Jenny Strooband: 'I have the best job on campus'

Woman standing in field with two horses

Jenny Strooband had a student once who’d never left the Willamette Valley.

The student grew up in Falls City, west of Monmouth (population: 947 in the 2010 census). She came to Strooband’s Equine Science program at Linn-Benton Community College essentially just because she liked horses. 

She was the first in her family to go to college, and her family was skeptical she’d somehow find a career out of a hobby, Strooband recalled.

“We helped her get a competitive paid internship in Kentucky,” Strooband said. “She’d never been on an airplane.”

The student interned at the racehorse farm, then was offered a job when she finished. 

“She texted me a few months ago and said, ‘You won’t believe it, but I’m hauling $8 million of horses to the Keeneland Auction,” Strooband said with delight. “Here she is, she’s on this international stage, talking to Saudi princes about international racehorses. We helped her do that.”

Linn-Benton Community College helps change lives, and Strooband has been a part of it for 18 years.

“I always tell people I have the best job on campus, and it’s really true,” she said. 

What makes it so? Let Strooband count the ways: She gets to work outdoors. She gets to work with horses, something she has done most of her life anyway. She gets to combine her academic background in science - bachelor’s degree in biology and master’s in animal science - with professional and technical expertise.

Best of all, she said, she gets to show students how to do the same. 

“I get to introduce students to aspects of the equine industry that they really didn’t know existed,” she said, ticking off some of the examples: the racehorse student, of course, but also the students who now take cruise ship customers on trail rides in Alaska or who have started their own businesses in the equine industry. 

“Showing students how they can make money doing what they love - it’s so rewarding,” Strooband said. “I just feel really lucky.” 

Spring term 2020 was tough for agricultural sciences. LBCC has an active breeding program and spring is the horse management center’s busiest time. But keeping students safe from potential exposure to COVID-19 meant shutting down almost all on-campus work.

It was heartbreaking, Strooband said, to not be able to offer the usual in-person applied learning. Replicating the process of artificially inseminating a mare online just isn’t the same as practicing it yourself, she said, and it isn’t possible to just read about taking a greenbroke horse on its first trail ride.

“We did our best. We really scrambled. We worked very, very hard, kind of around the clock, for about three months nonstop to give them something that was close to that hands-on experience,” she said.

There were some benefits. Students were able to come for one on one ride days; fewer than they would have had under normal circumstances, but with “a ton of attention,” Strooband said.

And while they couldn’t sleep in the barn to wait while this year’s mares foaled, or help with collecting semen from the stallions for artificial insemination, they did get to see detailed videos of each procedure.

“The nice thing was, because of the technology, we could slow down; could talk through things that would normally happen very quickly,” Strooband said.

“I think it was great content,” she added. “I’ll probably use it for the rest of my teaching career.”

It wasn’t the same, of course, Strooband said, but she’s looking forward to fall and the outside labs she has been given permission to run. 

To Strooband, being part of the faculty at a community college means being perfectly positioned to help students discover their strengths and change their lives forever. 

Even better, she said, is working with a team full of people who all feel the same way.

“One of the reasons I love LBCC so much is I feel across the board, people who work at LB at all levels, really care deeply about the students,” she said. “When we’re all pulling the same direction, it feels so rewarding.”