Paige Stanley graduated from Georgia College with a degree in biology and a minor in economics in May 2015. During her four years, the opportunities she had at Georgia’s public liberal arts university allowed her to broaden her horizons and find her passion.
“In high school, I graduated as salutatorian. My goal then was to come to college and study viruses,” said Stanley.
During her sophomore year, Stanley and all other Georgia College students take a course called GC2Y, which focuses global perspectives in various disciplinary, multidisciplinary or interdisciplinary contexts. Stanley and her friend Taylor Winslow registered for a course that focused on the ethics of what we eat, and for both students, their lives were changed.
“The course was taught by Dr. Mark Causey, and it focused on animals in the food industry, animal abuse and the condition of workers in the industry,” said Stanley. “I walked out of that classroom one day and decided I had to make a change, and since then, my work has focused on that.”
Examining the ethics of our human relations with non-human animals and the evolutionary basis for human ethical systems was also instrumental to Winslow.
“Through the class, so much relevant information was brought up that I had never heard before. It opened up an entire area that I never knew anything about, much less was interested in,” said Winslow
A film they watched, in particular, really changed Stanley’s perspective on food and the beef industry.
“From that day on I knew my world had been altered forever,” said Stanley. “After seeing extreme cases of animal abuse and the conditions of the workers in the industry, I walked out of that room knowing I had to do all I could to make the industry more sustainable.”
As Stanley worked through her new mission in life, a chance conversation with Dr. Indiren Pillay, chair of the Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, opened a door to start researching ways to make that change.
“Dr. Pillay asked if I was interested in research, and I told him that I wanted to study the meat industry,” said Stanley. “He offered to allow me lab time and to design a project in my area of interest, so I reached out to Taylor to join me.”
The pair examined meats from local superstores and sustainable farms to determine the types and amounts of bacteria in the different products.
“We basically designed the research plan from start to finish,” said Winslow. “The experience definitely enhanced my enthusiasm for animal sciences and allowed us to do a hands-on research project.”
Their findings showed pathogens like E. coli and salmonella in some of the meats from chain stores, but none were found in the organic meats.
“I never dreamed coming to Georgia College that, as a biology major, a class taught by a philosophy professor on the ethics of what we eat would drastically change my path in life,” said Stanley. “It’s really the definition of the benefits of a liberal arts education.”
For Stanley, the next chapter of her life takes her to Michigan State University to pursue a master’s degree in animal science, with the hopes of ultimately making the meat industry more sustainable economically and more focused on animal welfare. Winslow will soon be applying to graduate programs to be a physician assistant.