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Cal Poly Memories - by Tom Brannum

"Animal Husbandry, 1952 - 1966"

I will always feel fortunate that I was allowed to be a Poly faculty member, even without an advanced degree. At the time I started on the faculty, most of the students were returning from the Korean "action" and were anxious to graduate and start leading a normal life. Most of us on the faculty at that time could really feel empathy for these students, having been in their shoes only a few short years before. The general attitude of the students in my first classes was refreshing for me, since for two and a half years, I had been an instructor in a government on-the-farm training program for returning WWII veterans.

People enrolled in this program were given reimbursement for attending, and I'm afraid that this reimbursement was the principal motive for enrolling on the part of a majority of these students. However, there was a minority that was anxious to learn anything that could benefit their agricultural enterprises, and these made any work needed to provide solid information more than worthwhile. Needless to say, these were my favorite students and made the whole program seem worth the effort. The attitude of most Poly students when I arrived, and their "hard" questions, made my job as an instructor involve long hours, but also caused me to learn along with the students.

Because there were so many returning veterans, demand for enrollment in the five required courses I was assigned to teach exceeded the seating capacity of the assigned classrooms. Some "unofficial" scheduling was made, in order to minimize the time required to achieve a degree and expedite the process of completing required courses. This really displeased the registrar. The "hands on" approach with livestock projects and term papers, as well as senior projects, was not new when I arrived on the faculty, and I feel fortunate in having this as a plan of action to guide my instructional material presentation. That this "hands-on" doctrine is successful is evidenced by the fact that many of the largest feedlots and ranches in the United States were, and are, managed by Poly graduates. Further evidence of the practicality of the "hands-on" philosophy is the fact that universities in many states have imitated the Poly learn-by-doing method. "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery."

After I resigned from the faculty, a former student and the company that bought his company employed me for 27 years. During that time, I worked with graduates of many other universities, as well as Poly graduates. I can honestly say that in the types of businesses in which we were involved, those with a Poly background were usually more practical in their approach to problems and didn't expect impossible results as often as graduates of other agricultural universities. I will always be grateful for the chance to be part of Poly, as a student and faculty member. -- Tom Brannum



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