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First female dean provides powerful example for students

Cathann Arceneaux Kress is the first woman to be dean of the College of Food, Agriculture and Environmental Sciences. Credit: Courtesy of Cathann Arceneaux Kress

Cathann Kress had no idea when she was showing livestock at the Iowa fairs at age 12 that it would lead her to academic leadership.

Luckily for Ohio State, it did.

Those experiences groomed Kress to become the first female dean of the College of Food Agriculture and Environmental Sciences in May 2017. When offered the opportunity, Kress knew she could not it pass up.

“There are so many opportunities here in the state of Ohio, and this college could be at the center of so many of them,” Kress said.

At the age of 12, Kress’ agriculture background began. She moved to Iowa where she would live with a Mennonite family on their farm. Both of Kress’ parents were living overseas as members of the Air Force, so living in Iowa gave Kress a chance to settle down.

There, she entered 4-H, tended to the farm’s hogs, row crops and eventually owned half of the sheep in the farm’s flock.

Being a first-generation college student, Kress said the money she earned from the sheep helped put her through college. In later years, Kress inherited the Mennonite family farm in Iowa.

After receiving her bachelor’s at Iowa State University and master’s and Ph.D. at the University of Iowa, Kress worked in extension education, at Cornell University, the Pentagon and finally the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

At the Pentagon, Kress’ work was in the Military, Community, and Family policy section, where she gave support to National Guard and Reserve members and their families while they were going through the deployment process.

While she was with the Department of Agriculture, Kress was the national director for youth programs. With this title, she helped bring agriculture to the classrooms as well as support 4-H.

From here she was recruited by Ohio State to lead CFAES.

Ellie Logan, a fourth-year in agribusiness and applied economics, said having a female dean of CFAES gives women hope for the future.

“Hopefully, people will recognize that gender has nothing to do with a person’s ability to do a job well,” Logan said.

Among her favorite memories since taking over the role of dean is graduation day.

“Those wonderful days I get to personally hand out personalized diplomas. That is a moment,” Kress said. “There is also something about watching our students walk behind our college flag.hat right there is what we stand for. It is just such a fantastic moment.”

Kress said the first step to success like hers is believing in yourself.

“My advice to future female leaders is to believe in yourself,” Kress said. “Take some time getting to know who you are and have confidence in yourself as well as your passion.”

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