Alumni spotlight: Christian Lilienthal

2009, B.S. Agricultural Education 

Advisor: Brad Greiman

Current organization/ employer: Independent Farmer and Zookeeper - Animal Talks!

Favorite memory of campus:
There is something to be said about a professor's ability to really dive deep into their material and give a good lecture when they have an audience that's alert and on the edge of their seats. A certain economics professor was able to do exactly that for a class of second semester seniors who, rather than texting, sleeping or eating during class stayed wide awake the whole semester through. Their dramatic reactions to the lecture only seemed to make the professor more and more eager to share his enthusiasm with the students who, unknown to him, happened to have to sit behind a first row student who like to play "Saw" movies on her laptop during class.

Why did you choose CFANS as a college?
I wanted to attend a school where I either knew everyone or no one. On my first "official" campus visit I ran into 22 people I knew while on the walking tour. CFANS supports so many outside efforts such as FFA, MN State Fair, 4-H and high school events that I was familiar with the staff and students before even applying into a degree program. CFANS connections to these organisations have led me full circle back to some of the best part and full-time jobs and volunteer work I've ever had.

Why do you think the University of Minnesota is great?
I had a number of significant time obligations as a student that the UMN accommodated very well. I was able to work with my advisor to get credit for study abroad trips, non-formal education, internships and outside leadership roles to help me make the most of my time with those experiences while still graduating on time. Some education just can't be taught in a classroom and my advisor took the time to build in formal components and reflective assessments to add even more meaning to these things and add academic credibility.

Career information/ professional achievements:
I intended to farm full-time after graduation which I did until I was approached to apply for an academic faculty position through UMN Extension. Although I didn't meet the master's degree requirement I was offered the job and enjoyed nearly 5 years of providing formal and technical assistance to citizens regarding agriculture production systems, natural resources and horticulture. During that time I continued to farm and started up a small zoo with over 40 species that I use for classroom visits, community programs and large displays at fairs and other events. As of July 1, 2015 I'm leaping full-time back into my private ventures of farming and zookeeping, fully appreciative of the time I've spent with Extension.

What's your passion? What do you love about your work and your field?
I get to do what I've always loved; I farm with my family and I get to explore a world's worth of plant and animal biology and share what I learn with others. My work is wonderful!

How did your education at the U of M help prepare you for what you are doing today?
I've called and e-mailed many of my former professors with questions about my new projects and have received great assistance. It's nice to have such a broad group of experts to rely on as a student and alumnus.

What advice do you have for current students (and future alumni)?
If you need to know about something-take a class on it! Even if it doesn't fit into your degree program keep in mind that college is about getting an education more than it it is about getting a degree. Take classes to learn and learn from your classes!