Meet Kristine (Kopperud) Jepsen '00
Chief technician / writer & editor
Grass Run Farms, Dorchester, Iowa
— English major
Q. How did you choose Augustana?
A. I think I chose Augustana because the faculty I met were welcoming -- they gave me a realistic feel for what college study should accomplish on the path to professionalism. I was also involved in scholarship programs that made it possible to attend a good liberal arts school and continue to play my instrument (concert band).
Life at Augie
Q. Favorite class and why?
A. I enjoyed virtually all of my upper-level English seminars, though some semesters, I looked at my reading load and wondered if I'd ever get through it. (I did. And it made me a fast, equal-opportunity reader to this day.) But of classes I remember by name, it was the "Atoms to Stars" physics intro with Professor Karel Vander Lugt that stuck with me. It was populated by several of us who were avoiding the calculus of 'real' physics, but in its place, we had great multi-disciplinary discussions, such as how the field's break-through research interfaced with the culture of its times and changed how people saw their world.
Q. Favorite professor and why?
A. I had the great fortune of having Professor Sandra Looney as my advisor. I know I'm not alone in lauding her accessibility (and patience), but I clearly remember bursting into her office in fits of frenzy--excited about something I was reading, nervous about some application I had due, or shocked that I'd received the first 'B' of my academic career (I deserved it)--and having her calmly puzzle through it with me, murmuring, "Mmmhmm" as needed. I find myself in the position now to advise, mentor or just help people in my professional world, and I keep her example with me.
Q. Best Augie memory?
A. Hearing the last chords bloom and diminish in the hush before the applause while playing with the Augustana Concert Band -- particularly on tour abroad, where we were representing not only ourselves and our school but our country. The ensemble took its first trip to South Korea, Japan and China during January of my junior year.
Q. Tell us about your journey after graduating from Augustana – first job, grad school, travel, etc.?
A. When I graduated, I did something I couldn't have predicted: I bought a (rather expensive) bike and rode the recently mapped Great Divide Mountain Bike trail with the guy who's now my husband. It led to my first job -- a writer/editor with a small publishing company in the mountain town of Driggs, Idaho -- and a valuable confidence that my life was mine to make. Living in the eclectic communities of the Mountain West led us to entrepreneurship here in the Midwest. We founded a grass-fed beef company, Grass Run Farms (www.grassrunfarms.com). Our products appear throughout the Midwest, on Amazon, and on both Coasts under private labels.
Q. What’s your official job title?
A. I call myself “chief technician” because I’ve learned a little about a lot of aspects of business development and management. Also, we realized in hindsight that entrepreneurialism requires both vision (my husband’s skill set) and determinedness to figure stuff out and make the daily happen (mine). These days, our team has grown so that I don’t move fence (see image) except on bluebird, photogenic days or to show my daughter something hands-on and practical. I’m happily back to being a writer and editor who grazes marketing, product development, and business strategy.
Q. Tell us about your career – what’s an average day like?
A. I do what everyone else my age does -- I get myself and my family where they need to go, and then I organize my day by putting out fires in my inbox and looking ahead to how I can do my best work while accessing colleagues. I spend about half my time writing or analyzing various things for the business (across media and for both internal and external audiences) and half my time on independent writing projects, including a journal, “Just because, I said,” and assignments (see kristinejepsen.com).
Q. Greatest challenges and best rewards of your current role?
A. My greatest satisfaction to date has been surviving business start-up--we'll have been at it 10 years in 2016--and providing flexible, challenging, fulfilling employment for others. After some trial and error, we've successfully hired a team of rock stars into the right seats on the 'bus' and the momentum is astounding. Also, I work with my spouse. And we're still married. (Anyone who has tried this knows nothing further need be said.)
Q. Greatest professional accomplishment thus far?
A. Realizing I've been involved in the building of an actual business in a painfully challenging industry. The meat world is a bloody mafia -- really! (Think Cargill and Tyson.) Specifically, I really enjoy showing my child what personal fulfillment and diversity of professional activity looks like.
Q. What’s next for you professionally?
A. Recently, I had the opportunity to devote more time to my own writing and editorial services, promoted through kristinejepsen.com. I've been writing all these years -- honing my skill at research, interviewing, and straight-up craft -- and I finally have a body of work that I can spin into full-time wordsmithing. I really am happiest noodling around, phrasing just what I mean.
Q. If you could offer a prospective or existing Augie student some advice, what would you say?
A. Supporting yourself post-college is important, of course, but don't underestimate the opportunity to learn something every day, right where you're at. If you do right by your own sense of fulfillment and accomplishment, you'll have something to show for it in short order -- whether it's something technical like research, or taking good care of a family member or friend. Remember that your truest calling is to be a good human.
Q. Tell us about your family.
A. My husband, Ryan, and daughter, Eliza, and I divide our time between our farm home and community in the bluff country of Northeast Iowa and destinations that give us a feel for the wider world. Right now we're loving the liberating sort of opportunity that we feel in the cultures of Latin America--Nicaragua, Panama--and plan to enroll as a family in a language immersion program later this year, en route to service work relating to business development.
Q. What’s given you the greatest personal satisfaction since graduating from Augie?
A. Building an actual something that employs other talented, interesting folks -- and growing into my own skin along the way. I find being my best self – professionally, personally (most of the time!) – is wildly worthwhile, and I love the community it reveals around me.
Q. A foundation for life at Augustana begins with our five core values – Christian Faith, Liberal Arts, Excellence, Community and Service. How did your time at Augustana help to ensure those values remain central in your life?
A. I'm going to admit what might seem shocking at this point: I'm not Christian. That said, I consider this conviction something I'm proud to have identified as a thinking adult, and I value my rather first-world opportunity to study and explore the world's faith traditions and learn from those who are rooted in each of them. I wholly believe that the core tenets of 'faith' are universal -- compassion, justice, forgiveness, love among them -- and found anywhere a person names them and lives with integrity.