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Spring 2003 - Animal science

Destination Purdue > Spring 2003 - Animal science

Animal sciences takes on a new look

By Griffin Quirk

Purdue University's Department of Animal Sciences has seen some major changes over the past few years. What began as a major for students with an agricultural background has completely diversified. Today, it isn't unusual to have few students with animal and farm experience in class.

"Almost half of the students come from rural but non-agricultural backgrounds," said Mark Diekman, animal sciences professor. "Some of them may have worked with or shown livestock in 4-H, while others are trying to learn more about the animals."

In the past, animal sciences focused on livestock production, management and nutrition but that focus is changing. Today's students want to learn more about animal well-being and behavior.

"Having students with diverse interests is great," said Barry Delks, coordinator of career services in animal sciences. "Each year, more female students with very little agricultural background who are interested in companion animals enroll at Purdue." As a result, Purdue added two companion animal courses. One is an introductory course on basic animal terminology.

There's also a senior-level course that teaches students how to run businesses such as dog kennels and vet clinics. Students also get hands-on experience in meat labs that allow them to process and evaluate carcasses.

The experience helps students get internships and jobs. From working on a farm to working at a zoo, students have many opportunities. "Our goal is meeting the needs of traditional students and growing to serve new areas," Delks said.

Experience is the main ingredient needed to land a successful career. Purdue is continuously trying to give students more opportunities. "The more experience a person has the better chance of finding a job," Diekman said.