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CAHNRS Coug Connections: Taylor Neal

Each week, we showcase one of our CAHNRS Ambassadors, a student leadership organization that encourages students to pursue higher education and serves as a liaison between the college and the greater community. This week, we’re featuring Taylor Neal, a senior from Mercer Island, Wash.

Formal portrait photo of Taylor Neal
Taylor Neal

What are you studying?

I’m majoring in Economics (Business), with a minor in Business Administration.

Why did you choose WSU?

Both of my parents went here and loved their experiences at WSU. I knew I wanted to go in-state but be far enough away from home to be more independent and grow on my own.

What is special about being a CAHNRS Coug?

No matter what interests you, there is something in CAHNRS for you! CAHNRS is like a huge family and we all help each other out no matter what major you are.

What is your favorite CAHNRS class so far and why?

I loved ECON 311, Econometrics. I had an amazing professor and learned a lot of valuable skills which will help me get a job after graduation. The course was difficult but very fulfilling at the same time.

Who are influential professors that you’ve had, and how did they impact your life?

Vicki McCracken genuinely cares about her students and made something I thought I hated (statistics) really interesting. Phil Wandschneider’s classes were interesting and he was always available to help his students.

What extracurricular activities are you involved in besides ambassadors?

Chi Omega Sorority and work at Reunion.

What is a fun fact about you?

I have been to Disneyland 8 times.

What advice would you give an incoming freshman/high school senior to help them adjust to college?

Manage your time well! You don’t have class all day which leaves free time. Get your studying done first so that you can avoid stress.

Favorite item/flavor at Ferdinand’s?

Apple Cup Crisp

Over three decades of bear research & care

The WSU Bear Research, Education, and Conservation Center has been on the WSU Pullman campus for over 30 years, changing the way humans understand these amazing animals.

A grizzly bear with her cubs at the WSU bear center.

Established in 1986, the center consists of six indoor dens with outdoor runs and a 2.2-acre exercise yard for the grizzlies.

All of the original bears at the center came from Yellowstone National Park and other locations in western Canada and the United States. In the years since then, several bears have been born at the center.

Before the WSU Bear Center opened, researchers studied bears in zoos. But they often found that zoos didn’t allow for regular sample collection or dietary changes, which are necessary for scientific work.

Additionally, most zoos didn’t have more than two of any species of bear. Such a small sample size doesn’t lend itself to reliable data extrapolation.

So WSU opened the Bear Center and our scientists have been hard at work ever since doing work that continues to pay benefits to bears in the wild.

Thanks to our WSU bears, science has a much better understanding of grizzly nutritional requirements, early maternal behavior, foraging behavior, disease susceptibility, and much more.

That’s because of scientists, both at WSU and from around the world, who have worked with our bears to make discoveries that will help bears survive.

Former volunteer uses creativity to help bears

New experiences are even richer when the people in charge know what you’re going through. Volunteers at the WSU Bear Research, Education, and Conservation Center have that person.

Brandon holds a bucket in one hand and throws food onto a pile of wood with the other hand.
Brandon Evans Hutzenbiler hides food in wood piles for the bears to find in their exercise yard.

“I was so excited to be a volunteer when I was in school at WSU,” said Brandon Evans Hutzenbiler, the Bear Center manager. “So getting new volunteers involved and getting to see how the bears behave is a lot of fun.”

Hutzenbiler became the center’s manager in 2016 but has been around the bears for several years. After graduating in spring 2014, and finishing his time volunteering later that summer, Hutzenbiler started working with the bears on a project led by WSU professor Heiko Jansen.

He eventually earned a paid position in Jansen’s lab and continued to help on projects both in the lab and at the center.

Bear Center director Keith Blatner asked Hutzenbiler to take over as manager when the position became available, and he’s embraced the opportunity to continue working with the bears. His favorite part is working on the enrichment program that keeps the bears mentally stimulated during their active (non-hibernation) period.

“It’s beneficial to the bears in a very direct way,” Hutzenbiler said. “And it forces me to be creative. We have a limited budget, and the bears like to move on once they’ve solved one device. So keeping things fresh for them is a fun challenge.”

