Time Well Spent
Each first-year veterinary class at Oregon State University is welcomed with a "white coat ceremony," where you are awarded your doctor coat in front of friends and family. They introduce you to the crowd, tell where you are from, and what your undergraduate degree was. Being an Alaskan is always a conversation starter in the "Lower 48", but in this case, it was my UAS undergraduate degree that turned heads. The majority of people in my profession have a background in biology, zoology, and/or animal science/husbandry, etc. Although I did have to complete additional biology courses before applying for vet school, my communications degree has helped me immensely in this field.
My academic experience at UAS has been instrumental in my success as a veterinarian. In my personal and professional experience, not everyone with an interest in science and medicine can effectively communicate what they know to others from different backgrounds. For example, I need to be able to explain to a potentially panicked owner what is wrong with their pet, what we need to do, and how best to operate within their budget. If they’re confused with medical jargon, or at any time get the impression I don’t have the best interest of their pet at heart, we may not get my patient the care they need. There is a saying in veterinary medicine: they don’t care what you know until they know that you care.
Classes on interpersonal, small group, and organizational communication were important for building relationships with clients and colleagues. My degree taught me how to compose a presentation, including incorporating multi-media, which I have utilized to present my research at local, state, and national conferences. The portfolio I produced in undergrad prepared me to research and write papers, and I have since been published twice.
UAS provided me with a number of opportunities outside academia as well. My positions as Student Government President and Commissioner of Post-secondary Education introduced me to public speaking, effectively examining/arguing both sides of an issue, and how to stretch a budget. Most importantly, it made me realize that politics are everywhere, and your success can be dependent on how each situation is handled. Clients question me daily regarding declawing, ear-cropping, tail-docking, breeding, euthanasia, animal abuse/neglect, overpopulation, economic considerations, etc… Each of these can be "hot button" items and can change my relationship with that client depending on how I represent myself.
During my last semester at UAS, I had the chance to travel abroad to Vienna, Austria. This fantastic program let me grow personally while still fulfilling my degree requirements. I developed a new appreciation for other cultures’ customs, languages, and history that I had previously had little exposure to in my hometown of Petersburg. I learned how to exist outside my "comfort zone" and adapt to circumstances around me, which has been a valuable life skill.
A number of high school classmates didn't understand why I wanted to go to college within the state when everyone else was so ready to fly the coop. In the end, I graduated with very little debt from my undergraduate degree, which was incredibly helpful when considering if I wanted to continue my education. I sat through numerous college orientations on my way to my doctorate degree where various administrators whom I’d never met, and would never see again, spoke from a podium about "getting out of your education what you’re willing to put into it". I always nodded, with glazed eyes as I checked my watch. In the case of UAS, however, it was certainly true. I received a quality education and life experience that prepared me for a profession that challenges me every day. I made lifelong friends that were a key part in shaping me as a person. I can't think of any other college where I could take part in student government, be an exchange student, and still earn a practical degree with a low budget. My time at UAS was truly well spent.