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Animal science expert Temple Grandin visits Crookston, advocates for 'different kinds of minds'

Noted animal science professor and autism spokesperson Temple Grandin works with University of Minnesota-Crookston student Hanna Ruckheim during a halter-breaking session Tuesday. Grace Ruckheim is in the background. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald1 / 2
Temple Grandin, noted livestock handling scientist, talks with students at the University of Minnesota-Crookston Tuesday about her experiences in the livestock industry. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald2 / 2

CROOKSTON—Noted animal science professor and author Temple Grandin this week paid a visit to students at the University of Minnesota-Crookston.

On Monday, she spoke to a crowd of more than 1,300 at the Lysaker Gymnasium. Grandin returned Tuesday morning for a halter-breaking session before dozens of students at the University Teaching and Outreach Center.

"I'm kind of at the point in my life where I'm spending a lot of time with speaking engagements," Grandin, 71, told reporters in a media briefing before Tuesday's halter-breaking event. "And I think that the thing I ought to be doing now is helping to get students interested and helping the kids that are different get out and have those really good careers. That's something that really interests me."

Grandin, who has been diagnosed with autism, also advocates for the diversity of mindsets in the workplace, including in agriculture.

"When you understand different kinds of thinking, you can see how they can work together," she said, citing the creation of the iPhone interface as an example.

A combination of artists and engineers collaborated to make the phone user-friendly, she said.

an animal science professor at Colorado State University, Grandin is perhaps most well-known for her research on cattle handling and animal welfare. Since she began working in the livestock industry in the early 1970s, cattle handling has improved drastically, she said.

In 2010, Time magazine recognized Grandin as one of the world's 100 most influential people.

Grandin emphasized the need to expose children to different possible career paths from early on, including jobs in the skilled trades.

"I think the community college is almost too late" to expose children to the trades in particular, she said. "We have a gigantic shortage right now for mechanics — for cars, trucks, airplanes. Kids need to get exposed to small-engine class in 4-H when they're 12, and they're going to find out whether they love motors or they hate them. But they won't know unless they try."

Grandin said she was exposed to cattle handling when she was 15 years old.

Jordan DeBoer, a junior studying agricultural communications at UMC, said he didn't know much about Grandin before her visit, but it was beneficial to "have someone of her caliber" on campus.

"As someone from the community here, I think (Grandin's visit) was a good opportunity for us to show off our campus. It's a treasured asset here," said DeBoer, who emceed Grandin's speech Monday night.

Maggie Mills, a senior studying communication with a minors in animal science and marketing, said she was "really excited" at the prospect of Grandin visiting campus. She said she took tickets and helped get the event set up for Grandin's Monday night speech. A professor had approached Mills to join a small committee to call donors and solicit sponsors to fund Grandin's visit.

Grandin continued her tour of the Upper Midwest at an autism conference in West Fargo on Tuesday night, according to her personal website.

Dan Niepow

Niepow covers social and community issues for the Grand Forks Herald. Before joining the paper, he worked as a magazine writer and editor. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he currently resides over the river in East Grand Forks, Minn. To reach Niepow with story ideas, send him an email at dniepow@gfherald.com or call him at (701) 780-1110. Follow him on Twitter @dniep.

(701) 780-1110