In years past, the enrichment program has included large barrels that spin on an axis, with small holes where food comes out. Or food hidden in pockets formed by overlapping straps of interwoven fire hose.

As anyone who works with bears will tell you, they are very food-motivated. But they don’t all react the same to enrichment items.

Brandon holds a bottle for a bear cub as the cub drinks milk from it.
Hutzenbiler with bear cubs in 2015.

“They definitely have their own personalities,” Hutzenbiler said. “For instance, Oakley is incredibly smart. She can figure out anything we throw at her, really fast. She’s meticulous. But Luna, the largest female, breaks everything to get the food. She’s all about brute force to get what she wants.”

In the winter, Hutzenbiler returns primarily to lab work while the bears sleep away the cold weather. His skill set is fairly unusual, having hands-on experience with the bears while also knowing how to culture fat cells in a lab.

“Brandon is a huge part of the center,” Blatner said. “His devotion to the bears, and his joy in working with them, makes for a better center. We’re deeply appreciative of the work he does.”

Starting as a student volunteer to now making sure the bears are cared for and attended to on a daily basis, Hutzenbiler has come a long way. But he’s just happy to still be involved with the bears.

“I love working with and being around animals,” Hutzenbiler said. “I’m endlessly fascinated by them, and can’t think of anything I’d rather do.”

Caring for animals, from small to grizzly-sized

When it comes to interesting lines on a resume, stud manager for Wayne Newton tends to stand out.

Woodford crouches down and looks down at two cute bear cubs in a field of grass.
Nina Woodford with two young bear cubs in 2015. These two bears are much bigger now!

“It was an interesting job,” said Nina Woodford, director of WSU’s Office of the Campus Veterinarian (OCV). “I wanted to try horse breeding, so I lived near Las Vegas and worked on Wayne Newton’s horse ranch. I’m convinced I got into vet school because I had a good story about my job.”

After leaving Newton’s ranch, Woodford attended WSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine, then completed a residency in laboratory animal medicine at the University of Michigan. She returned to Pullman in 2001 to work for the OCV. In 2016, she took over as director, overseeing the health and welfare of every animal in the WSU system.

That ranges from the grizzly bears at the WSU Bear Research, Education, and Conservation Center to cows to rats and mice.

“I learn something new every day,” Woodford said. “And I’m the animal’s advocate. I hear about every animal health problem on campus. It’s rewarding to help set our researchers up for success by maintaining good preventative health programs, like vaccinations and clean facilities.”

The unique nature of the WSU Bear Center, the only research center in the world with grizzlies, is a highlight for her.

“Not many vets get to work with bears, so it’s a privilege,” Woodford said. “We know all their names and check in on them regularly. Sometimes daily when they’re in their active season.”

In addition to helping develop preventative health programs for the bears, Woodford and her staff help with sample collections, perform procedures, and decide on necessary treatments when an injury or illness occurs.

“We work very closely with the staff at the Bear Center,” Woodford said. “We visit regularly, we talk with them and keep open lines of communication, and we take our role as animal advocates seriously. And it’s working very well.”

Woodford is a native of San Francisco and has loved animals from an early age.

“I’ve always been an animal nut,” she said. “Growing up, we always had a variety of pets: turtles, rats, mice, dogs, cats, you name it. And now I live on a farm with my family, and we’ve got sheep, horses, donkeys. I even raise show chickens with my fifth grader.”

When it comes to caring for animals, Woodford has no limit. That’s good news for all of WSU’s animals, especially the bears.

CAHNRS Coug Connections: Lucy Eggleston

Each week, we showcase one of our CAHNRS Ambassadors, a student leadership organization that encourages students to pursue higher education and serves as a liaison between the college and the greater community. This week, we’re featuring Lucy Eggleston, a junior from Asotin, Wash.

Formal portrait photo of Lucy Eggleston
Lucy Eggleston

What are you studying?

I’m majoring in Viticulture and Enology, with a minor in Business Administration.

Why did you choose WSU?

As a high schooler, I was bouncing around between colleges because I knew I didn’t have enough life experience to decide my career path. WSU caught my attention because as a research-based in-state school, I knew I could stay close to home while working one-on-one with faculty who wanted me to succeed in the real world.

