As a young girl growing up in Garland, Texas, it may have been hard for Christi Chadwell to imagine that her life today would consist of new conversations and meetings with farmers. A gift from her parents on her tenth birthday would shape her career path.
The Ride of Her Life
The gift of horseback riding lessons would grow into a passion.
“I absolutely fell in love with the whole part of those lessons,” Chadwell said. “Working with the horses, being around horses it just kind of evolved from there getting into the ag industry.”
Chadwell’s love for horses opened up a whole new world of opportunity. She barrel raced competitively in high school and got involved with FFA and competitive speaking competitions. From there, Chadwell began planning where she would start the next step in her life. Her new appreciation for agriculture led her to the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources at Texas Tech University.
The Girl Behind the Mask
Chadwell enrolled at Texas Tech in the fall of 2008 and completed her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in agricultural communications in 2011 and 2015, respectively. She said she was constantly setting goals to learn and grow professionally. Becoming the Masked Rider had been a big deal she had been working toward for a while.
Chadwell said it isn’t easy getting selected to be the Masked Rider, so when you are given the chance to wear the mask, you understand it is a big deal and take advantage of the opportunities that come along with it.
“Being the Masked Rider was definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Chadwell said. “You meet people, and you are in environments where you don’t necessarily think you would have met or been in that situation.”
Chadwell credits her time as the Masked Rider for building her confidence in communicating with people from a variety of backgrounds.
Chadwell said being able to walk in rooms and have conversations with anyone came in handy. Being able to communicate with anyone became a huge advantage.
“It was a unique conversation starter,” Chadwell said. “It definitely the best thing I did as a student for sure.”
Cindy Akers, Ed. D, professor and associate dean for academic and student programs for CASNR, was Chadwell’s academic advisor. She said Chadwell’s talents and dedication did not go unnoticed.
“She was a person who expects excellence in herself, and she works really hard,” Akers said. “She’s kind of a perfectionist, and she sets really high goals for herself. It was fun to watch her do that.”
Akers said from the very first day she met her, she knew she wanted to be the Masked Rider and did whatever it took to achieve that goal.
“She worked hard, and whenever she sets a goal, Chadwell gives it everything she has,” Akers said.
Chadwell credits the agricultural communications program for her success after graduation. She said if she had not studied something within CASNR, she would be in a completely different career field.
“A lot of the faculty members became some of my really good friends,” she said.
Chadwell said the skills and networking opportunities that CASNR provides are paramount. She said they didn’t just focus on their students getting a degree and getting out, but making sure their student’s experience in the program was personal and useful.
“It’s not like any other college across the university,” Chadwell said. “They really focus on making sure you’re successful, not only academically and after you graduate, but making sure you are getting the skills that you want to have the job that you want one day.”
A New Set of Reins
Chadwell began working at Texas Tech immediately after graduating with her bachelor’s degree as a recruiter coordinating events for the Department of Plant and Soil Science. To Chadwell, it was planning and coordinating events that really helped prepare her for her current job as the southwest regional communications manager for the National Cotton Board.
“Coordinating the Texas International Cotton School really helped,” Chadwell said. “I didn’t have the cotton knowledge or background prior to starting with plant and soil sciences. That program allowed me to see an overall picture of the cotton industry and where those key players are in that segment.”
Chadwell said even though she wasn’t an expert in cotton production, being able to have some of the knowledge to be able to communicate with farmers and growers made the biggest difference for her opening new doors for her career.
“Women in these roles really just shows the ability of anybody to take on these roles and relate.”
Chadwell began working for the National Cotton Board at the end of August 2017. She said her past experience prepared her for this new job.
“The skills I got from college really set me up for success looking at this job.”
Akers said that Chadwell serves as a great role model for girls looking to succeed in any field.
“Christi is that type of a role model,” Akers said. “She’s young, she’s outgoing, she’s positive, and she just works hard at everything, and she is also willing to give back.”
Chadwell said the different agricultural roles show the abilities of women.
“Just because we are women doesn’t mean we can be counted out for anything,” Chadwell said. “We really are starting to see more women come into the ag industry. We probably see them more in these communication roles.”
Chadwell said even though women’s ability to communicate and relate to people is what provides them with these office roles, they are capable of taking on other jobs as well.
“It’s a stigma that 40 years ago you never saw women in the ag industry unless maybe they were an office manager or secretary. Women in these roles really just show the ability of anybody to take on these roles and relate.”
See more from Christi in the video: Life After the Mask