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Persistent pursuit in leadership leads to France A. Córdova Award

Growing up in rural Clinton County, it was hard for Olivia Wyrick not to be interested in a career in agriculture. But it was a family trip to Alaska that sparked her passion for agricultural conservation. 

At the Kenai Fjords National Park, Wyrick, a senior in Natural Resources and Environmental Science (NRES), said she recalls staring out at Exit Glacier when a moment of clarity came to her.  

“It was eye opening to stand there, listening to the ice cracking, and then realize that this glacier had receded two and a half miles in the last 150 years,” Wyrick said. “I knew that while I was standing there seeing this in real time, my future children and grandchildren would never see it as I was then, possibly not at all.” 

Her passion to leave things better than she found them was her driving force during her four years at Purdue, leading to her being selected to receive the France A. Córdova Leadership in Action Award. Wyrick took on numerous leadership positions throughout her time at Purdue, including her elected position of student body vice president for the 2021-2022 school year, a Purdue Student Life Advisory Board member, a Krach Endowment Leadership Scholar, recruitment co-chair for the College of Agriculture’s Ag Week Task Force, an NRES ambassador and the 2023 Grand Prix Queen. 

Wyrick says some of her greatest learning opportunities came from opportunities and scholarships she didn’t receive. 

“Last year, I was the Purdue nominee for the Udall Scholarship, which was a pretty arduous process, but I learned a lot about myself through it all, although I didn’t receive it,” she said. “And more recently, I applied for the Truman Scholarship, for which I spent five months working on the application, and I didn’t receive that either. But working on these made me feel so much better about my impending graduation. It allowed me to sit down and put pen to paper with all these experiences I have been able to have and what they’ve meant to me.”

oliviawyrickbanner.jpgBetween the long list of organizations Wyrick has been involved with, she was also able to make time between studies for research opportunities, working alongside Linda Prokopy, professor and department head of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, in her Natural Resources Social Science Lab (NRSS). She also co-authored a policy analysis with Carson Reeling, associate professor of agricultural economics, on the growing Climate Solutions Act signed into law in December. 

Wyrick noted that her lengthy resume wouldn’t have been possible without the encouragement and support of the faculty and staff at Purdue and within the College of Agriculture. 

“It has truly been a wild ride from start to finish, but if you would have told me freshman year this is how my Purdue story would play out, I would have absolutely laughed,” she said. “Being in a position of leadership, especially in the midst of the pandemic, really taught me how to play with the hands that are dealt to me. In every role I’ve found myself in, I sought to find growth, not just for myself, but for those organizations and for the institution of Purdue itself.”  

Laura Bowling, NRES director and professor of agronomy, said getting to know Wyrick throughout her time at Purdue has been a pleasure as has witnessing her demonstration of leadership through many difficult moments. 

“During her time in student government, Olivia repeatedly seized the opportunity to do something about situations on campus that she considered to be unfair, even if they did not affect her personally. She is successful because she is great at making personal connections with people, regardless of their background and their position on an issue,” Bowling said. “She is thoughtful, informed and passionate. On top of this, she is a genuinely kind person who can jack hammer soil samples and also contribute to economic policy briefs. She has gone out of her way to make Purdue a better place for everyone.” 

Wyrick said she hopes the students who come after her, filling the roles she’s taken on, have as deep a sense of gratitude for the university as she has. After graduating with her degree in NRES later this week, Wyrick plans to spend the summer road tripping through the national parks before she spends the fall semester abroad at University College Dublin, completing her second degree in political science. By January, Wyrick plans to make the big move to Washington, D.C., to begin working in environmental policy. 

Purdue did exactly what they promised they would do for me in my academic career, and I feel like I’m ready to move forward. Through the experiences I’ve had and the connections I’ve made, I really get it now when people say, ‘Ever grateful, ever true.’

- Olivia Wyrick, NRES graduating senior

Olivia Wyrick sits in the Purdue Student Government offices Olivia Wyrick, a senior graduating with her degree in NRES, kicks her feet up in the Purdue Student Government offices. Wyrick served the as the PSG vice president during the 2021-22 school year.

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