Heifer Ranch- Tim Brauch
One of the best parts about being a professor is interacting with students. The committee work, the class preparation, the grading, I know that those are things that need to be done but that is not why someone becomes a professor. The reason anyone becomes a professor at a liberal arts university is to be in the classroom and to mentor students outside of the classroom. And so, I always spend my Spring Break chaperoning a student trip. It means that I don’t get grading done, that I come back under-prepared for that first day of classes after break, but so do the students.
Going to Heifer Ranch was an amazing experience. The fact that students chose to go to Arkansas and work on a ranch instead of going to the beach says something about the character and disposition of the students. It was a great group of students. While doing chores and team building activities were the main tasks for the week, they were not, in my opinion, the main accomplishment or main goal for the experience. By the end of the week, the students were energized. They had goals. They had ideas. They had plans. They had knowledge. After spending a week on the beach, students come back relaxed. Spending a week at Heifer Ranch made the students come back refreshed and invigorated.
The chores served great purposes. Students learned that meat and vegetables don’t just appear on their plates in the Union by doing chores. They learned rice needs to be planted, grain by grain. They learned cows produce a lot of manure. They learned that goats and sheep find the weak spots in fences and get away unless they are repaired. All of these are necessary to produce that hamburger and French fries for lunch. And it is not something that can be automated; it requires human labor. After this experience the students realize that throwing away those extra green beans because you don’t like them means somebody spent hours to grow those beans on your plate. Students came back more aware of global issues concerning food. And students came back with ideas to combat hunger in our local community. They have goals, ideas, plans, and knowledge.
The team building activities also invigorated the students. At the start of the week, we were a bunch of students and a faculty member. Some of them knew each other; some didn’t. By the end of the week students came back to campus with plans to work together to help students afford textbooks. This idea, if implemented, will require a lot of teamwork. It cannot be done by one person. And it will require each person to give up some control in order to empower others to do their jobs. The team building activities provided the opportunities to come up with goals, ideas, plans, and knowledge.
Overall, the experiences of herding cattle and climbing through ropes are not important. These experiences were simply a means to an end. The real benefits students have from this experience is the fuel for the fire that burns inside them. The goals, the ideas, the plans, and the knowledge they gained in this one week will fuel that fire for many years to come.