Goat Yoga stretches Comets’ bodies and minds

Rory Moore | Mercury Staff

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Students gathered at the Science Pavilion to cuddle with 13 goats during a free goat yoga session hosted by the Office of Graduate Education April 23. 

The Office of Graduate Education hosts the nationally-recognized Graduate Student Appreciation Week every year at the beginning of April to celebrate the contributions and impacts of graduate students. Last year, the celebration included yoga and a session with the same therapy dog group found at Paws for Finals. With the total solar eclipse taking a day away from the planned celebration, Beth Keithly — faculty grant and distinguished fellowships adviser — and Ruth Schemmer — assistant dean for graduate student success — thought to combine yoga and animals into a single event. 

“I actually had done goat yoga back in 2018,” Keithly said. “It was a charity event, but I remember thinking that it was fun and that the goats were very friendly and that it seemed to go very well.” 

Keithly reached back out to the group, which decided that Goat Yoga Rockwall would be the premiere attraction for the week-long celebration; the event was then postponed until April 10 because of concerns of hail and tornadoes.  

The morning of the rescheduled event began with the Parking Office guiding instructors onto campus. The flooring team from Facilities Management built a fenced pen for the goats, and UTDPD assisted with transporting the animals onto main campus. By 1 p.m., graduate students who had reserved a spot began to arrive for their yoga sessions, with masses of undergraduates surrounding the perimeter for the entire event. At 2 p.m., as a large protest passed the event, graduates were allowed to play with the goats. In total, 78 people signed waivers and attended the event.   

“The plan was there would be an hour of yoga, and then there would be an hour of [what] Goat Yoga Rockwell called [a] goat playdate,” Keithly said.  

Despite being closed off from entering the pen, a group of undergraduates figured out a way to steal goats’ attention. A group of students ripped off a nearby tree branch and proceeded to feed at least five goats, with one student temporarily picking up and removing a goat from the pen before returning it a minute later. 

“The owner of Goat Yoga Rockwall, Valerie, was very supportive,” Keithly said. “She’s like, ‘No, that’s great. I actually ran out of kibble.’ We just let the undergraduates do it, and it also worked out quite nicely because … in the Visitor Center there was an overlap with the puppy event, so our team was able to tell undergraduates when they wanted to come in.” 

Toward the end of the event, Office of Graduate Education volunteers, who were handing out waivers for graduates to sign and directing undergraduates, were allowed into the pens. Among them was Senior Graduate Reader Allison Nepomnick, who regularly works with graduate students editing their dissertations. 
 
“We love our graduate students, we want to support them,” Nepomnick said. “We want to give them fun events and we want to see them turn up to our events. So, we’re very happy to have them here. We’re very, very happy for the turnout in that it’s been so well received.” 

It is not currently known whether the Office of Graduate Education will bring back goat yoga next year. Keithly said the office is open to the idea and may even extend the playdate section by an extra hour.  

“Graduate students have some specific challenges, and I think anytime we can just pause and take a deep, cleansing breath together is time well spent,” Keithly said. “I am glad that Graduate Appreciation Week gives us an opportunity to do fun and silly things like goat yoga.” 


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