By Tera Montgomery
Contributed to PDPW Dairy’s Bottom Line and reprinted with permission
As we look to the future of the dairy community in Wisconsin and beyond, there is no greater excitement than the impact the Dairy Innovation Hub can have on the next generation of students. When I talk with current and prospective students, I hear a continued interest in the mainstays of the dairy curriculum – cows and milk – and an increased interest in areas like entrepreneurship, land and water stewardship and niche markets. Students are attracted to the UW system for many different reasons and the Dairy Innovation Hub has the potential to impact the next generation of students in specific and important ways: collaboration, cutting edge research and technology, career opportunities and community building.
Even before its official start the Dairy Innovation Hub has been creating an atmosphere of collaboration beyond what we have seen in the past. This collaboration exists not just within the individual university but across the three universities tasked with shepherding the Dairy Innovation Hub into the future. One example of collaboration across schools in the UW system is the work new assistant professor Joe Sanford, PhD, is doing in wastewater treatment and manure management. Since he started in August he has already been collaborating with faculty and staff from UW-Green Bay, Madison and River Falls to write grants, create outreach opportunities and engage undergraduate and graduate students in his research. Examples of similar collaborations are posted on the Dairy Innovation Hub’s website: dairyinnovationhub.wisc.edu.
Cutting-edge research and new technologies funded by the Dairy Innovation Hub are attractive to current and prospective students. An example at UW-Platteville is the research that will be led by another new assistant professor, Ryan Pralle, PhD, in the areas of data science and robotic-milking systems. Students who want to stay in the dairy community but also want the ability to enjoy other adventures are learning how employing these technologies could allow them to have the best of many worlds. By enhancing our ability to stay at the forefront of discovery, our students understand they are part of making and changing the future. Helping to make our water safer to drink, create the next dairy product that improves human health, advance technology to keep animals stronger and in our herds longer or open a business to allow their community to thrive – those are the hopes and dreams of new students.
Career building through collaboration at each university is also critical to the future of the dairy community. Fewer students come from a farm background or have an understanding of the vastness of the dairy community. The research fellowships for current faculty encourage cross-disciplinary work and engage undergraduate students in the projects. At UW-Platteville we have students from engineering, K-12 teacher education, biology and sociology working on dairy-related projects in quantities and ways we have not seen before. The question of “how can my area of interest impact the dairy community?” is being asked by students who before only saw “cows and milk” and now see future career opportunities. I challenge anyone to name a course of study or career path; I can tie it back to dairy. The sky is the limit.
A career that enables students to stay in Wisconsin upon graduation that leverages their interests and passions is of tremendous value to current and future students at our universities. It also makes a tremendous impact on the regions they come from. The dairy community is proving to be a path toward fulfillment and success for a new generation of students and the Dairy Innovation Hub is having a positive impact on this trend.
Tera L. Montgomery is a professor of dairy and animal science in the UW-Platteville School of Agriculture and is Platteville’s campus liaison for the Dairy Innovation Hub. Contact Tera at firstname.lastname@example.orgThis article was posted in Uncategorized.