the farm, exercising, cleaning, or maintaining an organized orderly life. I do not watch television, nor am I on any social media sites.

What changes have you noticed throughout COVID and academics?

The campus/school isn’t as lively as it once was. There aren’t as many organized events going on around campus. People aren’t interacting and socializing like they normally would. People seem to be closed off and unapproachable. Normally it is very busy at the start of a new semester. People are usually very excited, and it doesn’t seem that way anymore. The atmosphere isn’t as positive or upbeat like it usually is. I feel bad for the freshman who just came in and were looking forward to the college experience.

What inspired you to continue your education?

I want to make something of myself. I wanted to take on the challenge. And I have always

wanted to accomplish a four-year degree. I don’t want to settle for a mediocre life. I want to live my life to my fullest potential. I want to become successful and make a name for myself. Also, I want to make my parents proud of me. I wasn’t entirely happy with my life. So, I decided to

adventure off in a new direction. I wanted to embrace the challenge and prove to myself (most importantly) and to my family and friends that I can do a lot more. Also, I didn’t want anyone to think that I had it easy, that everything was given to me (as far as inheriting the land and farm from my dad). I will always own land and work fields. It is a passion more than a job. But I also want to accomplish something entirely different and something that I worked hard for.

How has working for your family farm helped prepare you for the demands of academics?

My dad was very successful in life. After high school, he left the farm to attend college. He got a

job with John Deere and eventually worked his way up the entire ladder. He retired from John Deere as an executive: Marketing Director of North America. He became so successful because of his work ethic. And this came from growing up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin. Similarly, I have developed a strong work ethic as well, and a lot of it can be contributed to the demands of operating a farm. Work never stops on a farm, there is always something to be done. My dad expected a lot from me. I was to be up before sunlight, and worked until the late evening or sundown. My dad was very intimidating, and I abided by his rules. Now I can look back and thank him for being so tough on me. I may not have seen it at the time, but he was shaping me into a responsible, mature man. So, when it comes to school, I always show up for class, I am always early, and I always complete my tasks on time. That is what is expected of me, so I do it.

What trends in farming are you currently excited about?

I am most excited about the advancements in the technology for agriculture. We recently purchased a new John Deere tractor (6155M series), and it is amazing how far they have come over the years. The technology allows me to work smarter and makes my job easier. Also, this new tractor makes me feel like I am in a luxury vehicle: it is so smooth, and I can’t even tell when I have an implement attached to the back (hauling).

What do you think it is that makes you successful as a student?

My work ethic plays a big part. Also, I am mature now and I take my responsibilities seriously. I am determined and dedicated to being successful and I put forth 110% into everything I do

What’s next for Cody Christenson?

After I complete my bachelor’s degree, I plan on attending a post-grad program, possibly

medical school. I am not stopping after my four-year degree! I am determined to continue my education and strive to be the very best I can be. I look up to my dad more than anyone else, and I want to be just like him: work hard and become very successful. In the meantime, I will continue to focus on completing my degree with a 4.0 GPA. Here soon, I will begin volunteering in the community and building a solid resume. Also, I will begin shadowing and hopefully narrow down my career interests/paths. These are all things that medical school looks at when applying to get in.