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Who We’re Looking For At…NC State’s College of Veterinary Medicine

Laura Nelson
Associate Dean
Director of Academic Affairs

What qualities are you looking for in the “student of tomorrow”? Why?

The student of the future is one who appreciates what different disciplines bring to how we work in the world – that includes everything from information technology to social psychology to communications. … The focus we have on medical and surgical skills will always be important, but the new veterinarian also needs to be able to interact with a client in a way where the client wants to come back. Veterinarians don’t need to know everything, they don’t need to be a 4.0 student – what matters a lot to the employers we’ve spoken to are things like empathy, communication and professionalism.

We also understand that veterinarians are likely to be in small business settings, so they need to understand how money works to be successful. Both communication and finance are part of our curriculum here at the vet school now.

Any time you take two fields and put them together, when you’re an expert in one thing and learn about another, that’s where the really interesting things happen. You see where things intersect. It gives you work and theory and practice to inform innovation.

What makes a resume stand out, or in your case, an application?

We have a holistic admissions process, which means we do look at quantitative things like GPA, but we’re also looking for people who will add value to the profession.

It’s a hard question, because there’s no one script we can give people and say, “these are the boxes to tick to get into our program” – there isn’t one sure path. I’d say make sure to meet our minimum criteria, then be who you are and do the things that enrich you. We want to see who people are and what they value.

We’ve been working on lowering the barriers that make it harder for someone who, for example, works two jobs out of necessity and therefore has a reduced number of animal experience contact hours, because we want candidates with a wide variety of life experiences. We don’t want to disadvantage candidates from different backgrounds – we try to keep in mind the different loads people carry and the value of experiences that can make individuals very good members of our profession, but don’t necessarily align with “tradition.”

How can CALS build you the “student of tomorrow,” the kind of student you’re looking to recruit?

Make sure that students are encouraged to gather the richness from across other disciplines. Do your animal science and chemistry classes – those are never not going to be important to us – but connect with the part of yourself that sees connections between yourself and veterinary medicine and society that might not come to mind for everyone. Veterinary medicine as an industry needs people who have these different combined competencies. For example, we’re looking for veterinarians with an interest and background in education, because knowing educational theory is not necessarily a natural product of becoming a veterinarian.

Or another example, I know at CALS there’s a pre-veterinary path, but there’s also an agribusiness path. More cross-pollination between the two would be great, because a background in agribusiness is a really interesting way to get into being a veterinarian.