What is special about being a CAHNRS Coug?

As a CAHNRS Coug, you become a part of a family that supports you in any way they can. Students encourage and mentor each other through the ups and downs of college. Faculty strive to learn students’ names and passions. Alumni give back through scholarships which provides opportunities for students to strive for excellence. And the cycle repeats.

What is your favorite CAHNRS class so far and why?

Entomology 343 or 351. These classes opened my eyes to a facet of agriculture I had never considered. While I love horticulture, insects are a farming system. These classes sparked my interest in being a consultant who develops integrated pest management systems for vineyards. While they were very difficult classes in some aspects, the challenge called me to a higher level of thinking outside my planned realm of study.

Who are influential professors that you’ve had, and how did they impact your life?

Jeb Owen challenged me to think differently and showed me how to learn especially as a college student and adult.

Des Layne has a contagious passion for his research, which made his lecture one of the highlights of my week. And I loved teaching other people everything I learned.

What extracurricular activities are you involved in besides ambassadors?

Viticulture and Enology Club and the St. Thomas Moore Catholic Newman Association

What is a fun fact about you?

As a third generation Coug, the fight song was one of my lullabies!

What advice would you give an incoming freshman/high school senior to help them adjust to college?

Find a professor or TA that you really admire and try to get involved in their research. As a land-grant university, they probably have a lab that could use the help of an undergraduate!

Favorite item/flavor at Ferdinand’s?

Apple Cup Crisp!

WSU alum, Extension agent honored for life and career of service

By Maya Wahl, CAHNRS Academic Programs

CAHNRS takes pride in its alumni and strives to keep our graduates a part of the Coug family that they built while they were on campus. There are teachers, winemakers, farmers and ranchers, product developers, social workers, geneticists, and the list goes on. Some CAHNRS graduates go on to work for large corporations, non-profit organizations, and institutions across the country while others work within the WSU community. Some become professors and administrators within our college and others go out into the field as Extension agents to work with the people who need it most. Michael Hackett worked for WSU Extension for 27 years and this is his story.

Mike Hackett wears a green sweatshirt that says Growing Veterans while standing in a greenhouse and holding a tray of young plants.
Mike Hackett working in a greenhouse with Growing Veterans.

Mike Hackett grew up in rural New England, on the border of Massachusetts and New Hampshire, but never lived on a farm. He helped with his uncle’s dairy from time to time and says, “I liked the aromas of fresh hay and the dairy cows.” From an early age, Mike displayed a love for animals. It was not until his teen years that Mike began working in agriculture and gained experience on egg farms, orchards, and vegetable farms. He loved the work and from that point on Mike found himself working in agriculture in various ways.

In 1967, Mike was drafted into the military during the height of the Vietnam War. At that time nearly 200 men were killed weekly. He joined the Navy, and after training, was assigned to the Amphibious “Brown Water Navy”, supporting combat operations along the Saigon River near the Mekong Delta. For 14 months, Mike was in and out of Vietnam between 1968 and 1970.

“I got a new perspective on all living things after I participated in and witnessed a lot of destruction of life. From human loss and suffering to animal loss and suffering, and plant life loss such as herbicide spraying of Agent Orange.”

“When I came out of the military I wanted to work with living things,” and work with living things he did.

Upon his return to the United States and civilian life, Mike worked as a herdsman on a dairy farm. He worked alongside a large animal veterinarian which ultimately led to him attending the University of Massachusetts to study animal science with a pre-veterinary focus. After obtaining his undergraduate degree, the next step was vet school. However, at the time there were only 18 veterinary schools in the nation and admission was incredibly competitive. Most students had to be a resident of the state that the school was in and unfortunately for Mike, there were no veterinary schools in Massachusetts.

So, he looked for other ways to continue his education and began to apply to graduate schools across the nation. While he was admitted to a number of schools, he chose to come to Washington State University and pursue a master’s degree in animal science.

“The reason I chose WSU was because of a professor named Dr. Joe Hillers… [he] actually called me up personally from Pullman to New England and asked me if I’d like to go to work for him as a graduate student and that just blew me away.”

