Temple Grandin visits OSU vet school through video chat

Temple Grandin Lecture

Temple Grandin lectures to OSU students via video chat.

Ashley Ferguson was stumped on what to do for the semesterly meeting for Zoetis.

She had to find a day where most students are available to meet and listen to a presentation, or the bigger challenge of finding someone to give the presentation.

Temple Grandin, a famous name for her work in animal behavior and autism education and outreach, was the first name on Ferguson’s list for speakers for her meeting. Grandin came to Gallagher-Iba a few years ago to a sold out arena.

Without the budget to fly Grandin out, Ferguson decided a video conference would be the only way for this to work. But first, she had to build up the courage to ask.

“I was at a Zoetis conference in Chicago in June and they were talking about people who revolutionized the cattle industry and her name popped up,” Ferguson said. “I was thinking how cool it would be if I was able to get in contact with her and have her talk to our school … The worst thing I can do is contact her and she never contacts me back.”

Grandin did contact Ferguson back in a matter of days. They were able to set up a night where the veterinary students of Oklahoma State were not as busy and Grandin could video chat in to speak with them.

More than just students were in attendance on Tuesday night, the dean of the veterinary college, Carlos Risco, was also there.

“It is very impactful in the sense that it really improves and facilitates our ability to teach students,” Risco said. “This is a perfect example because of the technology we have we could bring in Dr. Temple Grandin. It was pretty straight forward, pretty simple.”

On a limited budget, video conferences like this eliminates the expense of flying people out to Stillwater and providing a hotel for them. In Grandin’s case, she did not charge the students anything to have her lecture about a variety of topics from observing animal behavior, designing cattle chutes and autism’s effect on patterns of thinking.

“I think that since she is such a well-known person to feel like you’re actually in the room with her was a pretty surreal experience,” Ferguson said. “She’s not just on a small screen, she’s pretty much here with you. Since she is so well known and has done so much for animal science and so much for us it was really good to feel like you were with her.”

The time Ferguson spent working with the IT department was well worth it to her when Grandin opened the video call and the classroom was able to see and hear her.

“It’s really cool technology,” Grandin said. “I’m using my phone that’s propped up on a can I keep pens in … It’s amazing technology. This is the kind of things we need to be using our phones for.”

As technology advances, Risco and Ferguson hope to bring more speakers to OSU through video chat to supplement the instruction students receive.

“I used to think that it was just a fad or just didn’t really care about it but the more I’m in vet school and the older I get, with all this new technology coming out, I think it is an amazing way to get in contact with people and make connections that you wouldn’t be able to make without technology,” Ferguson said. “It allows people to reach out to people who can’t physically get there because it does cost money to have someone come visit you. It is amazing to have these connections and these conversations with people that feel like they’re in the room.”