This Tiger built a fledgling equine initiative into a nationally reputable, student-centered program. As an educator, she blends the business side of agriculture with practical experience on a farm and is excited to work with students who will become tomorrow’s leaders.

Meet Kristine Vernon.

Title: Associate professor; director of Clemson University Equine Center; South Carolina 4-H Horse Program specialist

Years at Clemson: 14

What I do at Clemson: I teach undergraduate and graduate courses related to equine science, management and animal agribusiness development, and serve as the coordinator of the equine business concentration within the Animal and Veterinary Sciences (AVS) department. I serve as an adviser to (AVS) students as well as those pursuing a minor in equine industries. I am also heavily involved in Faculty Senate and my department’s curriculum committee. I am the lead faculty senator for the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences and the chair of Faculty Senate’s Scholastic Policies Committee.  In these capacities, I have become a better teacher, faculty member and colleague.

I am also the director of the Clemson University Equine Center, which entails overseeing the mission of the unit, marketing, budget, personnel, and infrastructure. Many of the improvements at the Equine Center have been the direct result of the evolution of student engagement at the horse farm. We have students from every college that enjoy the benefits of the Equine Center, either recreationally through our Equestrian Team or academically.

My final role at Clemson is to coordinate the South Carolina 4-H Horse program. In this capacity, I manage state-level educational contests, events, camps and horse shows. I also am a committee chair on regional and national executive management subcommittees for the 4-H Horse program. I enjoy working with 4-H youth, ages 5 to 18, from across South Carolina, and am especially proud when they attend Clemson University as a 4-H alumnus.

What I love about Clemson: The students! My students are a special group. They are enthusiastic, engaged and hard working. It is so satisfying to see the students learn and grow during their time at Clemson and then achieve great things in their professional and personal lives upon graduation.

My defining moment at Clemson: Watching my first group of students walk across the stage at graduation. I have attended almost every graduation ceremony since I started at Clemson, and I never cease to burst with pride over my students’ accomplishments.

Accomplishment I’m most proud of: The dramatic improvements at the Clemson University Equine Center that have occurred under my leadership. The decisions that drove these improvements have all been centered on student support, access and career readiness. Students now have the opportunity to engage in many ways, such as through student employment, taking hands-on courses, volunteering for our therapeutic riding program or being a part of the Equestrian Team. Having an average of 125 students a week use the farm can only be accomplished by a safe and efficient environment and wonderful and accommodating staff.

Where I see myself in five years: I want to continue to work with students on a daily basis. I believe my life’s calling is to be an educator and I enjoy mentoring students who will become tomorrow’s leaders. Ideally, I will have the opportunity to apply my student-centered leadership and mentoring skills to reach an even larger student audience.

Last thing I watched on TV: Jeopardy, Family Feud, Big Bang Theory. There is also a lot of ESPN and Nickelodeon on at my house.

Guilty pleasure: Vacationing at the beach; being out on the water.

One thing most people don’t know about me: I am the only person in my family that pursued a career in agriculture. I did not grow up as a multi-generational equestrian or farmer. My father built boats for a living. He and both of my brothers attended the Merchant Marine Academy. My mother has an English degree, and my sister has a degree in photojournalism. My mother immigrated to America from an impoverished rural community in Southern Germany. What she was able to accomplish with her life is my greatest inspiration, and I owe all of my successes to my mother.

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