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Not in Kansas anymore, Associate Dean Wilson returns to Purdue

"The most powerful leadership tool you have is your own personal example,” said Christine Wilson, quoting Purdue alumnus John Wooden. Wilson, the newly appointed associate dean and director of academic programs for the College of Agriculture, thought her life would follow a similar path to Wooden’s, but as Wilson noted, “Sometimes plan B is better than plan A.”

Wooden taught high school English, but he is better-known as the first athlete inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach. As a teenager, Wilson was determined to earn a scholarship playing basketball, with the goal of becoming a high school math teacher and basketball coach.

She faced a major setback her freshman year of high school, tearing her ACL, the ligament that stabilizes the knee joint. Following surgery, Wilson worked hard to return to the court only to tear her ACL a second time. 

“The first injury was easier because I thought I would get through it, improve and keep moving forward,” said Wilson. “I never expected it would happen again.” With her history of injuries, Wilson watched the probability of an athletic scholarship evaporate. 

“That’s when I seriously decided to look into other career paths. Sometimes, you just have to stay focused on positives in the future and embrace change. You have to fight through the challenge to get to the good.” 

Wilson formulated a new plan. 

Raised on a farm in rural western Kansas, Wilson began driving at the age of 14, making an 18-mile trek to school each day. She capitalized on her small school size to assume leadership positions in her school, FFA and athletics.

Attending Kansas State University, Wilson earned her bachelor’s degree in agribusiness and her master’s and doctoral degrees in agricultural economics.

“I’ve always enjoyed numbers and data,” shared Wilson. “One thing I learned from my family is the importance of saving. It gave me an appreciation for money and its scarcity as a resource.” 

After graduation, Wilson joined Koch Industries as a grain market analyst before returning to her alma mater as an extension economist. In 2001, Wilson joined Purdue’s agricultural economics department as an assistant professor, returning to Kansas State University to be a professor and director of undergraduate programs seven years later.

“I loved my department and colleagues at Purdue, but I wanted to pursue the opportunity to be in administration, working with and helping students. It was a hard decision to leave, but I learned a lot working at Kansas State that helped me be more qualified and prepared for my new role back at Purdue. I’m very excited to return.” 

Wilson noticed many improvements at Purdue transpired during her 12 year absence. “There are new buildings and programs. But there’s also a lot of things that feel comfortable here--things I remember that help it already feel like home.” 

“We are thrilled to have Christine Wilson join us in the College of Agriculture,” said Karen Plaut, the Glenn W. Sample Dean of the College of Agriculture. “I am excited by the leadership she will bring to our undergraduate academic programs.”

“I’m eager to find the next giant leap for our college,” said Wilson. “We want to provide our students with opportunities, challenge them and give them a transformational experience. We want to prepare them for a future they’re passionate about so they can go out in the world and represent Purdue University’s College of Agriculture well.” 

Wilson’s first step is among her favorites, getting to know new people. “In the next few weeks, I want to continue meeting our students. I want to find out about their experiences here, learn what they want to do and make sure they’re developing the professional skills that employers are looking for, like resiliency.” 

“I’d like to extend an invitation to all students, staff and faculty,” shared Wilson. “Please stop by my office in the Agricultural Administration Building and introduce yourself. I’d love to have the opportunity to meet you and as many other Boilermakers as possible.”

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