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On the Mooove: Grad Shauna Somerville’s CALS Dairy Story

Young woman in a red cap and gown holding a goat

The average college student completes a bachelor’s degree in four to six years. NC State senior Shauna Somerville is earning hers in three. Did we mention she’s only 20 years old?

Somerville grew up in Gaston County and was mostly homeschooled by her mother. During high school, she took community college classes at Gaston College. She brought in 24 credits to NC State.

Choosing NC State

NC State was one of three schools with dedicated agriculture programs Somerville was considering before ultimately choosing NC State. 

“NC State has a better animal science program,” Somerville said. “I did research, and I realized I didn’t know if I wanted to go into research or if I wanted to go into extension or what I wanted to do exactly, but NC State’s agriculture program appeared stronger. I think there is a lot more research going on here.”

She also had to consider cost and paying out-of-state or in-state tuition. She received financial packages, including one from NC State.

“It worked out coming to NC State. I could plan financially a little bit better to come here,” Somerville said. She also believed an NC State degree would give her more learning and study abroad opportunities, as well as greater career choices..

Path to CALS

Growing up on a small scale agri-tourism farm, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the Department of Animal Science became the perfect fit for Somerville. But her college and career path might have been different had it not been her mom.

“I definitely wouldn’t be where I am without her and her crazy idea to start a farm, even when she didn’t really like animals at the time,” she said. ‘I’m pretty sure God is telling me to start a farm, but I don’t really know why? I don’t know how to farm, but I think we’re going to get some animals.’”

They started with rabbits. “She originally got them to teach me about reproduction when I was six years old.” The rabbits  would play a major role in Somerville’s future. Soon they got other animals, including horses, cows, goats, chickens, pigs and more. 

Most of Somerville’s interest in the dairy industry and business management came from milking her own cow and starting a business in high school.

“My mom made a bet that I would only milk her for two weeks because she thought it would be too much work.” Four years later, Somerville had to stop milking her cow to come to college.

[pullquote align=”right” color=”red”]There’s so much more you can do in CALS with an animal science degree.[/pullquote]

Before Somerville and her mom started the farm, the NC State student thought she would be a veterinarian when she grew up. In her senior year of high school, she realized there was more she could do with an animal science degree besides becoming a vet.

“It’s important to educate freshmen and sophomores on their opportunities going forward. There’s so much more you can do in CALS with an animal science degree. I think that’s something people don’t realize. It’s not just about being a vet. There’s so many other outlets you can go into and learn about.”

One of the things she learned while growing up was how disconnected people are from agriculture. “Coming to school was always more than getting a degree. I really wanted to learn how to scientifically engage with people that have no idea about our culture.” Part of her learning experience at NC State was being a teaching assistant for Billy Flowers, a William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor in the Department of Animal Science.

“I learned how important quantifying data is, especially for animals. It helps producers be more efficient while being economically profitable. That’s really the value of research.”

Next Chapter

She also interned with ABS Global — a bovine reproduction company where she traveled to New York and Ohio. She was able to go on several farms, interacting with different producers to learn more about bovine reproduction. She enjoyed it so much that she will move to Ohio in July to become a reproduction program technician for ABS Global. 

“We’re basically helping dairy farmers and producers look forward to their next generation herd, see what they really want in their herd, and then breed their current herd for what they want in the future,” Somerville said.

Somerville will graduate from NC State with magna cum laude honors and several experiences. In addition to being a teaching assistant for Flowers, she served as treasurer, historian and president of the Dairy Science Club at NC State, was a CALS career coach under Career Center Director Sara Lane and studied abroad in Ireland with the Global Food Systems and Sustainable Agriculture trip.

“Raleigh has become my home over the past few years, largely because of the community I’ve built,” she said. “I know I’ll be able to interact with the community in my new job and promote the dairy industry, but I will miss the excitement and constant learning environment at NC State.”

Discover more amazing CALS students like Shauna.

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