Elise Lofgren grew up in a Chicago suburb, graduated from a high school that offered no agricultural classes and didn’t know what FFA was until she was in college. But once she started riding lessons at 12, she became a barn rat, happy to clean stalls for the chance to improve her horsemanship. At age 16 she began working part-time at a small-animal clinic to pay for her riding lessons, and about the same time, got her first horse. When her interest took her to Murray State University, the horse went, too, boarding on campus five minutes from her dorm. Lofgren founded the university’s club dressage team while earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in animal equine science. “I realized what a passion I had working with people in the context of equine science,” she says. At a symposium for volunteers in the 4-H horse programs for Indiana, former Professor of Animal Sciences Mark Russell, now department head of Youth Development and Agricultural Education, recruited her to Purdue. She began her doctoral studies in August 2014 under the guidance of Colleen Brady, associate professor and horse Extension specialist. “I’ve been very lucky with my graduate advisors, because they’ve been incredibly supportive of all my crazy ideas,” Lofgren says.
“My goal is to help people have engaging and memorable educational experiences.” Lofgren explains. She applies innovations in informational technologies to enhance the way people communicate and learn within the equine industry and equestrian disciplines. For example, she is creating an online museum exhibit for teachers’ use in collaboration with the International Museum of the Horse in Lexington, Ky. She also is collecting data on people’s perceptions about certain equine training practices and how they impact the horse’s well being. By segmenting the results by targeted demographics — for example, agricultural background vs. none, or rodeo vs. English riding — Lofgren hopes to tailor her educational programs and opportunities more effectively.
TEACHER AT HEART
In addition to teaching riding lessons, Lofgren has served as a teaching assistant for undergraduate courses, accompanied undergraduates to Ireland as a TA for a Maymester course, and taught an animal nutrition course at Ivy Tech. “I’m teaching all the time and adapting all the time,” she says.
Lofgren is on track to complete her doctorate in December 2017 and thinks her next career step might be instructional design work within agriculture or possibly, in administration. Her main interests, of course, are the three horses she boards at Jubilee Stables in Mulberry, Indiana: “I have a little herd out there,” she says. In addition to riding, showing and teaching, Lofgren enjoys her dogs, reading, yoga and musical theater.