While he had been admitted to several very prestigious graduate schools, the personal connection that Mike was able to make with Dr. Hillers was what sold him on WSU. He says that Dr. Hillers and the other WSU Animal Science faculty welcomed Mike and made him feel accepted. They created a family.

An old black and white photo of Mike Hacket crouched down with his arms around a sheep.
Hackett as a WSU graduate student in 1974.

In 1976, Mike graduated from WSU with his master’s in animal science and in 1980 he became an Extension agent for WSU. He dedicated 27 years of his life to helping new farmers and ranchers succeed by providing meaningful, purposeful education through Extension programs. When he began his work, he noticed there was a big need for small scale livestock production education. That’s when he started the Livestock Master Program.

He modeled it after the Master Gardeners Program offered by WSU Extension and used livestock production management and marketing curriculum to arm small farmers and ranchers with the tools they needed to be successful. It kicked off in 1983 and is still helping farmers to this day, however it is now referred to as the Livestock Advisor Program.

During his time as an Extension agent, Mike noticed that farmers and ranchers were being underserved. It was the “back to the land movement” that drove more and more people to leave their urban lifestyles and embrace sustainable rural living. This created a large need for agricultural education and support. Mike sought to fill that need.

Much of Extension at the time was geared towards commercial agriculture and neglected to focus on the thousands of small scale farmers and homesteaders in Northwest Washington. He went to work, reaching out to these small farmers and formulating a plan to better serve them. His efforts included things like organic gardening workshops and other services. He was passionate about serving this population of farmers and today WSU Extension has a great presence in those communities and continues to provide valuable resources to producers of all sizes, commercial and small scale.

“The coolest thing that I thought was good about it was that I’d teach volunteers the basics of raising livestock on a small scale and then they would go out and teach other people to return their volunteer service.”

Mike says that the highlight of his career was working in the 4-H youth programs in Snohomish, County. Today, Snohomish County has one of the most active 4-H programs in the state and Mike was able to work directly with the community youth to encourage hands-on learning and promote proper livestock management practices among young 4-H members. At the time there were close to 450 4-H leaders and nearly 1,500 youth members participating in animal science projects which included horses, beef, sheep, poultry, swine, and a variety of other small animal projects. Mike enjoyed helping people learn and was a key player behind the scenes, making things happen for the youths in his community.

After retiring from his Extension position in 2007, Mike went home to work on in his own farm. However, that didn’t last long. He says he “got restless” and wanted to find something more to do. So, he became an Organic Certification Field Inspector for the Washington Department of Agriculture. Mike continued to expand his own knowledge of agriculture and sought to serve the farmers and ranchers of Washington State.

“It was really rewarding because I got to see a lot of certified organic farms and ranches, dairies, poultry producers, beef producers, row crops, and market gardeners… Both commercial and small scale.”

Mike has always wanted to work with people, help educate them and arm them with the tools they need to be successful. Five and a half years ago, Mike found another way to help people using his expansive agricultural background. He started working with an organization called Growing Veterans. Their mission is to “empower military veterans to grow food, community, and each other.” The founder of Growing Veterans, Chris Brown, found Mike through the Washington Tilth Producers, he was serving on the board at the time, and asked if he would be interested in becoming involved.

“When I saw what was happening, I really latched on to that. I realized that that’s what I’ve been doing my whole life practically after I came back from Vietnam.” Working in agriculture had been Mike’s own therapy. Now, they refer to it as “dirt therapy” and it is extremely effective. Combat veterans working in the soil and with animals has proven to be very therapeutic because, as Mike would say, “You’re growing things, not destroying things.

Mike Hackett has remained involved with WSU and CAHNRS since graduating with his master’s degree in 1976. He worked for the college for 27 years and has continued his life of service to this day. He is a passionate Coug and a life member of the WSU Alumni Association. He says, “I love the term Coug family… The Coug family is my second family.” He has witnessed this idea through his own experiences as well as those of other people he encountered during his career in Extension; WSU cares about its student success as much as prestige or sports titles.

“I’ll be eternally grateful to WSU for getting me out on the right road and heading into life prepared.”

