Find what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life. While this may be an antiquated statement for some, Temple Grandin understands the value of finding what you don’t love.
“You think about the number of students that are forced to become a lawyer or a doctor, and then they find out they hate it later on,” Grandin said. “There’s a lot of people today that are going down that track, you know, and that’s a bad one to go down. It’s important to find out the things you hate doing.”
Hailing from the suburbs of Boston, Grandin is a self-proclaimed “non-ag person.” Her original introduction to agriculture occurred at age 14, when she went to boarding school on a small farm in New Hampshire. The farm had horses and a small dairy, and it is where Grandin first learned to milk cows.
The following year, Grandin visited her aunt’s ranch in rural Arizona, sparking her interest in beef cattle.
“Students get interested in the things they are exposed to,” said Grandin. “If I hadn’t gone to my aunt’s ranch, I would have never ended up in the beef cattle industry. And that’s just what worries me today, a lot of students are not getting exposed to enough stuff to find out what they might like to do – or what they don’t like to do.”
Grandin broke into the beef cattle industry in the 1970s, working on feed yards in rural Arizona. If the heat wasn’t brutal enough, Grandin faced a slew of other challenges.
“Where I started, being a woman was a much bigger barrier than autism,” Grandin said. “I had to make myself three times better than a guy. I had to make myself so good at what I was doing that they couldn’t tell me ‘No.’”
Around the same time, Grandin began developing the habit of showing off her work. Simple things that had lasting impacts: showing people photos, trade magazine articles, and sketches.
“At that point, I was letting the work speak for itself. Just laid it all out on the table,” said Grandin.
When asked about what the future holds for the esteemed professor, Grandin said motivating students is a top priority, especially motivating students on the margins of the educational system.
“I’m a visual thinker,” started Grandin, “and I’m seeing too many visual thinkers getting sidelined because we’re not very good at math. I have a terrible time with algebra. I got a C in statistics. I’m just a visual thinker. That’s my next big book I’ll be working on—why visual thinking is important. And we need it not just in math, but in many fields.”
Grandin merits that every thinker is valuable, and putting multiple ideas together is a sure-fire way to get any job done.
In 2020, Grandin is celebrating her 30th year of teaching and research at CSU. Today she’s busy adapting to online teaching, writing books and continuing her research on beef cattle. Her newest book, “Temple Grandin’s Guide to Working with Farm Animals” is a beginner’s handbook for anyone looking to get involved with livestock.
Grandin has a library of her own books ranging from living with autism to raising livestock, which can be found on her website: https://www.grandin.com/welfare/intro.welfare.html.
As we enter an unprecedented semester during a pandemic, Grandin has some advice for both incoming and returning students:
“I would recommend students do internships,” she said. “I would say the same to every student, so that you try on different careers in agriculture. Find out what you like, find out what you hate. Jump on any chance to do an internship— and make yourself better. These internships go right into full-time jobs that I would recommend to any student in any nature.”