Campus Celebrity: Dr. Ange-van Heugten

Dr. Ange-van Heugten, the professor for my Introduction to Companion Animals (ANS 105) class makes it fun to learn about how to take care of animals in practical ways as opposed to just learning how to examine and treat animals. You learn more practically what you can do to take care of animals even if you are not going to be a veterinarian or a person working with animals for a career. I also love how she helps students realize different point-of-views.  We also discuss controversial issues and find points based on factual information to support or change our beliefs. Lastly, I love the animals that come into our class and it always makes my day a lot brighter when I see dogs, parrots, and cats in my class.

Where did you go to school?
I did my bachelor’s and master’s degrees here at NC State.  I did my PhD at Wageningen University in the Netherlands.  

What are some of your favorite experiences working with animals?
Some of my favorite experiences are working with exotics animals.  I loved traveling to Africa and seeing many animals in their natural habitats such as cheetahs, elephants, zebras, and giraffes.  I loved to see where the animals are supposed to be naturally.  I have worked the most with the Woolly Monkey to do electrocardiogram heart exams.  The species of Woolly Monkey is critically endangered so I find it especially rewarding. I hope some of those things I do in zoos help to take care of animals in captivity better and to help them repopulate and grow in population.  

In the classroom, I love how students are impacted by animals in class such as Megan Standish with her service dogs.  Megan Standish's dogs help detect seizures early so that she can stop them before they happen.  Also, a guest speaker who lost her sight, husband, daughter, and photography career began to make her life better with a service dog.  The service dog allowed her to live her life again after so much difficulty and struggle.  Whatever your major is, animals can have a profound effect on people’s lives.  I love to see students get that animals are not just pets and that they can have a profound effect on people’s lives no matter what their major is.

How did you go from working with animals directly to teaching a class about animal?
The traditional route.  My husband was here at NC State and I was working at the zoo in Illinois.  This position became available and I applied and I got it.  We wanted to be together and this job paid more.  I have been able to work with animals directly still especially in my work and the work of graduate students.  I still miss being in the field, but I would still miss teaching and making an impact on my students.  Ideally, my perfect job would be doing 50 percent of field work and teaching.

What is hardest part about being a teacher for you?  What do you love about your job?
One of the hardest things is to always be engaging and to make students want to listen and want to learn.  I don’t want students to be bored while sitting there for an hour.  I try to bring in current events, pictures, and animals to make the class fun.  If I can keep their attention, they will take away more from this class.  When I teach three classes in a row, it is hard to be engaging.

Also, it is hard to always be fair and consistent in grading and to keep the same rules for every student.  No matter how well I know a student, I want to keep the same conditions for all students.

Also, time is an issue with grading and handing back assignments because there are so many students.  I teach all large classes.  There is a part of me that wishes I could teach smaller classes.  I want to have students write more papers, have more discussions on controversial issues, and to see if students have the same point-of-views as when they started the class which I can't do as much in a larger class.  With a large class, I would not have enough time to grade 200 papers and teaching assistants cannot grade all these papers because it wouldn’t be fair for different people to grade it.  I would have to grade all papers to be fair and consistent.  I want to do these assignments to help students to learn to write and think critically.  I believe learning to think critically and to write are very important for any person.  .

I love the fact that I am able to teach a class that is fun in which students are passionate about and interested in the lessons taught.  I love the impact I have on my students and that they understand that we can be better advocates for animals and people (treating animals and people better go hand-in-hand).  I love the flexibility since I am the mom of four children and that I am still able to go to their events while still working full-time.   

In your opinion, what do you believe a teacher should be?
A teacher should be someone who shows you how to find the information and how to make decisions for yourself.  When the teacher is gone, you have the skills to tell if an online article is true and to know if a type of dog food is good for your dog through actual research.  Also, a teacher should be someone who makes you think and gets you background information for your thoughts.  A teacher should get you engaged in the class and still teach the basic information in a interactive way that keeps students interested.

One thing that I love about your class is that anyone that loves animals can take your class since it is not limited to animal science, zoology, or science majors.  The students who take your class learn about how to take care of their animals no matter what their future career or current major may be. How do you create this kind of environment where students of all majors feel welcome and love the class when it is still an animal science class?

Part of that is that this is a 100-level class.  I only let freshman and sophomore take this class.  I don’t want any upperclassmen whether they have animal science majors or have different majors in my class since they would dominate the discussions.  I have 20 to 30 upperclassmen ask me if they can get in every semester and I always say no.  I try to talk about a broad number of species.  I talk about a broad number of species because I want everyone in the class to have something in the class is new to them.  This creates that environment where no one dominates a discussion because there is a lesson that every student will not know.  I like the fact that different majors are in my classes since it brings in new ideas and new faces.  Otherwise, we might not discuss the controversial issues in class since there would be more of consensus with students who all thought the same way. I love the diversity in this class whereas my other animals science classes such as animal nutrition are almost 100% upperclassmen animal science majors.

