Corinne Gould’s dedication to 4-H runs deep. The Spring City native grew up as an active member of the Rhea 4-H Club, a county in which her mother started the first 4-H Horse Club, and now serves as the Assistant Commissioner for Public Affairs for the Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA).
Gould’s primary project areas were Horse and Public Speaking, but she credits her success to her ability to be a flexible team player.
“If there was a judging team that needed a third or fourth teammate, I was always the fill-in,” explains Gould. “That gave me the opportunity to learn about a lot of different projects and topics that I may not have naturally gravitated toward.”
Gould’s biggest takeaway from 4-H was to stay open to every opportunity and try as many things as you possibly can.
“I learned to recognize opportunity and take it,” says Gould. “So what if you didn’t win a ribbon? Every experience you have in 4-H and every person you meet is playing a role in your future. You never know when you will meet someone or try something that changes your life’s path.”
The lessons and connections that Gould made in 4-H have helped her in numerous ways, including creating connections that have helped her get where she is today.
Anne Brzezicki, a well-known name within the Tennessee 4-H Horse Program, helped influence her decision to attend Middle Tennessee State University, where Gould studied Mass Communications.
After a nearly decade-long career in television production, Gould heard about an opening at TDA for a communications position. She called upon Dr. Doyle Meadows, the longtime Horse Program Specialist for Tennessee, to find out who the best contact would be. Gould’s extensive knowledge of the Tennessee agricultural landscape and many lessons she learned throughout her time in 4-H combined with her hard work and skills made her the perfect candidate for the job. Today, Gould has the unique opportunity to pay it forward to young 4-Hers through her career.
“It is always a highlight of my job to represent the Tennessee Department of Agriculture at 4-H events across Tennessee,” says Gould. “I am always seeking ways to involve Tennessee 4-H in opportunities through TDA.”
Some of these opportunities have included inviting 4-H and FFA students to attend a meeting with the USDA Secretary of Agriculture during a visit to Ellington Ag Center and serving on the board for the 4-H Alumni Foundation.
“4-H helped me experience a larger world. It provided me with lifelong friends and it led me to my career at TDA. I was just a little 4-Her from Rhea County. And I didn’t get it then. But I get it now,” says Gould. “And I look forward to seeing today’s 4-Hers develop into our leaders tomorrow. That’s when they’ll get it too.”
Q & A with Corinne Gould:
Q: Where did you grow up and which 4-H Club did you participate in?
A: I grew up in Spring City and was active in the Rhea County 4-H Club. My mom grew up participating in the 4-H Horse Project in New Jersey. She felt so strongly about the program that when she moved to Tennessee to marry my Dad, she started the first 4-H Club in Rhea County. That was before she had her own children! She was a volunteer leader for decades. Needless to say, my brother and I were involved in 4-H from birth. We joke that the blood runs green in our family.
Q: What 4-H activities were you involved in?
A: My primary project areas were Horse (including judging, hippology and Horse Bowl) and Public Speaking, with stints in a variety of other project areas. If there was a judging team that needed a third or fourth teammate, I was always the fill-in. That gave me the opportunity to learn about a lot of different projects and topics that I may not have naturally gravitated toward. That willingness to take on almost any challenge can create surprising results.
When I was in high school, two other 4-Hers in my county wanted to participate in Outdoor Cookery, and they needed a third person to grill beef. Prior to preparing for that contest, I didn’t know how to grill and thought I didn’t even like to cook. However, 4-H taught me that if you commit to doing something, you should do it to the best of your ability. I worked hard on a recipe, practiced, developed a plan and spent the entire drive to Knoxville hand-carving tiny roses out of radishes for garnish. Maybe those radish roses helped tip the scale, because I ended up winning the state contest for Outdoor Beef Cookery.
Q: What was the biggest lesson you learned from your time in 4-H?
A: I learned to recognize opportunity and take it. So what if you don’t win a ribbon? Every experience you have in 4-H and every person you meet is playing a role in your future. You never know when you will meet someone or try something that changes your life’s path
Q: What is the thing you are most proud of in your career?
A: I serve as the Assistant Commissioner for Public Affairs for the Tennessee Department of Agriculture. I am so proud to be able to tell the story of Tennessee’s agriculture industry every single day, because it’s a great story to tell. I credit the 4-H program for helping build the personal and professional skills that serve me now in life, and for instilling in me a deep love of agriculture and the rural areas of Tennessee.
