The Biology of Animal Production course at the University of Missouri introduces students to a variety of livestock production systems, as well as numerous production animals. It is a course that completely changed Paige Williams’ collegiate journey.
An interest in equine brought Williams to MU, as she grew up riding horses and participating in multiple rodeos across Missouri. She raised chickens when she was young, too, and the course showed her the depth of an industry she realized she knew very little about.
“The Biology of Animal Production class was great in a lot of ways, and it was important in terms of allowing us to see what livestock we had an interest in early on,” Williams said. “When we started talking about poultry, I soon realized that I had no clue how large the industry truly was. I was hooked immediately.”
While the course had Williams leaning toward a focus on poultry during her animal sciences degree, a guest speaker sealed the deal. The speaker shared information about the Midwest Poultry Consortium Center of Excellence Internship Program. The program offers two six-week summer sessions that provides students with laboratory training, industry field trips, interactive lectures and a variety of other poultry-related learning opportunities. It also provides a potential 18 credit hours to each student who participates.
“It’s a really intense program, but I loved every minute of it,” Williams said. “It opened my eyes to the opportunities that would be available to me in the future. I had the chance to work in egg and meat processing, live production, research and development, quality assurance, biosecurity and animal welfare compliance. It was incredible all that I was able to accomplish.”
Williams spent a part of her second six-week stint participating in an internship with Aviagen, a poultry breeding company. That work was primarily on the veterinarian side of the operation.
“Nothing really compares to real-world, hands-on learning opportunities,” Williams said. “I felt like a valuable member of the team during my internship because of my previous experiences. I was able to bring different ideas to the table and felt like I was truly part of the team, even though I was just a student.”
Williams will earn her animal sciences degree in just two-and-a-half years at Mizzou. Along with bringing in several college credits, the internship program also propelled her to an early finish.
“I knew that I wanted to try to graduate early, and I knew I wanted to find an internship in my field of study,” Williams said. “This program helped me accomplish both.”
Although Williams had an abbreviated time on campus, she made sure to make the most of each moment. She was involved in Block and Bridle and served as a teaching assistant for Trista Strauch, an assistant teaching professor, and Hannah Twenter, an instructor.
“I really enjoyed the extra opportunities I took advantage of within the animal sciences program,” Williams said. “Block and Bridle was especially interesting, as I didn’t show livestock growing up. It showed me a different side of the industry that I had never experienced. Everyone was so encouraging while I was learning, too.”
Williams also got involved with MU’s Student American Institute of Floral Designers (SAIFD) club. She also worked at Tiger Garden, serving as a student leader (similar to a student manager), finding a passion for floral design.
“I really don’t know why I originally took that first floral design class, but I’m so glad that I did,” Williams said. “I loved everything about it and learned about another interesting industry that I wasn’t familiar with. I also gained valuable leadership experience within the organization.
“This really taught me an important lesson about not limiting yourself. There are so many things within CAFNR to get involved in; it’s vital to give at least one thing a shot.”
Williams said she can’t believe how quickly her time at Mizzou flew by. She added that she is also ready for her next chapter, which is hopefully a full-time position within the poultry industry.
“I couldn’t have picked a better program than animal sciences,” Williams said. “The hands-on opportunities are so meaningful and vital as we enter our professional careers. Coming to Mizzou was such a great choice for me, and I’m excited to see what the future holds.”