Tell us about your background.
I grew up on a farm near the Wisconsin-Illinois border, and I loved living and working on the farm. I gained experience in a variety of livestock, from pigs to poultry, but my favorite animals were the goats. It became a dream of mine to one day specialize in dairy goats, and I was lucky enough to find a husband that shared my enthusiasm and supported my endeavors. We currently have a small farm and big plans for the future.
I have taken a variety of courses and have earned assorted credentials across several fields, including Earth Science, Botany and Zoology, but I had never had the opportunity to specialize in livestock health prior to beginning this degree program. My knowledge mostly came from personal experience, both on my farm and through working on other local farms, and it was great to be able to gain a formal education in the field.
How did you become interested in the Master of Veterinary Science degree program?
This program is the type of program I wanted when I originally started college. I never found a program in livestock health at that time, so I decided to major in Environmental Education, instead. I wrote my first Master’s thesis on the lack of hands-on college courses for aspiring farmers, and I kept hoping that a university would develop a program to help farmers develop the skills they need to keep their animals healthy. When I heard that the University of Illinois was going to offer a Master of Veterinary Science degree focusing on livestock health, I knew I wanted to enroll. The online format made it easy for me to go back to school without disrupting my lifestyle, and the routine of taking classes helped to ease the burden of the long months of quarantine and societal shutdown.
Tell us about your favorite course in the program?
My favorite course in the program was VCM 562: Understanding the Host Response to Infection. I went into the course very aware of the fact that I lacked a background in clinical veterinary work, and I worried that it would impact my ability to properly diagnose infectious disease and determine a course of treatment. During the class, we focused on using a system-based approach to create case definition blueprints for common diseases. This method was both easier and more effective for me to use when identifying infectious disease in livestock, and I find myself using it whenever I notice symptoms of disease in my animals.
Now that you are finishing the degree program, what will you do next?
After I finish the degree program, I will have the confidence and skills that I need to expand my farm. My husband and I plan on investing in a larger piece of land, where we will enlarge our herd of dairy goats. It has always been our plan to purchase more goats, but we were initially nervous about the need for tighter biosecurity regulations and increased risk of disease at a larger farm. The degree program has prepared me to meet these challenges and to properly handle any issues that occur.
What is one thing about the program you would say to someone considering this degree?
I would advise anybody considering this degree to focus on the applicability of the coursework to their intended career path. This is not just a degree that will benefit current veterinarians; anybody who works with livestock, from farmers to food inspectors, can benefit from having this knowledge. The classes provide useful and relevant information, and the professors and staff at the University of Illinois are knowledgeable, helpful, and friendly. This is an amazing program, and I am glad that I could be a part of it.