Q: If you could give one piece of advice to a 4-H student, what would it be?
A: When I was in 4-H, I didn’t get it. Not really, anyway. I knew I was having fun, traveling, competing, and making new friends. However, I had no way of knowing that years later, I would represent the Tennessee Department of Agriculture at 4-H events across Tennessee. And that’s when I finally started to understand what my time in 4-H was all about. 4-H helped me experience a larger world. It provided me with lifelong friends, and it led me to my career at TDA. I was just a little 4-Her from Rhea County. And I didn’t get it then. But I get it now. And I look forward to seeing today’s 4-Hers develop into our leaders of tomorrow. That’s when they’ll get it too.
Q: How has 4-H impacted your life even after you graduated from the program?
A: Back in 2014, I heard that TDA had a job opening for a communications person and I immediately made a phone call. I called Dr. Doyle Meadows, who served as the longtime Horse Program specialist for Tennessee. I first met Dr. Meadows as a fourth-grade 4-Her, and some 20 years later, he still is an incredible mentor to me. His advice has always been spot-on, and I deeply value his support and encouragement. I knew he would know whom I should send my resume to, and he provided me with that information.
Fast-forward about two weeks, and I was in for the job interview at Ellington Ag Center. When I met Agriculture Commissioner Julius Johnson, he greeted me with a handshake and a broad smile, and said, “I’ve heard great things about you!” I have a sneaking suspicion that Dr. Meadows made his own phone call. I know I was hired based on my skills and merit, however that personal recommendation from a well-respected man certainly helped.
Another mentor who has been instrumental in my life is Anne Brzezicki, who is well known in the Tennessee 4-H Horse Program. She recently retired after decades of serving as the head of equine laboratories at MTSU, and remains a lifelong supporter of 4-H. Anne was the primary reason I chose MTSU for college. I didn’t major or minor in anything horse related. And thank goodness the school happens to have a great Mass Comm. program, since that was my actual academic track. Honestly, I came to MTSU because I wanted to ride and compete on the equestrian team. And as a 4-Her early on, I had figured out that Anne was the person who I wanted to learn from, win for and make proud. Kids in the horse industry often face a lot of challenges. Lack of money, lack of knowledge, lack of parental support, lack of a decent horse – the list goes on. But none of that matters if a kid meets Anne with a lot of “want to” and a will to learn. She gives to every single horse-crazy human who is willing to receive. I’m a better horsewoman and a better human because of her.
Q: How are you still involved with the program?
A: It is always a highlight of my job to represent the Tennessee Department of Agriculture at 4-H events across Tennessee. Roundup and Congress are two favorites – probably because they hold such fond memories for me. My Level 1 and Level 2 Horse Project awards still live on my parents’ mantle, along with a silver tray for 10th grade Public Speaking. So handing teens those prizes for excelling in their project areas is like looking back at my past, all while being excited for their futures. I also judge public speaking contests when I can, ranging from the district level to Congress. Furthermore, I’m always seeking ways to involve Tennessee 4-H in opportunities through TDA. When the USDA Secretary of Agriculture announced he would visit Ellington Ag Center, I immediately reached out to Justin Crowe with 4-H and Josh Bledsoe with FFA to invite students to attend. Those are the kind of opportunities that don’t come along every day. Additionally, I’m currently serving on the board for the 4-H Alumni Foundation and I’m looking forward to devoting more time to a program that means so much to me. I’m grateful for what 4-H gave to me, so I am pleased to be able to give back.
And I am still involved with 4-H every time I interact with my horses. I’m proud to own four American Quarter Horses on a small farm in Smyrna. Whenever I set foot in the barn, fill a feed bucket, administer vaccines or cinch up a saddle, I’m using the skills and knowledge I learned in 4-H.
Q: Where are some interesting places you’ve been or things you’ve done thanks to opportunities provided by 4-H?
A: You haven’t experienced July Fourth until you see fireworks over the Washington Monument in D.C. You also make forever-friends when you share a bus with other 4-Hers for about a week! 4-H provided me with the chance to travel to D.C., as well as several different states for competitions, and for National 4-H Congress. I hold those memories dear. What I didn’t know was that the travel and experiences were prepping me for the future. They gave me the skills and courage to strike out on my own, try new things, improvise when necessary, and connect with people at all levels from all walks of life. That value is impossible to truly measure, but I know my life is better for having been in 4-H.