Some grow up dreaming of becoming astronauts. Some aspire to be firefighters, police officers or even elected officials. Some desire to be veterinarians, and that goal will soon be realized for four recent Southern Arkansas University graduates.
Rachel Fowler, Jeremy Greene, Brennan Pitard and Laura Reed, completed their studies at SAU in the spring and are now preparing to begin the rigorous coursework required to add “Dr.” to their names. Fowler will attend the University of Tennessee, Reed will attend Mississippi State University, and Green and Pitard will attend Louisiana State University.
“In the realm of pre-professional programs, only the best and brightest will achieve their career goals,” said Dr. Jeffry Miller, chair of the Department of Agriculture at SAU. “Within this realm, admission to any college of veterinary medicine is without a doubt the most difficult to attain.”
Miller said that there are only 28 accredited veterinary schools in the United States compared with 157 medical schools, 57 dental schools and more than 100 pharmacy schools. The small number of schools creates a very low ratio of students accepted when compared to the large applicant pool.
To gain admission, Miller said students must complete a prescribed set of “pre-vet” courses, but due to the competition for admission students must go above and beyond to capture their spot. He said the rigor of undergraduate programs at SAU helps students be well prepared to meet these goals.
“Both academically and outside the classroom, SAU provided opportunities that allowed me to develop the time management and leadership skills which led to my acceptance at Mississippi State,” said Reed. “The course work provided by the College of Science and Technology gave me a solid base in the subjects I will be studying, and the Department of Agriculture gave me hands-on experience working with actual animals on the farm.”
The reputation of SAU’s science program was key in recruiting the future veterinarians for their undergraduate degrees. Pitard noted the “strong science department” as one of his reasons for becoming a Mulerider.
After making the decision to attend SAU, many factors can continue to influence a student’s career choice. Countless professors were able to make an impact on the future veterinarians’ paths, but one stood out.
“Dr. Claude Baker challenged me from the first day I had class with him my sophomore year,” said Fowler. “He pushed me to always work hard and never give up. He pushed me to make the connections to get my vet school interviews. He didn’t make us memorize for a test, he taught us knowledge we needed for life in a way we could keep it.”
“Dr. Baker is probably the professor with the most time invested in me,” said Greene. “He made sure that things always went smoothly and was there whenever I needed someone to talk to. He also made life as a science major very interesting, and he has a very special talent for getting people involved in biology.”
Baker’s popularity among students earned him the “Academic Advisor of the Year” award in 2012.
The students were not only influenced by their teachers at SAU, but others across campus also helped them along the way.
“I made a great deal of friends that had a positive impact on me,” said Pitard. “It’s great to have close friends trying to achieve similar goals so that you can keep each other accountable and on track.”
“The friends I made in college are the greatest group of people ever, and I don’t know what I would do without them,” said Greene. “Many of them are the reason I am the man that I am today.”
Fowler credits SAU staff members who served as advisors to various campus organizations as part of her success story.
“These advisors were always there for me, whether I was going through a rough day, preparing for my interviews, or on top of the world,” she said. “They listened to me vent and cheered me to the finish line. These staff members made my time at SAU more than education, it made it home.”
“My time at SAU was filled with laughter to relieve stress, experiences that made me grow into the adult I needed to be to become successful and would later become favorite memories,” Reed said. “SAU became my home for four years, and the community of staff and students were like my family.”
The four students saw major changes in the College of Science and Technology during their time on campus. They were able to take advantage of the new 60,000 square foot state-of-the-art Science Center when it opened in 2010, and they saw the groundbreaking for a new 30,000 square foot Agriculture Center in 2012.
“The labs in the new science center definitely made a difference in my education,” Pitard said. “They provided the proper equipment we needed to learn on an above-average level. The large classrooms and lecture hall made it easier to follow along with my professors.”
Greene admits that having science classes in Overstreet Hall were memorable – with cramped lecture rooms and hot chemistry labs.
“The Science Center was a breath of fresh air,” he said. “It allowed us to really spread our wings and soar to new horizons.”
All four students hope their success at SAU will serve as a reminder to other students that they too can reach their dreams.
“This has been a huge accomplishment for all of us,” said Fowler. “For the last four years, we have all been told that we were longshots. No one had done it in so long, and the chances were slim. We beat the odds, and now future students will have no doubt it is possible.”
Southern Arkansas University’s College of Science and Technology has solved the formula for success with their pre-health programs: give students hands-on experience in the region’s most technologically-advanced Science Center, personalized advising geared toward the specific programs students will be applying for upon graduation from SAU, and a family-like atmosphere on campus with faculty and staff who care about seeing each student reach his or her full potential.
From the graduating class of 2012, SAU celebrates seventeen graduates being accepted into highly competitive health-related and Ph.D. programs.