Ryan Gunderson didn't grow up on a farm, nor does he live on one now. But as a teenager, Gunderson visited his uncle's dairy farm in Montana, sparking his interest in the social implications of modern livestock production.
"That radically altered my way of perceiving food systems and also how humans treat animals," he said. "It was eye opening."
Gunderson, who grew up in the mining town of Gillette in northeast Wyoming, comes to MSU as a doctoral candidate in sociology. He's also a student in the Animal Studies and Environmental Science and Policy programs.
As a master's student in sociology at the University of Wyoming, Gunderson's main academic focus was on intensive livestock production and how capitalism is driving its growth, he said.
At MSU, he's combining that experience with his interests in environmental sociology and animal studies – "the social forces that affect animal life and human-animal relationships." His current projects consider the consequences of modern, large-scale livestock production on animal welfare, public health and the environment.
Gunderson also is interested in what he sees as society's problem of not fully understanding "where food comes from."
Gunderson is taking advantage of the lure that brought him to MSU: interdisciplinary research.
"How interdisciplinary MSU is was a big draw for me," he said.
Gunderson received his bachelor's in social studies education and master's in sociology from the University of Wyoming. "I'm coming from one land grant university to another," he said. His goal is to stay in academia upon graduation. He admits to being a "pretty dorky kid" with a heavy time commitment to his studies, but finds time to play guitar in his spare time.