COLLEGE STATION — As fall classes begin, the partially completed Animal Science Teaching, Research and Extension Complex near the Brazos River is already bringing an updated educational concept to a new breed of student.
The first beef cattle laboratory sessions will be held in the new complex’s Beef Center at the start of the semester. Dr. Bill Turner, professor of animal science and planning coordinator for the new complex, said it will better serve today’s agriculture students who differ from those in his college days, when most agriculture students came out of farming and ranching families.
“We’re getting what I call second-generation agriculture students who are very bright but often have no hands-on agricultural experience,” Turner said. “We knew land and animals like these students know science and computers.”
But the new complex, which will include five major centers when finished, is not a “model farm or ranch,” Turner said.
“It will be an all-purpose, interactive facility run not only for the students, but by them, and giving them the best opportunity to achieve and integrate everything they learn,” he said.
Cattle will be bred and raised on the 582-acre complex, although many will be finished out at commercial feedlots and other facilities. Students will have the opportunity to see and take part in application and management of a total beef program, Turner said. The animal science department also intends the new complex to be a focal point for industry, he said.
“For example, breed associations can come here and hold a field day hosted by students, who would provide complete labor and services,” Turner said.
Some students will have working internships at the complex, but it is also a place where other students can watch or practice the things they learn about, where industry groups can hold functions, and even where students can cater meals for their clubs’ social events, Turner said.
When the complex is completely finished by the spring of 1995, it will include the Beef Center, the Swine Center, the Sheep and Goat Center, the Thomsen Animal Euthenics Center, and the Nutrition and Physiology Center.
The Beef Center was the first of the facilities finished, and Turner said he has imagined that someday all Texas A&M beef science classes could be held there.
However, it will not be fully utilized until further construction projects open new roads and parking lots at the complex in 1994.
Mass transportation will also be available by 1995, bringing students from the main campus to the complex, located some five miles west of the main campus.
Another year of pasture development is also necessary, and a house on the grounds will be converted to the G. Rollie White Visitor Center. During the summer, the Texas A&M University Board of Regents assigned the house to the animal science department for renovation.
Two student caretakers eventually will live full-time in the house, which is envisioned as a central location for both visitors to meet and for students riding transportation to or from campus.
Turner said the new complex should make Texas A&M unique among land-grant universities, because it is the only complex he knows of with classrooms, laboratories, animal support facilities and a potential for extensive student interaction with all major agricultural animals within a short bus ride from campus. The facility will also provide students an exposure to state-of-the-art research and extension programs, he said.
“However, while effective facilities are important for supporting teaching, research and extension, it’s people caring and providing the best opportunities to achieve, and that’s one of our strongest traditions,” he said.