Mike wants future animal scientists and agriculturalists who are preparing to enter the industry to find their passion for growing things, whether that be plants, animals or communities, and to dive into that. Don’t expect your first job to be your dream job but get your foot in the door and find your niche. Be willing to take risks and push back on what you believe is right. Have the courage to change the things you can change. And don’t dwell on negativity, let it roll off you like water on a duck’s back and stay positive.

Mike Hackett has lived a life of service to others in many ways and will receive the Outstanding Alumnus award from the Department of Animal Sciences on April 5 at the Animal Science Recognition Banquet. He and his wife Peggy have four children and six grandchildren. He has dedicated his life to growing plants, animals and making the lives of those around him better. He sets a standard for future Coug alumni to go forth and to pursue what they are truly passionate about. Animal Sciences, WSU, and CAHNRS are proud to have him as a part of the Coug family.

CAHNRS Coug Connections: Diana Bergstrom

Each week, we showcase one of our CAHNRS Ambassadors, a student leadership organization that encourages students to pursue higher education and serves as a liaison between the college and the greater community. This week, we’re featuring Diana Bergstrom, a senior from Lake Forest, Calif.

Formal portrait photo of Diana Bergstrom
Diana Bergstrom

What are you studying?

I’m majoring in Animal Science Pre-Vet.

Why did you choose WSU?

I was ready to move away from home and live somewhere new. I had heard great things about WSU. When I visited the campus my senior year of high school, I fell in love with it—the people, the place, and the programs.

What is special about being a CAHNRS Coug?

What makes my CAHNRS experience so great is the community within the college. Not only have I found excellent study buddies, but I’ve made life-long friends. It’s so easy to connect with the faculty here and it’s so comforting knowing my fellow classmates and professors are in my corner cheering me on!

What is your favorite CAHNRS class so far and why?

Animal Science 101 was the class where I fell in love with my major and realized I was destined to be on the pre-vet path.

Who are influential professors that you’ve had, and how did they impact your life?

Nancy Irlbeck because she has the perfect balance of being tough and making sure you learn and grow in her classes. She is also there to support you, motivate you, and make you want to be in class learning.

Martin Maquivar was the first animal science professor that I really made a connection with. He’s extremely involved in the department and it’s easy to see how much he cares about the success and well-being of his students.

What extracurricular activities are you involved in besides ambassadors?

I am a member of the student swine cooperative and the WSU Pre-vet Club. I also serve as the President of WSU Circle K International, a community service club on campus.

What is a fun fact about you?

I’ve been to Disneyland so many times that I have lost count.

What advice would you give an incoming freshman/high school senior to help them adjust to college?

Don’t let fear get in your way—put yourself out there, join clubs, talk to your professors and meet some new best friends!

Favorite item/flavor at Ferdinand’s?

Cougar Tracks and Cougar Gold Cheese!

CAHNRS Coug Connections: Colm Allan

Each week, we showcase one of our CAHNRS Ambassadors, a student leadership organization that encourages students to pursue higher education and serves as a liaison between the college and the greater community. This week, we’re featuring Colm Allan, a junior from Sonora, Calif.

Formal portrait photos of Colm Allan
Colm Allan

What are you studying?

I’m majoring in Agricultural and Technology Production Management, with a minors in Business Administration & Crop Science.

Why did you choose WSU?

I was ready for a change of scenery and to get out of California. After hearing and talking about the major AgTM from a current student, I decided that would be the major that fits me best.

What is special about being a CAHNRS Coug?

The sense of family within the CAHNRS College is really what makes being a CAHNRS Coug special.

What is your favorite CAHNRS class so far and why?

Crop Science 302, Forage Crops. It has been my favorite so far because it has been the greatest challenge for me. I was really tested and ended up learning things about myself academically that I did not know before.

Who are influential professors that you’ve had, and how did they impact your life?

Dr. Steve Fransen pushed me to be the best version of myself and did not accept mediocrity.

Dr. Martin Maquivar was very enthusiastic and always wanted the best for us. He was willing to help with anything and made class/lecture a great experience.

What extracurricular activities are you involved in besides ambassadors?

AgTM Club Vice President of Recreation and work.

What is a fun fact about you?

I am fluent in American Sign Language!

