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UWRF professor recognized as national future icon

December 7, 2016

After showing dedication to his teaching and research, a UW-River Falls professor has been recognized as one of 25 to change the meat and poultry industry.

Kurt Vogel, associate professor of animal and food science at UWRF, has been named one of the 25 future icons of the meat and poultry industry by The National Provisioner as part of its 125th anniversary edition. These 25 people, the magazine estimated, will change the industry over the next couple of decades.

According to the magazine’s website, Vogel was chosen as one of the 25 future icons because of his work at UWRF as well as being named the Kraft/Oscar Mayer Faculty Scholar of Livestock Welfare and Behavior in 2013. The magazine also stated that Vogel has found his way in the industry, “revolutionizing it one project, one study and one student at a time.”

Vogel said that was he was surprised when he heard that he was recognized by the magazine.

“It was something I didn’t really expect, and I think if I had the opportunity to nominate people, there are probably people that I would have put ahead of me for that recognition,” said Vogel. “But it was still quite an honor.”

For this recognition, people within the meat industry nominated people they believed would have an impact on the industry in the future. With these nominations, the editorial board of the magazine picked the people they wish to recognize.

Vogel said that the nomination has a lot to do with the people he had interacted with in the meat industry through running a consulting company that focuses on humane handling, slaughter and stunning practices for the meat industry.

“I’ve had interactions with a lot of people through that work, so I think that’s probably the main driver behind it,” said Vogel.

Vogel came to UWRF in 2010 because he always wanted to work in academics, as well as return to Wisconsin, where he and his wife are from. Vogel said that he enjoys working at UWRF because teaching is the top priority.

“I’ve never been to a university where there is such a single focus on teaching,” said Vogel.

Along with teaching, Vogel does research through the animal welfare lab at UWRF, working on applied research to see how management practices impact animal welfare. Vogel said research is important at the university level because it makes teaching come to life.

“The research experience helps to animate the things we talk about in the classroom, it helps to give us as instructors the experiences that we can speak from when teaching, and it helps the students then to actually have hands-on experience with what we’re trying to talk about and what we’re trying to teach,” said Vogel.

Although Vogel hopes to change the industry as the magazine suggests, he said he lives by the Henry Ford quote, “You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do.”

“That applies here in this case, that honestly we’ll see what it looks like 25 years from now or 30 years from now. And then we can ask the question about if I had an impact,” said Vogel. “In the meantime, we just have to do the best we can and see how it all shakes out.”

Vogel said that while outside recognition is appreciated, what really drives his priorities is his family and spending time in the classroom. However, he said, he can see his impact being through the students he teaches that have the opportunity to change the industry.

“They seem to have this ability to step past ideologies and to start asking questions, and that’s one thing I try really hard to do in my introductory animal welfare class, is to help the students break down these walls that we put up,” said Vogel.

Kaleiah Schiller, a senior animal science major with a companion animal emphasis, said she chose Vogel as a mentor due to his professionalism, experience and knowledge of research.

“Dr. Kurt Vogel is an astounding and open minded professor in that he creates a great learning environment for his students. He is able to introduce and communicate information regarding animal welfare in a way that is compelling to the industry, and often incorporates his own experiences to allow for a greater understanding and appreciation of animal production,” said Schiller. “As a mentor, Dr. Vogel has been continually supportive, and will remain one of my mentors as I enter graduate school.”

For all these reasons, Schiller said Vogel has earned a spot as a future icon.

“I trust Dr. Vogel has a lot to offer this university, and will serve as an excellent representative of the animal science field,” said Schiller. “Dr. Vogel has the character and humility that I hope to exhibit in the future as a professional.”