When a recent University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate signed up to major in dairy sciences, they didn’t know what they were getting themselves into.
“It’s quite troubling how big this issue is and how little awareness there seems to be,” recent graduate Riley told The Beet. “But my degree in dairy science from UW-Madison has prepared me for the tough road ahead in working to increase cow representation in STEM.”
Research shows only a fraction of a percent of cows have access to basic reading and mathematics education. The numbers for science classes are even lower.
“It is appalling that none of the nation’s top engineering companies have any cows on staff,” said a local cow education advocate. “How can we expect cows to have an equitable existence without representation among those designing the future?”
This is why the mission of UW-Madison’s dairy science department is to be on the cutting edge of cow science education and produce the world’s best science teachers for cows. Unfortunately, that’s no easy task.
“When we go onto a farm, we’re starting from scratch,” a dairy science professor told The Beet. “The education of cows is entirely neglected in most situations. We’re talking a literacy rate of near zero at most every dairy farm in the country.”
But that doesn’t dissuade the dedicated cow educators who have taken it upon themselves to design cow-friendly science equipment. From beakers and test tubes to dissecting grass, accessibility is central to a mission they can’t do on their own, even with the passion of young people like Riley.
The department head explained, “The university has entirely ignored our pleas for the creation of departments specialized in dairy literature and dairy mathematics. Sometimes it feels like what we do here, expanding educational opportunities to cows, is entirely unimportant. But the look in a calf’s face as they find their spark is the only fuel I need to keep at this every day.”
Jeffrey Brown is a former Arts Editor for the Daily Cardinal. He writes for The Beet occasionally and does some drawing and photography too. He is a senior majoring in Sociology. Do not feed him after midnight.