Vice Provost Korschgen finds home in her garden and MU

Sunday, October 28, 2012 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 11:04 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, October 30, 2012
MU Vice Provost Ann Korschgen's farm has bees, hens and a vegetable garden.

COLUMBIA — Ann Korschgen loves her job as MU's vice provost of enrollment management. But sometimes, she loves to spend time with "her girls" more.  

All 16 of them.

The hens cackle and flutter at the hem of Korschgen's blue jeans as she unhinges the window of their hut. She nimbly fishes out the still-warm eggs and places them in a plastic egg carton, chatting to the brood as she goes.

"They're our girls," Korschgen said with a smile. "I bring in the eggs a couple times a week to give to staff and colleagues. I would never eat our chickens, but I will eat their eggs." 

She and her husband, Carl, own a flock of hens — colorful Rhode Island Reds, Barred Plymouth Rocks, New Hampshires, Red Sex Links and Black Sex Links.

Only one, however, has a name: Brava. 

The Rhode Island Red hen earned the name after losing a toe on her right foot in the garage door of the Korschgens' barn. The incident propelled her to the top of the pecking order and inspired the name choice, due to her bravery. 

The docile hen allows Korschgen to scoop her up, hug and hold her and pet her silky, rust-colored feathers. 

"It's dangerous to name chickens," she said. "When something happens to them, it's devastating. I used to name more of them, but it seems like the ones we named would die. We're crossing our fingers for Brava."

In the gardens

Chickens aren't the only distraction from office work for Korschgen. A sprawling five acres of orchards, gardens and beehives provide a steady stream of chores. 

In the spring, thousands of White Pine and Norway Spruce trees are tended. In the summer, peaches, tomatoes, peppers, corn, eggplants, blackberries, blueberries, okra, kohlrabi, cucumbers, peas and cantaloupe are picked; the bees are fed sugar water, and honey is collected. In the fall, it's pumpkins, winter squash, herbs, chestnuts, raspberries, Asian pears and apples.

The one thing Korschgen refuses to plant? Strawberries.

"We grow just about anything anyone would find in a garden except strawberries," she said. "They're just too much work. We try to be as self-sufficient as we can."

The pair has a synchronized system when it comes to tending to the gardens, Carl Korschgen said. He handles the preparation, and she handles planting. He lifts the buckets, and she picks the produce.

When it comes to canning, they tackle the job side by side. 

"I call it foraging for supper," Carl Korschgen said. "She will go out and harvest and bring the food in. Other jobs, we team up and get the job done together."

They have had a garden together for 41 years. 

The area that Ann Korschgen (and her chickens) consider home has a sentimental tie for the couple. It is two miles south of the trailer park where she and Carl lived in a mobile home during their first year of marriage and her senior year at MU. 

It is also a 15-minute drive to Ann Korschgen's second home: MU.

At her second home

Korschgen has a long history with MU. 

She attended the university, despite her parents objecting that it was too far away from home. She met her husband in Principles of Wildlife Conservation. She lived in room 718 in Laws residence hall. She was married in the Newman Center.

Thirty years later, she returned to become vice provost of enrollment management.

The sprawling Francis Quadrangle and columns are just as much home to her as her house, chicken coop and vegetable gardens.

"My personal life is very intertwined with Mizzou," she said. "It's ironic because my parents didn't want me to go here. But I just knew I had to. Sometimes in life, you just know where you need to be. I knew I needed to be here. I have never, ever doubted that."

Korschgen, 63, handles admissions, financial aid, student information systems and diversity issues. In 2002, a year after she arrived, she led an enrollment initiative to increase student growth. 

More recently, she pushed to increase enrollment of out-of-state students. As a result, last year MU received more out-of-state applications than in-state applications for the first time. 

In the midst of the campus hubbub, she makes time to distribute cartons of eggs to co-workers and appreciate the view from Jesse Hall. 

"We always say you can leave Mizzou, but Mizzou will never leave you," said Chris Koukola, assistant to chancellor for university affairs. "I think Ann is an excellent example of that. She is very proud of Missouri and very proud of Mizzou."

Korschgen said she can't picture herself without the job and has no plans to retire.

At her dream school

Korschgen grew up in Doniphan, a small community in the Ozarks in southeastern Missouri. She described it as very poor and said only few of her high school classmates went to college.

Summers were spent floating the Current River in plastic inner tubes with her sister, Janet. The duo fished on the river with their father, splashing in the water to cool off from the heat. 

Korschgen saved postcards from pen pals in France, England, Japan, Australia, Argentina and Finland. She wrote to celebrities and collected autographs. Her most prized signatures include those of John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon.

She said she constantly dreamed about exploring the world outside of Doniphan and of attending MU. 

It was a town people didn't leave, she said. But she had few qualms about doing so. She said she was the only student out of her high school graduating class of 122 to attend MU. 

"She was very ready to go," Doniphan native and former roommate Carolyn Richards-Brown said. "She was ready to start a new adventure in her life. We were from a very small, very poor town. It was the poorest county in the state. We were very lucky to be able to go to college."

Away from home

Korschgen spent her undergraduate college years studying psychology. She planned to go into social work, then management. The change of career plans came after she broke her back in a car accident and was forced to take a semester off to recover at home.

The lost semester meant Korschgen was disqualified from a social work internship she had planned to take. 

"I was just devastated," she said. "Not only did I have to leave Mizzou, but because I couldn't finish that semester, I wasn't eligible for an internship I had applied for. I think my current path would have been really different had I taken that internship."

In 1971, Korschgen graduated from MU with a bachelor's degree in psychology.

The year after, she and Carl Korschgen planted their first garden together.

Ann Korschgen did not initially begin work in management. In southeastern  Missouri, she was a reporter for the Advance News in Advance and a long-term substitute teacher in Puxico Public Schools.

She got a master's degree in education at the University of Maine-Orono and a doctorate in higher education administration at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. 

For years, Korschgen said, she watched men get the jobs for which she was equally qualified. 

"I would be in positions where I had students tell me they didn't think I should have the job in leadership because I was a woman," Korschgen said. "Or I was sexually harassed and discounted because I was a female. It was very hard. It was the 1970s, and things were shifting at that point. It was an old world."

Still, Korschgen said, she persevered and hoped she would end up back at MU someday.

Coming home

In early 2000, Korschgen was working at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse when she stumbled across a job listing in the Chronicle of Higher Education: It was for the vice provost of enrollment management at MU. After flying to Missouri twice for interviews, she got the call. She had the job. 

Finally, she and Carl returned to the city and campus they knew well.

They made a home. They planted a garden. They bought chickens. They settled in.

"This is home," Carl Korschgen said. "It's the right kind of community. We always knew we were going to retire in a university community. We just moved back closer to where we started than expected. We were just happy to come back here."

Once a month, Ann Korschgen walks along the quad taking pictures of Jesse Hall. The series of pictures dates back for years. But she can recall the differences and changes without them — she has so much history there.

Studying in her room at Laws. Asking Carl to tutor her. Their first date in Jesse Hall. Him proposing on the columns, where they excitedly discussed marriage.

"It's just amazing the special history that the campus has for me," Korschgen said. "Isn't it amazing? Little did I know what lay ahead for me in terms of my future work here at the university. I would have been thrilled to have known that all those years ago."

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.

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