Temple Grandin visits the Auburn College of Agriculture

a blond woman in an orange dress with a handbag over her shoulder leans over a table to speak to Temple Grandin, who is seated

Grandin brought message of inclusion to Women in Agriculture program

The Auburn University College of Agriculture hosted Temple Grandin, world-renowned academic, animal behaviorist and autism advocate, on Monday, Feb. 26, as part of the college’s Women in Agriculture program.

Grandin is a prominent author and speaker on both autism and animal behavior and a professor of animal science at Colorado State University. She has a successful career consulting on both livestock handling equipment design and animal welfare. A 2010 Emmy Award-winning biopic starring Claire Danes detailed her early life.

Grandin spent the day on campus, visiting with students in the colleges of agriculture, education and veterinary medicine. She was also the keynote speaker at the sold-out Women in Agriculture luncheon, where she shared her story and an address about the need for people who think differently.

“I want to talk today about the different ways people think and how they approach problem-solving,” Grandin said at the luncheon, held at the Alfa Pavilion at Ag Heritage Park.

“We need the skills of people who think differently, and I’m seeing too many people who think differently get shoved into special ed. But we need their skills.”

Grandin — who is on the autism spectrum — shared the three kinds of thinkers: visual thinkers like herself, mathematic thinkers and verbal thinkers. She compared her thoughts and memories to GIFs (graphics interchange format images) — they are like small moving pictures in her mind.

“When I first started [my career], I didn’t know that other people didn’t think in pictures,” she said. “Everything I think about is a picture. If I can’t make a graphics file in my mind, I don’t remember it.”

Her form of thinking is part of her success: As an animal behaviorist, she can more easily see what animals — sensory-based thinkers — are seeing and how it affects their behavior.

According to Grandin, there are strengths to all three kinds of thinkers. Visual thinkers — also known as object visualizers — are excellent mechanics, animal specialists, and highly skilled tradespeople. Pattern thinkers have a more mathematical mind and make great engineers, computer programmers and scientists. Verbal thinkers make excellent writers, lawyers and teachers.

“Visual thinkers see risk,” she said. “Mathematicians calculate risk. Verbal thinkers discuss it.”

She also expressed her apprehension about how today’s educational models exclude the different types of thinking in favor of broad, uniform instruction.

“My concern is that we’re cutting out some of our best veterinarians with all these math requirements,” she said. “I’m very, very concerned about this. Because you need the kind of thinking that a visual thinker does.”

Grandin signed copies of her book “Visual Thinking: The Hidden Gifts of People Who Think in Pictures, Patterns, and Abstractions” following the luncheon. The visit concluded with a private screening of “An Open Door,” a forthcoming documentary on Grandin’s life and work, directed by award-winning filmmaker John Barnhardt and executive produced by John Festervand, who also visited campus with Grandin on Monday.

The Women in Agriculture program at Auburn University seeks to connect women in agriculture, empower them through a program of professional networking, and encourage them to lead and mentor up-and-coming young female agricultural leaders.

“It is not every day we get the honor of having a true trailblazer like Dr. Grandin on campus,” said Amy Wright, associate dean for instruction in the College of Agriculture. “We appreciate all those who came to be a part of it: colleagues across campus, college students, prospective students, alumni, industry partners and friends. We’re all here to learn from this legendary woman in agriculture.”

Click here for more pictures from Grandin’s visit.


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Feb 26, 2024 | Feature, Women in Ag

<p><a href="https://agriculture.auburn.edu/author/kmo0005auburn-edu/" target="_self">Kristen Bowman</a></p>

Kristen Bowman

Kristen Bowman is a communications and marketing specialist with the College of Agriculture. She received her bachelor's degree in journalism from Auburn University and loves reading and spending time with her husband and two children.

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