There's nothing unusual in the account of how Maria Rund, an office administrator for the department of human and community development, ended up working at the U. of I.
It's the typical story of a charming, big-city girl from South America who meets a dashing Midwestern farmer working as a volunteer at the Peace Corps office in Ecuador. They marry, settle down and raise kids on the family's farm outside Pesotum, Ill.
There could be an entire movie genre devoted to the premise.
Kidding aside, Rund's unpredictable, unlikely but very real life adventure began in the mid-1970s.
Today she recounts the whirlwind experience as if it was a wonderful dream she had last night.
"It seems like such a long, long time ago, but it was a very exciting time," she said. "We came back here to farm, and here I was this city girl who had to learn everything."
That meant the daunting task of taking care of the Runds' growing family as well as learning to plow a field and haul grain.
It didn't faze Rund in the least.
"The first time I drove a tractor, I just loved it," she said. "I just never stopped learning."
When the Runds returned to Illinois in 1974, Maria's experience working in the U.S. Embassy/Peace Corps in Ecuador led to a receptionist job in the U. of I. department of Spanish, Italian and Portuguese. Within a year, pregnant with the first of three children, she left the working world to be an at-home mom for the next 10 years.
It was during this time she immersed herself in her husband Eric's family farm outside Pesotum, Ill., became enmeshed in the community there and was transformed into an Illinois farm wife.
"A farmer's life is a really wonderful way for growing your family," she said. "The community we're in is a real community - everyone is so caring and helpful when someone is in need. It's really incredible how close everyone is."
In 1985, Maria Rund returned to the U. of I. part-time, spending four years as a translator for the International Soybean Program and an assistant to the director of the Language Lab in a grant-funded Spanish language project.
She spent the next 11 years in the International Programs and Studies and Study Abroad Office, arriving in 2000 at her current department, which is within the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.
She said the common theme to her U. of I. career has been the quality of employees from all over campus, even those with whom she communicates infrequently.
"I've learned something from just about everybody because everyone here is so supportive and willing to help you find the information you need," she said. "I don't think I've ever encountered anyone here who wasn't nice to me or willing to help."
Rund's job has her supplementing the work of the department head, which includes day-to-day communications and scheduling, special-event work, faculty and graduate student assistance, and a long list of other office duties. The department conducts research on human development and families.
"It's a fun job and it's a real pleasure to work with the people in this department," she said. "It's not a very big department, but they are doing a lot of very important work and at the end of the day I know I helped someone. It's very satisfying and a very interesting place to work."
When she's not in the office you'll likely find her on the farm, where the Runds regularly host visits from farm producers, agri-businessmen, and agriculture leaders from other countries eager to learn how to grow Miscanthus and how to farm sustainably. Miscanthus can be made into a biofuel, Rund said, but the market for it is still developing. Right now, the Miscanthus grown on the farm is sold as animal bedding.
"We love having visitors on the farm and we love things that are international," she said. "We've met people from all over the world."
When she's not working on the farm, she's likely somewhere near one of her three adult children - all U. of I. graduates - and her seven grandchildren.