We have had some interesting animals come into class.  I always love it when dogs come into the class, but I love other animals coming in as well.  So far, we have had companion animals of students such as Black Labrador Retrievers, a Golden Retriever, a Doberman, a Doberman Pinscher, a Boxer, and cats from a rescue, and a skink and a tarantula. Students have also brought in a parrot from Phoenix’s landing which is a parrot rescue and a rabbit from Wake County Animal Shelter.  We also will have snakes and bearded dragons brought in to the class.  We also had four service dogs (one of which was a Great Dane and another was a Wire-haired Pointer.  The other two service dogs were an Italian greyhound and Chihuahua.) come with Ms. Megan Standish as part of her talk on her Tri-Tails service dog training for people with disabilities.  
What has been your favorite companion animal so far?
My favorite companion animals so far have been the 2 Black Labrador Retrievers that played and interacted with each other and with everyone in the room.  I love watching animals play and interact with each other and people because dogs should be happy and want to interact with others.  It was hard to teach over them and it can be distracting to the lecture, but I still loved them.  Some students get scared over certain dogs and all students loved these two Black Labrador Retrievers.  I want everyone to not be scared of dogs and to love them.  The kittens were my second favorite from the student who fosters them because that is a potential way for people to know about how to adopt animals.

This is part of the same question
We also talk about animal rights issues and animal welfare and we are given the freedom to decide on controversial issues.  We are given point-of-views from both sides.  Then, we decide what view we personally adopt.  A controversial issue covered was the pulling of Pedigree funding from the Crufts dog show for showing breeds of dogs that had severe genetic and health issues.  Other issues were whether declawing for cats should be done or not, what to do about feral cats, and “bully” breed bans.
How do you strive to create an environment in your class that supports opinions that are both sides of the argument?


I love the opportunities to apply what we learn in class outside of class.  Some of these ideas include whether or not dog shows are acceptable for dogs.  We also get to see exotic animals at NCSU Exposition Center.  Another outside opportunity was the Dog Gone Fast Fly ball Tournament which was a chance to see if training and agility competitions are good, safe, and proper for the dogs in it.  Finally, the last event was the American Kennel Club Responsible Dog Ownership Day as part of Responsible Dog Ownership Month in September.  What do you hope students take away from these opportunities to apply knowledge from class in real life situations?

You promote making dogs seem as friendly especially dogs that are thought to be “scary” but are not scary in reality.  You do not support breed bans such as the Pit Bull ban breed in Denver and other areas around the United States.  Pit Bulls have also been banned on military bases and housing.  All dogs, not just specific breeds of dogs can bite just like any human can be dangerous.  It is not right to ban all dogs of a certain breed because of a few dogs that are dangerous.  What can ordinary citizens who may not know about these acts of ignorance do to be part of the solution?

What was your favorite feel-good story of the semester? 
Mine was of the dog, Faith, who learned how to walk (with her owner’s help) despite being born with only two legs.  I love the sentence where the owner says "she plans to take Faith around the world to show that even an imperfect body can have a perfect soul."  I also loved the article of the woman punching the bear to save her dog from being killed.  I love both of these because they both show how much animals are loved by their owners since they will go to such extreme measures to protect and care for them.

The bear article scares me because someone might get hurt doing this (because they think this is what they should do in situations like these).  I like the Faith article more because it shows that animals can overcome adversity with a great and caring owner as well as with a great support system. I have seen the personal effects of having animals in one’s life and how animals can transform a person’s life and happiness around.  I love spending time with animals.  I recommend spending time with animals for anyone who needs a purpose.  These animals bring ten times the joy that you bring to them because they are amazing at bringing joy and happiness into the lives of others.  

How have you seen the personal effects in the lives of people who have animal companions?
I have people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and autism feel happier and safer due to the companionship of animals.  Many people feel happier and are able to live better lives through animals.  For example, Temple Grandin (famous professor of animal science at Colorado State University with autism).  She used to sit in the corner and bang her head against the wall in elementary school.  However, her parents were very proactive in getting her involved in different opportunities and helping her to be a healthy person.  

Also, there are multiple research studies done about people who love and spent time with animals compared to people who did not spent time with animals.  These people were found to have lower blood pressure, were healthier, and lived longer than people who did not spend time with animals.