You’ve probably heard that emphasis on agricultural education, and animal science in particular, has diminished on the campuses of U.S. Land Grant universities. That might be true in some cases, but at Colorado State University (CSU), growth in the Animal Sciences Department has spurred support and investment from the CSU administration and industry, helping fund a complete re-modeling of the department’s building, classrooms and laboratory facilities. 

The facility is not actually all new – the exterior walls are the same ones built in the 1950s. As you would expect, the building lost some of its charm over the years, as the faculty and administration struggled to adapt the space to accommodate modern research and teaching equipment and house a growing population of students and faculty.

So, about three years ago, the department initiated the project, says department head Kevin Pond, PhD, with a plan to retain the original building but redesign and rebuild everything within the exterior walls with a focus on preparing students for the future and engaging in cutting-edge research. The department found support from the CSU administration, Pond says, with the university president, Dr. Tony Frank, being a strong supporter of agriculture, animal sciences and the land grant mission. The CSU Board of Governors, he adds, includes three members with strong roots in ranching and animal science.

The department also reached out to alumni, industry and other stakeholders to raise funds for the project.  Bill Wailes, Pond’s predecessor as department head, took on a role as a special consultant to help gain support from companies and individuals, many of which provided significant contributions.

Walk into the bright, spacious and inviting building today and you will see areas named for some of those supporters, reading like a “who’s who” in the Colorado cattle industry – the Rutledge Family Study area, the Marshall L. Frasier Conference Room, the Blach Family Study Lounge and the Animal Science Laboratory sponsored by Ranch-Way Feeds.

The agricultural community has long supported CSU animal science programs, and their influence is visible around campus. For example, the large, shady open space in front of the animal sciences building, now visible from inside with the addition of large windows, is the Monfort Quad, named for the pioneering Colorado cattle family who provided significant support to CSU over the years, including endowment of the Monfort Chair in meat science.

The new building features several open, well-lit and comfortable common areas with seating and tables designed for students to interact with each other and their professors, studying, working on collective projects or just socializing between classes. Pond and the design team actually consulted with students in planning the facility, and they requested these common areas, which help make the building their on-campus headquarters rather than just a place to attend classes.

The second floor houses laboratories, with separate wings dedicated to food safety and microbiology, animal nutrition and physiology. The research and teaching laboratories feature flexible designs to accommodate a variety of scientific equipment and facilitate state-of-the-art research.

The meat science laboratory, which was remodeled relatively recently, remains as it was. Eventually it will move to a new building to be constructed in Phase II of the project, and the space will be converted to classrooms. Phase II will add new facilities adjacent to the current building, housing animal handling and harvest facilities, meat science laboratories and classrooms, a dairy bar and a store for meat sales. The Phase II facility will be named in honor animal sciences faculty member Gary Smith, PhD, and his wife Kay. The building will also house an animal handling and welfare teaching facility named for CSU faculty member Temple Grandin, PhD.  Both Smith and Grandin have provided sizable donations to the project after years of dedicated teaching and research in the department.

The department will need the extra space to accommodate the growth in its student population. In 2013, the department set a record by enrolling 209 new students. In 2014, that record was shattered as 265 new students, representing 43 states, enrolled in the animal sciences program. Pond says the department also is investing in additional faculty, with two new beef- and dairy-systems positions and one new food-safety appointment currently open.

The gleaming new facility likely will attract even more students in the coming years. Pond says that in the past, when the university conducted tours for prospective students and their families, they purposely avoided the aging Animal Science Building. Now, the building is a required tour stop.

Watch a video with Dr. Kevin Pond describing the new Animal Sciences Building  and future plans at CSU.