Campus opportunities lead to success for pre-vet student Melissa Rich

In the lab

It’s 8:00 a.m., and Melissa Rich ’14 is helping to treat and wrap the hooves of Katahdin sheep at a farm about 45 minutes from campus. While many of her classmates are catching a little extra sleep this weekend morning, for Rich—who’s been accepted to the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine to study food animal and equine medicine this fall—it’s just another Saturday.

Early morning farm work wasn’t always part of Rich’s schedule. In fact, she came to Gettysburg thinking she would major in English and take some science courses for fun. The spring of her first year, Associate Professor Matthew Kittelberger’s Form and Functions in Living Organisms course put her on a new track, and soon she was declaring a major in Biology and meeting with Pre-Health Professions advisors to plan for a career in veterinary medicine.

“While I loved biology before I even stepped foot on Gettysburg’s campus,” she said, “the professors here really inspired me to love it more through their own excitement.”

Getting out into the field

Melissa RichAs a sophomore, Rich became president of the College’s pre-veterinary club and jumped headfirst into her first campus leadership role. Over the past three years, she has helped evolve the club from a small networking group to a thriving organization with job shadowing opportunities and connections with a vast array of local veterinary, research, and agricultural professionals.

Rich has also pursued a number of her own career exploration activities. Since 2011, she has logged hours shadowing locally with an equine veterinarian, with a dairy vet, at a small animal clinic, and at an animal emergency hospital. She has also spent over a year interning at Evermore Farm, where she has learned first-hand about herd health, rotational grazing, vaccination, disorders and procedures, and species behaviors. “Once the farm owners knew I wanted to be a vet, they worked to help me get the experience I needed,” Rich recalls. “They transformed my job from something that could have been simple physical labor to an educational experience that I look forward to every day.”

Through the Center for Career Development, Rich also connected with Geoff Horsfield ’10, a volunteer coordinator at the Carolina Tiger Rescue who helped her secure an animal care externship. “The externship really opened my eyes to exotic animal trafficking and ownership issues,” she said. “One of the neatest experiences I had there was observing a necropsy on a binturong—and it turned out to be a standout experience on my vet school applications, too.”

A strong academic foundation in the liberal arts

Melissa Rich on horseAlong with these unique opportunities to engage in the field, Rich credits her successful application to veterinary programs to Gettysburg’s strong science programming. “Coursework in animal behavior, neurobiology, vertebrate zoology, genetics, and comparative animal physiology has boosted my understanding of topics that will come up again in my vet school education,” she says. “And I’ve met with nothing but overwhelming encouragement from my professors.”

This support from professors extended beyond the classroom. During her time at Gettysburg, Rich has participated in faculty research on dog vocalization, and is working with two biology faculty on a Senior Capstone project to study the effects of pesticides on chick development. Her biology faculty have even helped the pre-vet students acquire a colony of dermestidae to learn more about animal bone structure. This strong academic foundation led to Rich’s selection as the sole Scholarship Awardee from the American Pre-Veterinary Medical Association this spring.

While known to many on campus for her involvement in the pre-vet club, Rich has excelled in other areas at the College. “One of the things that I love about Gettysburg is that you don’t have to pursue just one thing,” she said. She has completed an English minor, participated in the Bullet’s Marching Band Color Guard, and led an Immersion Trip in the Tennessee Smoky Mountains to learn about land preservation and the Snowbird Cherokee.

Rich sees her time at Gettysburg as formative. “Gettysburg has given me a great start to my career through advanced and hands-on labs, courses that have challenged me to build my critical thinking skills, and faculty that have held me to high standards,” she said. “I wouldn’t have wanted to spend my four years anywhere else.”

Founded in 1832, Gettysburg College is a highly selective four-year residential college of liberal arts and sciences with a strong academic tradition. Alumni include Rhodes Scholars, a Nobel laureate, and other distinguished scholars. The college enrolls 2,600 undergraduate students and is located on a 200-acre campus adjacent to the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.

Contact: Christine Shanaberger, associate director of communications/coordinator of presidential communications 717.337.6806

Posted: Tue, 22 Apr 2014

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