Master's student in youth development and agricultural education
Kendra Lancaster pours her heart into everything she does -- whether it's pursuing a master's degree or a medal in the Paralympic Games.
Born without her left arm below the elbow, Lancaster is captain of the USA Women's Paralympic Sitting Volleyball Team, which won a bronze medal in Athens in 2004 and a silver medal in Beijing in 2008. The team also will compete in the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
Lancaster is studying youth development and agricultural education at Purdue with a focus on agricultural communication.
How did you get involved in the sitting volleyball team?
I played volleyball in high school for a club team in Indianapolis. When I was a sophomore, my coach knew about the team and suggested I contact its coach to learn more. I eventually joined the team in 2004 and I earned a starting position that fall. When we medaled in Athens, I was hooked!
How has playing volleyball affected your experience at Purdue?
To start off with, being on the team is a huge time commitment, and graduate students don't exactly have a lot of that to begin with. It definitely makes for some time management challenges. Scheduling conflicts with exams, projects and classes are guaranteed to happen. Luckily, my professors have been more than willing to be flexible.
In particular, the Department of Youth Development and Agricultural Education (YDAE) at Purdue -- which I serve as a graduate student representative -- has shown me a lot of support throughout my journey. That's especially true as I continue to come back from injuries I sustained in a serious car accident last year.
How did you become interested in agricultural communication?
During my undergraduate years as an animal sciences student at Purdue, I developed a strong passion for agriculture and what it does for the world. I realized I wanted to pursue a career where I could help to promote and educate the public about agriculture.
What's been the most rewarding part of your graduate studies so far?
If I had to choose one thing, I'd say that it's been working at the Future Farmers of America and 4-H events that the YDAE department organizes. When I was younger, I participated in some of those events, so I love having the chance to give back to such an amazing program. I really enjoy working with the kids, and it's great to get positive feedback from parents and coaches.
Being a graduate student at Purdue means you have limitless opportunities to better yourself professional and academically. Everything I've done during my graduate studies has set me up for success. I've been able to get real-world experiences related to my field and I've been able to contribute to society, and that's been invaluable.