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Dec. 7, 2018
By Kelsey Johnson, communication assistant
Morgan Schaeperkoetter planned to become a manager at a pork processing facility after graduating from Northwest Missouri State University in 2017. But in the matter of a day, her plans changed to packing and moving to Fort Collins, Colorado, to attend Colorado State University and begin a graduate assistantship with Dr. Temple Grandin, a globally recognized authority for improving the welfare and handling of farm animals.
Schaeperkoetter was selected as one of three graduate assistants and is in her second and final year with Grandin. They met at an annual welfare conference in Kansas City, Missouri, where Schaeperkoetter was presenting a project from her internship at Seaboard Foods in Guymon, Oklahoma. Grandin was impressed by her work and asked Schaeperkoetter to meet for lunch.
“She was impressed by my data, presentation and background,” Schaeperkoetter said. “During lunch, she asked me to participate in her program to get a master’s degree in livestock behavior and welfare, with her serving as my advisor. I could not believe it.”
Grandin, a professor of animal science at Colorado State, also is a well-known autism spokesperson and expert in the world of animal science.
As Grandin’s graduate assistant, Schaeperkoetter attends classes and works as a teacher assistant for Grandin’s courses. She assists with course planning, teaches several class lectures to undergraduate students, and helps facilitate discussion and hands-on learning experiences with Grandin that involve livestock handling demonstrations.
Schaeperkoetter also enjoys her new learning experiences with Grandin, such as analyzing data using statistical analysis, video observation and technical lab tests, and traveling to different states and Canada to attend conferences, conduct research and visit various livestock handling demonstrations.
Grandin became an inspiration for Schaeperkoetter when she was 10 years old in 4-H. She heard Grandin speak at a Women in Agriculture conference as a high school student.
“Her story made me realize that women can take a lead in the livestock industry and make a difference,” Schaeperkoetter said. “My passion and inspiration to take a lead in the agriculture industry led me to study animal science and agriculture business at Northwest.”
Schaeperkoetter says Grandin’s extensive experience in the agriculture field provides her inspiration to examine new ideas and build on her advice and experiences.
“She has taught me the value of being a hard worker and how even if you don’t think you’re smart enough to do something, if you work hard, anything is possible,” Schaeperkoetter said. “The questions she poses to her students provides us with motivation to expand our knowledge and investigate new ways to better animal welfare across all industries.”
As a Northwest student, Schaeperkoetter participated in numerous extra-curricular activities and took every opportunity to learn outside the classroom. Her involvement included Sigma Alpha Professional sorority, Delta Tau Alpha Agriculture Honor Society, Agriculture Communicators of Tomorrow, Collegiate Future Farmers of America, and she was an officer in the Collegiate Farm Bureau. She also was a Supplemental Instructor in the Talent Development Center, which connected her with other students outside of animal sciences.
Schaeperkoetter encourages Northwest students to connect with their peers as well as faculty.
“Each connection I made at Northwest gave me an opportunity to grow outside of classes,” Schaeperkoetler said. “Take every opportunity to learn outside of class and apply for as many internships as you can. The most intimidating and hardest task you are faced with will teach you the most.”
Now, Grandin has invited Schaeperkoetter to complete her doctorate degree in livestock behavior and welfare. Schaeperkoetter says she wants to remain an active advocate for animal welfare and livestock handling in the United States and other countries.
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
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Northwest Missouri State University
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