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Retired professor urges students to pursue higher education

Progressive Dairyman Intern Jennifer Janak Published on 10 September 2014

So you’ve been going to school for four years; the bothersome question of “Where will I go next?” continues to linger.While many classmates will return to the home farm or adhere to an industry professional role, choosing to pursue a higher education may provide you with an array of opportunities.

Janak Marshall

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In the realm of higher education, there are two classifications of dairy science professionals, according to Dr. Robert T. Marshall, Arbuckle Professor Emeritus at the University of Missouri: the specialist and the generalist.

To clarify, a specialist in dairy science is likely to obtain research funding for a particular focus area from the government or industry and typically exposed to a limited segment of society. A generalist, on the other hand, is known throughout the industry and has worked on a spectrum of projects that, while in the beginning stages, have been supported by industry businesses.

“You must ask yourself, ‘What is your goal?’” Marshall says.

As a student, there are seven key factors to consider so that you may have success in a dairy profession, whether as a specialist or generalist:

  1. Education: Proper selection of schools and courses makes a difference in the route taken to accomplish a career goal. Consider your financial position, the programs and advisers available that best fit your needs. An outstanding education on all levels is the key to success.
  2. Location: Where are you? Where are you willing to go? A program halfway across the country may be intriguing, but you must first see if that location is feasible and if there are comparable opportunities nearer by. Are you willing to travel to that location for the opportunities that may be present?
  3. Family support: An unwavering support system is a must when pursuing a professional dairy career. Immediately from birth until your long-awaited retirement, family will always stand by your side.
  4. Personal interest: Pursuing a career that emphasizes and allows you to develop your personal interests is essential. Whether it be the sciences, technology, management, teaching or much more, make sure that your career path is able to guide your interests.
  5. Friends and connections: Much like family support, finding those friendships and professional connections will lead you into success. Don’t be afraid to reach out to organizations and get involved.
  6. Ability: Once you are pursuing a higher education, take the time to find opportunities in every aspect of your life. Be involved with organizations you are passionate about and take on larger leadership roles.
  7. Agreeable personality: As a dairy professional, there are many people you will encounter throughout your career. Focus on having an agreeable personality that allows you to reach your full potential and accomplish common goals.

Of the seven factors listed, Marshall believes that making friendships and lasting connections is guaranteed to open endless opportunities.

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“Having a connection with your adviser in college is highly important,” Marshall says. “Within the university and throughout your career, it’s more important to have a connection with your technician, secretary, graduate students, et al, because they need to establish confidence in you and you in them.”

After receiving his bachelor’s degree in food science from the University of Missouri, Marshall continued on to receive his master’s and Ph.D. from the same University.

Marshall says his decision to stay in Missouri was guided by economics, but more importantly, the opportunities that were presented to him as he pursued his education to further his career.

“Most students these days would choose a different school with perhaps a broader area of research,” Marshall says. “But for me, it was convenient. After my studies, in 1960, I was offered a teaching position within the dairy science department at the University of Missouri.”

For nearly 40 years, Marshall taught courses in dairy foods and microbiology, led extensive research related to bovine mastitis and focused much of his time to the outreach of organizations. He proudly coached the dairy products evaluation team and served as president for both the American Dairy Science Association (ADSA) and the International Association for Food Protection (IAFP).

“It was a tremendous blessing to work with many students,” Marshall says. “Coaching the dairy products evaluation team allowed me to meet so many people from major universities and departments. The networking was astounding.”

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He adds, “I did learn, however, that you can spread yourself too thin. In 1982, I accepted a nomination for president of IAFP, not knowing I would also become president of ADSA that same year. It’s important to know your limits and try to avoid in-depth and demanding kinds of duties with multiple organizations.”

Marshall has a distinguished list of accomplishments, from research in milk quality, microbial enzymes in dairy foods, cheese and even dairy plant operations. Perhaps his research in frozen dairy desserts has led to his proudest accomplishment, the creation of Tiger Stripe ice cream.

“We wanted to create a frozen dessert that expressed flavor and texture. It first began with my research in the methods to measure taste and preserving probiotic bacteria in frozen yogurt,” Marshall says.

With the assistance of an endowment supported by Dr. Wendell Arbuckle, Marshall was able to oversee the creation of Tiger Stripe ice cream, a novelty at the university.

Connections and outreach are pivotal elements in order to grasp opportunities that may further your dairy career. Marshall says his success is granted to the people he has met along the way, the international connections and the meaningful leadership roles he has been able to be a part of, as well as following the seven key factors for success.

Dr. Marshall considers himself to be a generalist; who will you become?

As you go about your education pursuing a career as a dairy science professional, think about the vast opportunities that have become available to you and how you will make the most out of your experiences through the seven key elements for a successful career as a specialist or a generalist. PD

Dr. Marshall was featured in ADSA’s Graduate Student Division Pioneer’s in Dairy Science Webinar Series with his presentation, “Dairy-Related Careers: Specialist or Generalist” held on April 16, 2014.

Jennifer Janak is a recent graduate of the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities and a Progressive Dairyman editorial intern.

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