Cows, courses and careers: Animal Science Career Quest introduces young people to the many educational and professional paths that exist in animal science

Animal Science Career Quest is a joint program of Michigan 4-H and the Department of Animal Science MSU. The event introduced young people aged 12 to 19 to the many animal science programs available at MSU and where these educational efforts could take them.

From an early age, young people are often asked “What do you want to be when you grow up?” For many, the answer comes naturally, but for others there is a lot of uncertainty. The new expanded program from the University of Michigan (MSU) will make the answer easier for some, thanks to the Animal Science Career Quest.

Held for the first time in 2022, Animal Science Career Quest is a joint program of Michigan 4-H and the Department of Animal Science of MSU. Open to young people aged 12 to 19, the event introduced young people to the many animal science programs available at MSU and where these educational efforts could take them after graduation. In total, 23 youth and six adults from 18 different Michigan counties participated in the event, which was held on the MSU campus from March 18-20.

“The idea for the Animal Science Career Quest came about last year,” said Melissa Elischer, an MSU Extension 4-H dairy educator who organized the event. “We have so many great facilities and experts in MSU’s animal science department, it just made sense to host an event on the MSU campus where young 4-Hs could better access, experience and explore those resources.”

Young participants learn about proper injection techniques.  They practice on bananas with colored water to see their success or how to improve.
Young participants learn about proper injection techniques. They practice on bananas with colored water to see their success or how to improve.

During the three-day event, dozens of professors, staff, alumni, graduate and undergraduate students of the Department of Animal Sciences invested their time to teach young people about the animals they study, research topics and other possible career choices in animal science. Covered species included cattle, pets, dairy cattle, horses, poultry, sheep, and pigs. Topics of study included animal behavior and welfare, animal health, genetics, animal nutrition, animal products and meat science, and animal reproduction. The event also included a panel on alumni careers where former students of the Department of Animal Science shared good, challenging and very real experiences of MSU students.

“We had a total of 60 volunteers from across the Department of Animal Science and the MSU Extension who helped enable Career Quest in Animal Science,” Elischer said. “It would not be possible for each of these individuals not to share their expertise, experience and passion with our young participants.”

Animal Science Career Quest participants also had the opportunity to participate in hands-on learning labs that allowed them to delve deeper into the careers, topics, and types of animal science departments. They were held at Anthony Hall, as well as at the MSU South Campus Animal Farms, including the Horse Teaching and Research Center, the Dairy Cattle Teaching and Research Center, the Sheep Teaching and Research Center, and the Veterinary Research Farm. Sessions included mare management and foaling, genetics and selection of dairy cattle, livestock evaluation, dairy cattle evaluation, horse exercise physiology, animal welfare assessment, milk harvest, and services and assistance animals.

Dr.  Barry Bradford and graduate Lynn Olthof guide participants through a nutrition activity.
Dr. Barry Bradford and graduate Lynn Olthof guide participants through a nutrition activity.

“We hope the program has left young people excited about the various opportunities that exist in the world of animal science,” Elischer commented. “Many young people think that the only way to have a career with animals is to be a veterinarian, but there are many more options to consider. We hope that this combination of practical experience and real-world examples will help ignite their interest in researching animal science as a career. ”

For many of the participants, Animal Science Career Quest did just that.

“My daughter now has a career goal because of this event,” one parent said. “The dairy cattle meeting changed my life for her, she learned so much and is now excited to be planning a career in the field!”

Plans are already underway to return the Animal Science Career Quest in early 2023 with the hope that the program will expand to even more individuals. Learn more about the MSU Department of Animal Science or Michigan 4-H online. To learn more about joining 4-H, visit 4h.msue.msu.edu.

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