Bandita Janeal Yancey is a mom and a meat scientist living in Arkansas. She spends her days attempting to keep up with students and research at the University of Arkansas. She spends her ‘free time’ attempting to keep up with her 4-year old daughter, Vallie. She tries to help other moms know more about meat in her blog Mom at the Meat Counter.
As most of you probably know, Ryan is working on a Master’s degree in Animal Reproduction. What many may not know, is that I knew Ryan when he was a freshman and sophomore in college. You think he’s skinny now, you should have seen him at 19. I found a few pictures of him from those days that I thought I’d share.
I work for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture. I do research to help farmers, ranchers, and meat companies improve their products. What I LOVE to do is educate. I’ve been on a college campus since the fall of 1996. I like to tell people I’m a 16-year senior. I advise the Block and Bridle Club, which is the club for kids in Animal Science. That’s where I met Ryan. I love working with college kids, especially those in the Ag College.
Farm kids are a special bunch, and most of the time, when they move to a college town, they’ve moved to the most populated place they’ve ever lived. Manhattan, KS (population 50,000) is a bustling metropolis in their eyes.
Personally, I moved from my home town (pop. 1063) to a 12-story dorm at Texas Tech in Lubbock, TX. There were more kids on my FLOOR that there were in my graduating class in high school. Almost twice as many. There were more kids in the dorm than in my whole home town. I sat in seat 182 in Chemistry class, there were more kids in that class than in my whole high school. My senior year in high school, there were 2 people in my Calculus class and 3 in Physics. Needless to say, I was a little overwhelmed those first few weeks of college. Most farm kids that go to college have been in my boots.
Luckily, most of us farm kids find each other in the College of Agriculture. Several of us knew each other through FFA and 4H in high school, we have similar interests and backgrounds, so it makes sense that we all stick together in college. Even on college campuses of 50,000 students, the Ag College is like a small town. Everyone knows one another.
Ryan and I were part of a special population of college kids who may have a very different college experience than the students across campus in the Business School or the College of Arts and Sciences.
- We were the kids who got dirty looks from other kids in class on days we smelled like a cow, a sheep, a hog, or a horse. Sometimes you had to go straight to class from work or from an Animal Science lab.
- We were the kids who had to explain to our professors that we needed to miss class for harvest, state fair, judging contests, or calving season.
- We were the kids whose clubs had fundraisers like ham or pecan sales and activities like cattle shows, working at the State Fair, trail rides, or rodeos.
- We were the kids who didn’t get cold on winter days because we wore our Carhart bibs and chore boots to class. (One of Ryan’s friends here at Arkansas had a bright pink pair.)
- We were the kids whose class field trips included feed lots, slaughter houses, vet clinics, and dairies.
- In class, we learned to shear sheep, handle newborn piglets, identify poisonous plants and the parts of the reproductive tract, make cows urinate, grade meat, and make sausage.
- We were the kids who slept through class because we were up all night, not partying, but on all-night lamb watch for sheep production class. (Bottle lambs have been known to attend class, too).
- We were the kids who passed the time between classes roping a dummy.
- Our work-study jobs may have consisted of washing dishes in a lab one day, working cattle at the farm the next day, and baling hay on summer days.
- We were the kids who got up at 5 am to feed before showering and getting dressed for class.
- We were the kids who had to buy school supplies like knives for cutting meat, AI gloves for reaching in…places you wouldn’t want to reach without a glove, steel-toed boots, or hairnets.
- We were the kids who had to show up to class with black eyes or missing teeth from a run-in with cow, sheep, or horse.
- Some of us had to go home every weekend to help on the farm. Aging parents and family situations meant that extra hands were really needed. The needs of the farm came before extracurricular activities.
Don’t think we had it easy in class, either. Students in Animal Science are required to take the same Chemistry and Biology classes that Pre-med and Biology programs require. Think about it, students who study human anatomy and physiology are only required to understand one species, whereas those who study Animal Science are required to understand three or four species, even more for those headed to vet school.
Students in Agriculture Communications have to take classes in Marketing and Journalism. Some of our other Banditas have blogged about the diversity of US agriculture. Students in the College of Agriculture are not only required to know and understand that diversity, but they are also trained to improve on it and to communicate about it with non-ag folks.
Ryan has blogged about the importance of ag education. Ag kids understand that a heavy burden is placed on their shoulders. They are required to figure out how to feed a growing population with a shrinking set of resources and a shrinking public understanding of what they do. They continue to sign up for the task.
Some farm kids leave the farm for college and never go back. Our new football coach at Arkansas was raised on a hog farm! Go Hogs! Several become doctors or lawyers. I know farm kids that are legislators and lobbyists. Several go to work in the food industry. Other farm kids go to college and take the knowledge and skills they learned back home to improve their family farms.
Some farm kids end up in graduate school. Ryan and I both chose that route (that’s why I’m a 16-year senior). Graduate school in Animal Science is a whole new set of challenges. Graduate students are usually kids who have moved away from their college buddies and the comforts and familiarities of their home state. I went through Mexican food withdrawals when I moved to Kansas.
Graduate classes are great because they are more focused on your interests, but, with that focus, comes an intensity that you’ve never experienced before. The study skills and discipline that earned A’s and B’s in undergrad won’t even get passing grades in graduate school.
Then, there is the research. Research is the most exciting, challenging, frightening, and time-consuming part of graduate school. It can be lots of fun. Animal Science graduate students get to do all kinds of neat things. Ryan collects placentas (afterbirth) of cows to study. I knew of some students who had to milk pigs. My friend, Chris, dissected eyes from cattle. We had a student who collected dead bobcats and mountain lions to study for disease. There was the student that studied skunk intestines. My boss exercised sheep and calves on treadmills. My office often smells like pig poop because grad students are drying poop samples. I can imagine those are fun to collect.
Graduate students work insane hours for lousy pay and have to pay for classes, books, and supplies. They are usually far from home and loved ones. Grad students usually help teach classes and labs for undergraduates. They also tutor undergrads and, as they become more experienced, they serve as mentors for the younger grad students. Graduate students do a big portion of the work in university research. Most of the advances in Animal Science research can probably be attributed to some poor, bleary-eyed grad student who worked endless days and nights to get it done. Students just like Ryan.
I loved grad school. I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything, but there is no amount of money that could convince me to do it again. Keep at it Ryan! It will all be worth it in the end.