Welcomed with Open Arms

Jessup looks at the camera

The first time Jessup Leakey heard about Dordt University was when he received a text message from one of Dordt’s football coaches.

“He mentioned that the football program was interested in me, and he would like me to come up for a skills camp to show them what I could do,” says Jessup. “I was very anxious after reading that text because Dordt was the first school to take serious interest in me.”

He immediately checked out Dordt’s website and was interested to see that Dordt had a strong Christian culture. He’d originally been planning to attend college close to his hometown of Independence, Missouri, but he decided to check out Dordt’s campus.

“The beautiful campus, the Agriculture Stewardship Center, and the professors I got to meet made it nearly impossible not to come to Dordt,” he says. “My main focus for college was faith, football, and agriculture, and after visiting Dordt, it was easy to see that all my areas of interest were present at Dordt.”

He grew up on a family row crop farm, so he figured studying plant science would be a natural fit. But he wasn’t exactly sure what to do in plant science until he connected with one of his agriculture professors.

“I’m grateful for Professor Jeremy Hummel who guided me through my academic journey and single-handedly inspired me to pursue a career in plant science,” he says. “Without Professor Hummel, I would still be confused about where I belong at Dordt and in the world of agriculture. Along with outstanding professors in the Agriculture Department, the classes themselves are outstanding.”

He’s also grateful that, this past summer, he was able to work as an intern agronomist through Corteva Agriscience.

“This was a new step for me because I hadn’t worked in the research side of agriculture, which made me quite nervous, but because of the things I learned in my time at Dordt I was able to use lessons from class to succeed at Corteva.”

This year, he works as the feed barn manager for the cattle out at the Agriculture Stewardship Center. He works alongside ASC steward Mike Schouten. Having previously had no experience working with cattle, he now feels confident in his cattle management abilities.

After graduation, Jessup hopes to go into conservation through the government, with a goal of conserving and sustaining agriculture in the United States.

Jessup has played football competitively for 17 years of his life. Growing up, he says, football wasn’t necessarily fun; it was more like a job.

“My high school team was a 6a class school, meaning it was the highest most competitive level of football where there was no room for failure, so being able to play for that program involved a lot of extra time up in outside of football,” he explains. “Growing up in that environment and then moving to Dordt football was a major difference. Dordt football is a family and faith-centered team that is so much fun to play for.”

He's made some strong friendships in the past four years, and he’s found that the coaches spend time not only coaching football but helping him and the other players to embody four pillars: build men, honor God, kingdom impact, and compete fiercely.

Outside of football and academics, Jessup has found a niche on campus by helping to organize on-campus pool tournaments. His father was a professional billiards player at one point in life, and Jessup has always been interested in following in his father’s footsteps. He and another Dordt student had an idea: what if they organized a pool tournament for men on campus? They spoke with Student Services staff, who helped make the dream a reality.

“We created an organized tournament with prizes that we knew people would be interested in such as free pizza and a trophy,” says Jessup. “The most enjoyable part of the first tournament was running it. We made sure that there was no bias in the teams playing each other and that the tables and racks were perfect by managing each table.”

At the first tournament, there were 18 teams; by the second tournament, there were 25 teams.

Looking back at his Dordt experience, Jessup is grateful for the many people he’s been able to meet.

“My freshman year, there was only one other person at Dordt from the state of Missouri, which made it hard for me to feel that I belonged, but after meeting people on the football team and other students, I felt more at home,” he says. “It almost feels like everyone at Dordt such as the students, professors, and even those in the community welcome us with open arms. Being an introvert, it might not seem easy to make new friends in a new place 400 miles from home, but at Dordt, it was. I can think of so many people here that will be my lifelong friends, and I have only known them for four years at most.”