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NMSU equine professor prepares students to be future leaders

Her first horse was a mean, little pony her parents bought her even though she was a little too young to ride, but Laura White learned not to give in and to pursue her passion for horses.

Laura White, assistant professor of Equine Science, spends most of her time at the NMSU Horse Farm. (NMSU photo by Angela Simental)

?My parents thought it was just a phase, but I?ve always loved horses. They are truly magnificent beasts,? said White, New Mexico State University assistant professor of equine science.

Originally from Texas, White now owns two horses ? one for show and one miniature horse, which she is teaching new tricks.

?I don?t have a lot of free time, but I still ride when I can and take care of my animals, which includes my dairy farm ? four goats,? she said.

White began teaching three years ago at NMSU transferring from the University of Georgia, where she received her master?s degree. She now teaches a variety of graduate and undergraduate equine courses.

?Dr. White is developing a strong program at NMSU and she is respected by both students and colleagues,? said Dennis Hallford, Animal and Range Sciences interim department head. ?She directs our Equine Science Emphasis Area and teaches courses ranging from introductory equine science to the senior/graduate class in Equine Nutrition and Exercise Physiology. She also coaches the Horse Judging Team and advises student clubs.?

White?s passion for horses is as strong as her passion for teaching. Her mission is to help her students become future leaders of the equine industry.

Lindy Owensby, a first-year graduate student and teaching assistant who works under White?s supervision said she has been able to relax and become a better teacher thanks to White?s advice and patience.

?My first class was nerve wracking, but I have the full support of my advisor Dr. Laura White,? she said. ?Having her help has been the biggest contribution to my success.?

Part of White?s research deals with pedagogy, meaning that she strives to research teaching areas that will benefit students in the classroom as well as the professional world.

?I use a method called higher order thinking,? she said. ?If a student can think critically and make an independent decision, that?s going to be profitable for the company they are going to work for, and they will be successful.?

White candidly expressed that teaching critical thinking can be a challenge, and she focuses her research on problem-based learning, hands-on learning and real-world situational learning.

?I also try to relate my personal experiences and help students connect and transfer their love for animals to a professional setting,? White said.

Recently, along with other NMSU researchers, she earned a U.S. Department of Agriculture pedagogy grant where she will conduct research on ways to teach students important chemistry and math skills that are required to be successful in agriculture sciences.

She encourages her students not only to give 100 percent of themselves to what they love, but also seek extracurricular activities that can become potential professional contacts or experiences that will set them apart when applying for a job.

Her teaching methodology could not be complete without the equine facilities at NMSU. She and her students spend many hours at the Horse Farm, located a few miles from campus.

?The interaction with the animals is vital. Most students that come in already have a passion for animals, and they want to become veterinarians, so they often learn that there are many more options in this industry,? she said.

The science part of her research deals with equine nutrition for which she has also received several grants.

?We are in the middle of a Morris Animal Foundation grant right now investigating ways to simplify nutrition research studies with horses, which involves researchers from other universities as well as graduate and undergraduate students,? she said.

Two years ago she took eight NMSU students to Paraguay on an American Quarter Horse Association international outreach grant, where they taught horse management skills to local horsemen.

?Dr. White offered this great learning opportunity to travel to Paraguay,? Owensby said.
?It was such an eye-opening experience culturally and professionally.?

White explains that with her hectic schedule prioritizing is essential since she is involved in so many activities aside from teaching and researching, but even then, sometimes there is not enough time in the day to do it all.

?The best advice I have received was from my grandpa. He always use to say ?don?t sweat the small stuff? and then he would say ?it?s all small stuff,? White said. ?That is an important thing for me to remember as a young faculty member. Some days it all feels like life or death, so I know that whatever disaster seems to be happening it?ll be alright I?ll be alright.?