University of Vermont

Animal Science Experiences Qualify Her for No Less Than Top Job on Noah's Ark

Rebecca Calder's Diverse, Hands-On Education Earns Her Outstanding Senior Award

Rebecca Calder's UVM career includes UVM Farms experience with cattle, horses and even goats.

Rebecca Calder didn’t start out as a farm girl at all. She grew up in suburban neighborhood in Shelburne, Vermont, off Route 7. While she had a cat, dog and some fish, it was, as a six-year-old, tagging along with her older siblings to 4-H meetings at Shelburne Farms, that Rebecca started on an incredible path.

Shelburne Farms was once the 3,800-acre estate of William Seward and Lila Vanderbilt Webb and a model of agricultural practices at the turn of the 19th Century. Today the historic landmark on Lake Champlain is not just a tourist destination for its exquisite barns, groomed landscapes, inn, restaurant and award-winning farmhouse cheddar. It is a nonprofit, member-supported, environmental education center and 1,400-acre working farm that milks 125 purebred, registered Brown Swiss cows.

So when Shelburne Farms essentially became Rebecca Calder's childhood farm, (She even leased Brown Swiss cows to show at the county fairs.) the setting was a shade more "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm" than typical Vermont hardscrabble farm.

When she enrolled at the University of Vermont as a Green and Gold Scholar, she brought with her this love of agriculture and a number of other scholarships, including from 4-H. At UVM she received many more scholarships and honors while majoring in animal science, minoring in microbiology in UVM's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) She averaged 17 credits per semester with a near perfect grade point.

Calder’s work with cattle over the past four years is unprecedented. She interned at two large animal veterinary practices in St. Albans and Vergennes. She was a UVM CREAM herd advisor. (That stands for Cooperative for Real Education in Agricultural Management.) She was president of the UVM Pre-Vet Club, member of UVM Dairy Club and a 4-H Dairy Show manager at the Champlain Valley Exposition, giving up many Saturdays to lead 4-H kids from ages 8 to 18.

She prepared two undergraduate research grant proposals and was awarded both. She elected to pursue the project that allowed her to conduct part of her research the prestigious Plum Island Animal Disease Center in Orient Point, New York. She earned a UVM CALS distinguished undergraduate research award for this project, which she continued during her senior year in Professor John Barlow’s lab. She also worked at Green Mountain Antibody on a related project during her senior year.

But what’s interesting is that she also ’s not a strictly cattle person. She also enrolled in the equine management course, and as her teacher Jenny Wilkinson says, “she immersed herself in the horse barn spending extra time caring for her horse or seeking help from experienced students.” She was the first ever to receive a perfect score on her final project.

Her mentor John Barlow says, “Rebecca has a natural knack and a passion for animals. Her compassion radiates in whatever she does.”

Calder was a very hands-on volunteer at New England Ovis, a New Hampshire sheep operation; she was a nurse assistant at a local pet and exotic animal veterinary clinic; and returning to Shelburne Farms as the children's farmyard educator at Shelburne Farms, she became familiar with the full range of livestock there: from rabbits and turkeys to alpacas and draft horses.

Meanwhile, she volunteered with the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life and UVM Student Government Association. She’s a highly accomplished clarinetist with UVM Concert Band, Wind Ensemble and the Catamount Pep Band.

John Barlow says, she has incredible drive and must be a master of time management. It makes you wonder if she ever sleeps.”

Rebecca Calder’s incredibly diverse, hands-on experience and education in UVM's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences qualifies her for a top position in nothing less than Noah’s Ark.

For these and many other reasons, Calder was awarded the Lawrence K. Forcier Outstanding Senior Award at the CALS Alumni and Friends annual dinner on May 12 at the Davis Center on campus. Also receiving awards were 2012 Outstanding Alumni Barbara Moore '74 and Dennis Canedy '75, Robert O. Sinclair Cup career achievement award winners and emeriti faculty Mary Carlson G'93 and Frederick Magdoff.

After graduating from UVM on May 20, she will continue research in the Barlow lab and at Green Mountain Antibodies and enjoy a Vermont summer of camping and hiking with her family and a road trip to the South.

Among the five veterinary schools eager to have her next fall, she chooses to study at Cornell University. After earning her doctorate in veterinary medicine, she will likely become an extraordinary veterinary medical researcher, Barlow predicts.

"The Lawrence K. Forcier Outstanding Senior Award is like a wager,” said CALS Dean Tom Vogelmann in presenting the award. “It honors a student who has made excellent use of the rich resources and opportunities that UVM’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences offers all students. It awards a student who significantly helps fellow students and the community while excelling in a demanding academic program. It flags a young adult whom we bet will make a big difference in the world.” He added, “This year we’re betting on Rebecca Calder."

You can bet she will go far.