Throughout the year, Cornell’s School of Continuing Education (SCE) offers more than a hundred regular Cornell courses to high school students around the world. Through Cornell’s Precollege Studies Programs, motivated sophomores, juniors and seniors can work closely with world-class faculty, study rigorous curriculum and earn college credit.
One such popular course, 1120 ANSC Sustainable Animal Husbandry, a three-credit course taught by Melanie Soberon at Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine, will be offered online during Winter Session 2023.
The course is a way for high schoolers interested in veterinary or animal science to understand what it would be like to pursue those studies at college or what a career in those fields would be like.
“I enjoyed how in-depth ANSC 1120 was while still being a good introductory course for me as a high schooler just beginning to delve into college-level studies,” said Conrad Jamin Becker, who was a rising high school senior form Dexter, MI when he took the class in 2021, one of the first years it was offered in online.
“I really liked the communal aspect of the webinars and the discussions were very educational—it was amazing to meet so many people who shared my passion for animals,” Conrad said. “Also, learning from the guest speakers was very interesting since it was my first opportunity to meet a lot of people actually working in various animal sciences.”
Dr. Soberon recently talked to SCE about how her course can help inform and prepare undergrads and high school students who are interested in a career in animal or veterinary science.
How long have you been teaching animal science at Cornell?
I first began teaching as part of my graduate studies in animal science 17 years ago, where I assisted in a variety of courses including nutrition, genetics, comparative nutrition and sheep and beef production. I began assisting with the Sustainable Animal Husbandry course in 2010 and I became the primary instructor for the course in 2012.
What’s it like to teach an online course where there are high school students in class?
Teaching motivated students is certainly a driving force for me as a teacher. Every class, I am amazed by the positivity of students driven by their future goals for study and the work ethic that they bring to the course. Since the students interact in multiple ways, whether in Zoom chats, group projects or just giving each other feedback on an online discussion board, this energy for learning and excitement about the research they find is contagious and translates to me as well to their peers spread out across the globe.
What is the ideal student for this course?
The ideal student is one who gives their attention to the material presented and responds in a timely manner for each assignment. They don’t procrastinate. Ideally, the student also brings their individual thoughts and interests into the online discussions so that the entire class can benefit from their perspectives.
What are the things that you enjoy teaching about this course to undergrads and high school students?
This course offers a fundamental understanding of animal science that seems to meet the needs for students making major career decisions. Many times, high school and undergraduate students alike are curious about the fields of animal science and veterinary science, so we do discuss the various career pathways associated with an animal science degree. I find these discussions can be life-changing for students that take the course as they are making decisions about what to major in and what career path to advance towards.
It's always fun to see the paths each student takes, and many times, I hear from them later when they have been accepted to a university or have finished a graduate degree. Sometimes students will learn that they don’t like a particular animal or area of study they thought they would like. I tell those students that self-knowledge is just as valuable as discovering a passion for a particular animal or discipline of study.
What do you hope your students come away with by the end of the course?
I hope they are inspired to continue educating themselves with highly credible, scientific sources about topics in animal agriculture and to see themselves as part of the solution towards sustainability.
In the course, I interview multiple Cornell animal science faculty members and researchers to expose the students to the kinds of studies and progress being made towards sustainable solutions in animal agriculture today.
Typically, students will comment on the overall negativity they have seen in popular media toward animal agriculture, so it is refreshing for them to discuss the issues with leading researchers in the field not only to gain a more complete understanding of the issues, but to learn what is currently being done to combat the issues of today.
What should high school students know about taking a four-credit, 15-week course in just three weeks?
Like most things that are hard work, it’s well worth your time and effort. Make sure to create the space in your life for 2 to 3 hours of e-learning a day plus time to work on assignments.
In any college course, it is best to be pro-active with questions or misunderstandings of the material, but in an accelerated learning class, it’s imperative to ask questions right away so you do not fall behind in assignments. But most of all, they should enjoy the journey.
Winter Session enrollment is open to anyone interested in taking a class—from undergrads and high school students to alumni and motivated adult learners. Students can earn up to four credits in the three-week session.
Shelley Preston is the School of Continuing Education and Summer Sessions’ communications and marketing specialist.