Professorship Powers Innovative Instruction

Dr. Locke Karriker examining swine with students

His mom is an educator. So are his sisters.

Yet Locke Karriker never considered teaching as a profession.

“Teaching was the furthest thing from my mind,” said Karriker. “I was a pig vet.”

How things have changed. Karriker is still a pig vet but he has become a teacher. And a pretty good one at that.

He is the initial recipient of the Dr. Douglas and Ann Gustafson Professorship for Teaching Excellence in Veterinary Medicine. He was also recently named a Morrill Professor at Iowa State, which recognizes outstanding teaching faculty.

“Now, I think I’m always teaching,” Karriker said.

And as director of Iowa State’s Swine Medicine Education Center, the nation’s only national center devoted to swine education, Karriker is not only educating Iowa State veterinary students. He’s also teaching students and veterinary professionals from throughout the world on the most progressive, evidence-based practices in pork production and health assurance.

To fund many of those projects he relies on the Gustafson Professorship.

“The best way I can describe how I use the Gustafson funds is that they fuel the critical last mile to getting projects started,” he said.

Over the past several years, Karriker has used the Gustafson funding to help pay a post-doctoral student in swine medicine. The center’s faculty, staff and students have traveled to seminars and conferences they otherwise would not have been able to attend.

When the COVID pandemic descended upon the nation, Karriker dipped into the Gustafson fund to explore new teaching ideas.

“COVID hit swine students hard,” Karriker said. “Traveling to swine facilities was off the table for those students, which was an important component in our instruction.”

In a matter of days, the SMEC team had to move its courses on-line.

“Teaching clinical swine medicine to fourth-year veterinary students is challenging in normal times,” Karriker said. “Livestock producers and their veterinarians are increasingly worried about biosecurity and are more and more reluctant about allowing us to bring students to their farms.”

COVID provided the perfect opportunity for Karriker and his team to become a leader in perfecting remote instruction for clinical teaching by testing ideas they had been considering. The team quickly created an online learning platform and digital library through a Moodle resource shared with Iowa State’s Center for Food Security and Public Health.

The resource was offered to students and veterinarians and houses swine specific resources, training materials and educational videos on nearly every medical technique that would be required for swine practice.

“The Gustafson funds and the flexibility they provide to do such projects are invaluable,” Karriker said.

“I like to invest these in new ideas. That’s the real value of these funds.”

November 2021