What advice would you give an incoming freshman/high school senior to help them adjust to college?

Just relax, not to the point of doing nothing, but take time for yourself to de-stress and think of the big picture.

Favorite item/flavor at Ferdinand’s?

Huckleberry for sure!

CAHNRS Coug Connections: Sammy Reyes

Each week, we showcase one of our CAHNRS Ambassadors, a student leadership organization that encourages students to pursue higher education and serves as a liaison between the college and the greater community. This week, we’re featuring Sammy Reyes, a junior from Olympia, Wash.

Formal portrait of Sammy Reyes
Sammy Reyes

What are you studying?

I’m majoring in Resource Economics, Microbiology, and German.

Why did you choose WSU?

I chose WSU because of the research opportunities and community. Cougs help Cougs. The university and town are high energy and supportive.

What is special about being a CAHNRS Coug?

You are a part of a family as a CAHNRS Coug. CAHNRS is supportive and gives many opportunities for you to succeed in your future.

What is your favorite CAHNRS class so far and why?

Econs 430: Managing the Global Environment. I took this class while I was on the SES Italy Study Abroad Program. I was able to analyze resources and do a project on a specific resource. It was eye-opening and a class that I was genuinely interested in.

Who are influential professors that you’ve had, and how did they impact your life?

Patricia Kuzyk was a good economics professor and presented the material well. She encouraged me to become an economics major, study abroad, and become an ambassador.

What extracurricular activities are you involved in besides ambassadors?

I work at the Washington Animal and Disease Diagnostics Lab (WADDL), am involved in clubs, and volunteer with the Chamber of Commerce and Center for Civic Engagement.

What is a fun fact about you?

I know how to tap dance!

What advice would you give an incoming freshman/high school senior to help them adjust to college?

Get involved, budget time and money, and get to know your professors.

Favorite item/flavor at Ferdinand’s?


CAHNRS Coug Represents WSU at Commodity Classic

By Maya Wahl, CAHNRS Academic Programs

Spring semester is well under way. With spring comes scholarships. It’s the time of the year when students double down on school work and scholarship applications. They’re competing for dollars that will not only help pay for their education, but allow them to focus on their academics and alleviate some of the stress that comes with paying for school.

Kayla Beechinor and a BASF employee stand together holding a plaque saying congratulations for winning the Jerry Minore Scholarship.
WSU sophomore Kayla Beechinor receives the Jerry Minore Memorial Scholarship at the 2018 Commodity Classic.

CAHNRS offers students over $700,000 a year in scholarships. CAHNRS Cougs are given the opportunity to earn scholarships through our college. Many students look outside of the university to find scholarships and grants that make their educational dreams a reality.

One of these students is Kayla Beechinor, a sophomore double majoring in Agricultural Biotechnology and Field Crop Management. Kayla recently traveled to Anaheim, California to accept the Jerry Minore Memorial Scholarship, a national award in memory of Jerry Minore, a past BASF employee and strong advocate for the wheat industry.

The scholarship is provided by the National Wheat Foundation in partnership with BASF. Not only did Kayla receive the scholarship but BASF also sponsored her to attend the 2018 Commodity Classic, America’s largest farmer-led, farmer-focused convention and trade show.

There is an overwhelming amount of support within the agricultural industry and students like Kayla prove that the future of agriculture is in capable hands.

“I enjoyed being able to receive the scholarship during the Commodity Classic at a presentation put on by BASF,” Kayla said. “It was great having my family there to support me and to have BASF and the National Association of Wheat Growers supporting my education in agriculture.”

Kayla represents the best students that CAHNRS has to offer and works extremely hard in and out of the classroom to build her professional portfolio and enhance her learning experience. She has taken numerous opportunities to expand her horizons and build upon the skills that she is learning at WSU.

“CAHNRS has given me multiple opportunities which have helped support my degree and future career,” Kayla said. “They have given me opportunities like attending the Agriculture Future of America Leaders Conference and working in the Spring Wheat Breeding Lab.”

CAHNRS is proud to have outstanding students like Kayla representing our college on campus and across the country. She and so many others hold a passion for agriculture in their hearts and will work to carry on the legacy of CAHNRS long after they leave WSU.