Bryon Wiegand: devoted to preparing students for the animal agriculture industry

Bryon Wiegand’s easygoing attitude, ability to strike up a conversation with anyone and his continuous interest in student success make him a welcome face in the MU animal sciences department. His daily words of wisdom, jokes and charisma make him a highly sought-after adviser, mentor and professor.

A Surprising Outcome

Wiegand grew up on family farm and dreamed of working in the animal industry.

“My involvement in 4-H and other agriculture commodity groups allowed me to learn the mechanics of the animal world,” Wiegand said.

This knowledge sparked a passion within him for the animal health sector and shaped his goal of becoming a veterinarian. Wiegand began the pursuit of this dream with his admission to MU as an animal sciences major.

His time as a student in the animal sciences department was spent fulfilling the requirements for admission to the MU Veterinary School. After submitting his application, waiting for an answer became a daily concern. The letter every veterinary school applicant anxiously awaits arrived later that year.

“My dream of becoming a veterinarian was cut short when I received my denial letter to the MU Veterinary School,” Wiegand said.

At this point, it seemed that the countless hours of studying and exams had come to an end.

Two days before graduation, William Herring, a professor in the animal sciences department, approached Wiegand. The meeting that followed was a defining moment — Herring suggested he pursue graduate school.

While not exactly what he had planned, Wiegand embraced the new opportunity. In 1997, he graduated with a master’s degree in quantitative genetics from Auburn University and went on to obtain a Ph.D. in meat science and muscle biology from Iowa State University in 2000.

A Desire to Inspire

While at Auburn, Wiegand spent time teaching, which opened a new door in his professional career. This classroom experience led him to teach at Illinois State University and then to his first alma mater, MU, where he currently teaches several undergraduate and graduate courses.

According to his students, Wiegand’s classroom persona is best described as personable and relatable. His teaching methods make the material relevant to the students lives, making them want to keep coming to class.

“He never treats anyone as if he is better then them,” said Katy Shircliff, a graduate research assistant and doctoral meat science student. “Wiegand connects with students beyond the normal student-teacher relationship as he sets students up to solve real life situations, which is where real learning occurs. He has the ability to convey the material in a way that students can not only learn it, but retain it.”

Wiegand works to guide his students through real-life scenarios and application of knowledge within the agriculture industry.

“Being in the classroom is full of rewards, but the most rewarding aspect is when students have an ah-ha moment and they finally process a difficult concept,” Wiegand said.

His ability to influence students does not rest solely in the content of the classes he teaches. Wiegand works to prepare students for their futures by helping them realize the importance of a strong work ethic, dedication, sincerity and mentorship.

“I always tell my students that they cannot be afraid to work, and they need to align themselves with other successful people to achieve their goals,” Wiegand said.

An Award-Winning Faculty Member

Wiegand has a natural ability to lead and teach students. His skills are evident not only to his students, but also to his colleagues and peers. Wiegand received the American Society of Animal Science Distinguished Teaching Award in 2012 and the American Meat Science Association Distinguished Teaching Award in 2013.

Last spring, Wiegand received one of five William T. Kemper Fellowship for Teaching Excellence awards at MU. This award recognizes faculty members who are dedicated to improving the human condition and quality of life through education.

“Wiegand’s knowledge of the meat industry and his ability to facilitate a positive learning environment made him a qualified candidate for the Kemper award,” said Zach Callahan, a research specialist within Wiegand’s meat science and muscle biology lab. “He always keeps his classes interesting and facilitates discussion that relates to real-life scenarios.”

Balancing Act

Aside from his roles at MU, Wiegand has a family and a farming operation. He enjoys bow hunting deer and turkeys. He also raises Southdown sheep with his wife and three kids.

“My ability to balance my professional and my personal life is due to the fact they are often intertwined between our livestock and my kids involvement in 4-H,” he said.

Wiegand also advises many undergraduate and graduate students. Katy Shircliff, a graduate advisee completed her master’s degree under Wiegand and is now pursuing her Ph.D. Shircliff admires Wiegand’s ability to balance his personal life with a successful career.

“Wiegand is a great example of how it’s okay to have your cake and eat it too,” Shircliff said. “He has it all: a job, a family and a farm. All of his irons in the fire force him to rely on good people back at the office at times, but this enables him to devote time to his family.”

Courtney Spencer

About the Author Courtney Spencer

My passion for agriculture and the livestock industry began at a young age. I grew up on a small purebred beef cattle operation where my family and I raise gelbvieh and balancer cattle. I began showing cattle as soon as I could walk and have spent every summer exhibiting cattle at the local, state, regional and national levels. I have quickly found my fit in the Animal Sciences department and am excited to gain some writing and communications experience through my involvement with CAFNR Corner Post.