This article is part of a series featuring some of this year’s outstanding graduating students, nominated by their academic school or college or another University program in which they participated. Check for additional profiles of students in the Class of 2013 on UConn Today from now through Commencement.
When Lisa Dauten ’13 (CANR) asked her parents for a pony, they suggested she get a cow instead, thinking it would be a less expensive (and temporary) addition to the family.
So, at age 11, Dauten joined her local 4-H club and leased her first calf. At the end of the summer 4-H livestock show season, she was supposed to give the animal back to the farmer who owned it. But Dauten had fallen in love with ‘her’ calf, so she used the $400 she had earned busing tables at her mother’s restaurant to buy the baby bovine.
This fall, Dauten, who has a 3.85 GPA, will become a member of the class of ’17 at the Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine. What got her there is a testament to her intellectual curiosity, her work ethic, and her love for animals.
From her first 4-H calf, she branched out into other animals including dairy and beef cattle, goats, and pigs.
Enrolling in Wamogo Regional High School’s agricultural science program not only gave Dauten a chance to expand on her study of animals, it propelled her into the world of 4-H and Future Farmers of America, where she excelled at public speaking and development of leadership skills.
Those experiences are what first brought her to the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, as she participated in 4-H competitions held on campus through the Department of Extension. “I thought it was one of the most exciting things in the word to come here and interact with the college students, Dauten says. “When it came time to fill out college applications, this was the only place I applied.”
After traveling to a number of other schools as part of the Block and Bridle [livestock] Club, she’s convinced she made the right choice. “UConn does a phenomenal job of giving students the type of experience they need to make career decisions in animal science,” she says.
Steve Zinn, head of the Department of Animal Science and Dauten’s advisor, says one of the things that sets her apart is her work ethic: “She takes nothing for granted, she doesn’t do just what’s expected of her, she does more. And that’s true in everything – whether it’s her studies, or when she’s working in the [UConn] barns, or mentoring other students. That’s also one of the reasons she has been named the Eastern States Exposition Undergraduate Scholar for the state of Connecticut twice in four years. That’s really unheard of.”
For her part, Dauten gives UConn a lot of the credit for helping her get where she wants to be career-wise. She says Zinn has been instrumental in her success, but she also speaks fondly of the late Randy Knight, former livestock unit manager, who had a knack for both challenging and mentoring the students working with UConn’s farm animals.
“Working with Randy, I learned pretty quickly to ask questions if I didn’t know something [about animal care], but then once he showed me how to do something, he trusted me to work on my own. He was that way with everyone and it’s one of the things that gave me the confidence to go ahead with my dreams of becoming a veterinarian.
“One of the most important things I’ve learned during my four years here is the importance of working with people, not against them. I’m a very competitive person with myself, but what really hits home with me is how much better things work when people view each other as colleagues and peers, not as rivals.”
Dauten has worked collaboratively in a variety of ways, including working with Zinn on First Year Experience (FYE) courses. In 2012, she was voted FYE Mentor of the Year. “That honor really meant a lot to me,” she says, “because I love interacting with students and I really like teaching.”
As for her future, during her hours on the 8:30 p.m. to midnight shift milking UConn’s dairy cows, she’s had a lot of time to plan. “I always thought late-night milking was the best job to have,” Dauten says with a smile,” especially as a college student. Late night … doesn’t conflict with classes … and it gave me a lot of time to think about what’s ahead for me.”
Her immediate plans call for her to begin veterinary school in the fall. For the long-term, she would like to focus on the dairy industry, including preventative medicine for entire herds, perhaps working for the USDA or even teaching.
As far as ever having that pony she originally begged her parents for, Dauten says, “I think I’ll stick to working with cows.”