There’s no place like home. For Cassie Wandersee, the newly hired managing director of the Center for Rural Enterprise Engagement, the familiar phrase sums up her joy in returning to rural Kansas and the Kansas State University family.
“One of the greatest things about K-State and the department of communications and agricultural education is the sense of belonging to a community,” Cassie said. “I am incredibly excited and honored to be part of the community again”.
Cassie grew up on a small, family-owned farm and ranch outside of Dwight, Kansas. As Cassie puts it she “grew up in the kind of town where most people slow down for the railroad tracks and keep going. But, I always knew I loved the small community and country way of life; it just took me a bit to figure out the perfect way to come back, and this opportunity has been nothing less than perfect.”
“My path to agricultural communications and communication research was an interesting one,” Cassie said. She completed a bachelor of fine arts and minor in mass communications in 2012 at Kansas State University. “At that time, I really thought I would pursue a career in event planning and community outreach or education in an art museum. The economy and fate decided differently.”
Facing the fallout of the Great Recession, Cassie knew she needed to find a more stable industry and returned to her roots in agriculture taking a position as a staff writer and communications assistant for Mid Kansas Cooperative Association, headquartered in Moundridge, Kansas.
“I was doing the exact type of work I knew I wanted to do, just not in the field I thought I would be,” she remarked. “I learned an important lesson from that experience though – it finally clicked with me that I belonged in an agricultural field.”
After working for two years in agricultural communications and sales, Cassie returned to K-State to pursue a master’s degree in agricultural communication. “It was during my master’s program that I fell in love with research.”
Cassie pursued that passion after graduation, accepting a position with the Public Issues Education Center at the University of Florida in Gainesville. “I was familiar with PIE Center research from past conferences and knew I could develop my research and communications skills even further with their resources and guidance,” Cassie said.
“While I learned a lot in my time at the PIE Center, Kansas kept calling me home,” Cassie said. “CREE was really gaining traction when I was in grad school, and I had always been interested in new-media technology research. Plus, I knew my dad would appreciate having his best farm hand back!”
“The opportunity to be a part of combining research knowledge and new-media technology into a single source for rural, agricultural enterprises is absolutely my dream job,” Cassie said. “I understand first-hand the risks involved in an agricultural business and have the upmost respect for anyone that dedicates their life and everything they have to it.”
“It is my hope that we can make a true impact for Kansas agriculture and rural communities, and beyond, through the use of new-media technology and research to engage with audiences previously inaccessible to us.”