By Amber Friedrichsen
Sometimes reading a chapter of a textbook can feel like a chore. Small font, long paragraphs, and seemingly unending content is enough to intimidate even the most ambitious students. Children’s books, on the other hand, are easy to enjoy and even include colorful illustrations. Take a break from academic reading to check out this animal science professor’s newly published children’s book.
Jill Paxton, assistant teaching professor of animal science, recently published her first children’s book, “The Adventures of Logan and Bailey: Lost in the Woods.” The light-hearted tale depicts a boy and his dog who venture into a forest and must find their way home.
The plot and characters of Paxton’s book were inspired by her grandson, Jett, and his four-legged friend, Rudy. When Iowa State University classes moved online due to COVID-19 last year, she was able to spend more time at home with her grandson, and the idea for her story took shape on a walk the two of them took one day.
Throughout the writing process, Paxton, Jett and Rudy continued taking walks in the woods. She took pictures of Jett and Rudy that were later transformed into the illustrations found in the book. Paxton said she was excited to see her work come together, although she noted the publication process required a lot of time and patience.
“I loved the creative process and tying it together with the time spent with my grandson,” Paxton said. “It was so much fun taking pictures and then seeing the final illustrations as the book came together.”
After approximately one year, “The Adventures of Logan and Baily: Lost in the Woods” was ready for sale. It is currently sold in-store and online; however, Paxton’s intentions for the book went beyond getting to see it stacked on shelves. “I wanted to leave a legacy for my grandson,” she said. “Years from now, he will be able to share the book with his children and it will bring back memories of the time we spent together.”
In addition to capturing cherished memories, Paxton’s book educates young readers about what to do if they find themselves in an unfamiliar situation. She is looking forward to writing more adventures of Logan and Bailey and continue teaching children valuable life lessons. One of her story ideas includes the characters discovering a baby raccoon, communicating to readers how to safely interact with wild animals.
The guidance Paxton offers in her writing is similar to the support she provides in her classrooms. Paxton teaches upper-level equine courses that help students develop professional skills to apply in their careers.
One of those classes is Animal Science 415: Equine Systems Management. In this course, students survey hundreds of jobs within the equine industry and hear from several business leaders from a variety of backgrounds.
“I bring in speakers to talk to students about careers and career choices, marketing, liability insurance, and establishing veterinary practices,” Paxton explained. “This helps students network and realize there is more to the horse industry than riding, training and shoeing. It helps them with the transition into the real world.”
Stepping into the real world can be difficult, but Macy Underwood, senior in animal science, said being a student and teaching assistant of Paxton’s has given rise in her confidence to put her best foot forward.
“Dr. Paxton has impacted my education by showing me hard work does pay off,” Underwood said. “She sets up her classes so that if you want to succeed in them, you must put in the effort. This will be truly advantageous in the workplace as being hard-working is a highly valued trait.”
A major assignment in Animal Science 415 is completing a 40-page business plan. Although this task may seem daunting, Paxton said learning how to create such a document is an important skill to have. She has had many students graduate and use their plan to start their own businesses, providing services such as horse breeding, horse training, and photography.
Writing a business plan includes technical writing and demands critical thinking, and these can be challenging to facilitate at times. Nonetheless, Paxton is continuously refining her teaching style to improve students’ understanding of her course objectives and assignments, which Underwood said does not go unnoticed.
“I admire Dr. Paxton’s commitment to her students’ achievements and her willingness to ensure our success,” Underwood said. “She is a professor who will reach out to struggling students, offer assistance, and answer any questions we may have.”
While students can learn about the equine industry in the classroom, they can also acquire knowledge abroad. Paxton is the faculty director for the German Equestrian study abroad program scheduled for May 2022. On this trip, students will visit many cities in Germany to tour equestrian facilities, as well as historic landmarks and cathedrals.
Paxton is no stranger to the European equine industry. As a renowned judge in the U.S., she has been invited to judge horse shows in many different countries, including Germany, Holland, Denmark, and the Czech Republic. Paxton is grateful that traveling has widened her world view, and she created the German Equestrian study abroad program to give students a similar opportunity to gain a better perspective of the international equine industry.
“This trip ties together my teaching and judging experience in a unique way. I hope when it’s over students want to travel and learn more,” Paxton said. “Horses have taken me to so many new places where I have had the opportunity to meet wonderful people who share their equine interests and passions with me. I am so fortunate. It has been amazing.”
Whether they are children reading a book, college students in a classroom, or horse exhibitors overseas, Paxton has proven to be a positive influence in many people’s lives. Her writing, teaching and equine expertise serve as inspiration for her students working toward fulfilling career goals of their own.