Margaret “Peggy” Root

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Inventors and Innovators

lightbulb iconAn organization’s survival depends on people who eschew the status quo and encourage change. Our college has many individuals who find new ways to better serve the veterinary community. We salute those who lead us into a brighter future.

PEOPLE: THE HEART OF THE CVM

Margaret “Peggy” Root

Over the next decade, Dr. Margaret “Peggy” Root Kustritz will spend most of her time ensuring that the veterinary students and faculty at the College of Veterinary Medicine receive the best education and educational support possible.

“When I started veterinary school, I was told I would be a vet for 40 years, so I should be sure I wanted to do it,” she says. “In 10 years, it will have been 40 years. In the last 10 years of my career, I want to make the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine even better known for the education of its veterinary students, and I want to make my colleagues’ lives easier by serving them in how they teach. I want to retire feeling like I’ve left behind a good working system.”

A former member of the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Council on Education, Root served as an accreditor of U.S. veterinary colleges and now serves as a site visitor for the council. In the process, she has developed a deep understanding of what it takes to provide a world-class veterinary education. Every seven years, veterinary schools undergo major reviews.

“Being a site visitor and having been an accreditor gives me extra insight into what it takes to be ready when our college has its site visit, and it has helped the college be more strategic in planning for it,” she says.

That background also helped prepare Root to oversee the development and implementation of the college’s current veterinary curriculum, which it started rolling out in 2013 and fully implemented in 2016. Root headed up the curriculum review board, which consisted of two representatives from each department within the college. The board first reviewed the literature to determine what framework to use for the revised curriculum and then requested input from faculty. Prior to implementation, the faculty had to approve the changes. Root and other administrators are already working on the next major review.

Peggy Root in the classroom

A board-certified theriogenologist, Root has authored or coauthored four veterinary textbooks and a book for dog breeders. Her first textbook has been translated into Korean and Persian, and another is available in Spanish.

Root’s affinity for teaching began in the mid-1990s, when she was working as a veterinary resident at the college.

“I had to teach, and I was terrified of it,” she recalls. “But I was lucky to have a very good mentor, Dr. Shirley Johnston, who taught me how to teach a little more wisely. Today I love teaching. Love, love, love it. That’s why I’m here.”

In addition to her work with the veterinary curriculum, Root has also been on the cutting edge of online coursework. Years before laptops, iPads, and smartphones, she designed her first class to be an online course, but the students weren’t ready for it. By contrast, students today expect every course to have an online presence.

Root was the first theriogenologist in the world to offer a MOOC (massive open online course), which enrolled 8,000 people from around the world. She also was the first to offer an online class and listserv through the American College of Theriogenologists for residency training.

There is nothing as lovely as going from interviewing someone who wants to be a veterinarian to watching him or her walk across the stage at commencement.

As assistant dean of education, Root provides professional development and educational support to the faculty, supervises the education support group, and oversees Education Day and semimonthly teaching seminars.

Root grew up in South Saint Paul and skipped second grade.

“There was never any question that all of my brothers and sisters and I would go to college,” she says. Yet neither her mother nor her father was a college graduate. Her mother, a quilter, worked at Minnesota Fabrics, and her father dropped out of high school to fight in World War II. When he returned from the war, he completed a GED and got his boiler’s license to become a stationary engineer.

A wife, and mother of three daughters, Root plays piano and handbells and is a cantor for her church. She’s also a former master gardener and a three-time Dakota County baking champion for her sourdough bread, apple pie, and jellyroll. But she gets her biggest thrill from teaching.

“There is nothing as lovely as going from interviewing someone who wants to be a veterinarian to watching him or her walk across the stage at commencement,” she says. “And then when you see them at a meeting and they say, ‘I have this great job. I’m working in the clinic where I really wanted to work,’ it’s like being a mom and watching your children achieve. It’s a wonderful feeling.”