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December 2014


The unexpected at open house: Vet science faculty
Cynthia Eaton


frank valenzisi
Frank Valenzisi, assistant professor of veterinarian science, conducts a tour for prospective students during open house.
(photo by Cynthia Eaton)

Because my children are ages four and six, I didn’t expect to be accompanying a prospective SCCC student to this year’s open house.

I also didn’t expect what I witnessed from some of our FA members.

A young woman in our neighborhood, a high school senior and wonderful childcare provider for our sons, asked me to go with her to the Grant campus open house on November 2. Her parents weren’t available that day but even so she asked me because she’ll be a first-generation college student and because she’s smart: she realizes the value of having an SCCC faculty member assist her with the admission and registration processes.

Her heart is set on the veterinarian science (vet sci) program, which seems a natural fit: she excels in science and lives on a horse farm so she’s worked with animals her entire life. She had buckets of questions about SCCC and the vet sci program. Off we went.

At Grant I saw much of what I expected to see: tables set up throughout the Sagtikos lobby with staff from various disciplines and student services offices, plenty of SCCC blue decorations and tons of handouts. We spent time at the vet sci table, naturally, and visited the admissions and financial aid tables.

Everyone, I’m pleased to report, was exceptionally helpful. But I expected that, given the purpose of open house.

Here’s what I didn’t expect: a 45-minute educational lecture about the vet sci program in the library classroom, followed by a thorough tour of the Paumanok Building where the program is housed.

During the presentation students listened as department faculty talked about the prerequisites for entrance into the program—students need to be strong in biology, chemistry and math—as well as what would be expected of them if accepted. It was a bit daunting, and Dr. Allen Jacobs, academic chair of allied health/veterinarian science, politely made this clear: “If your interest in the program is connected primarily or solely to your inordinate love of animals,” he spoke slowly, “may I suggest that this alone is insufficient for acceptance into the program.”

The tour itself was, impressively, even more detailed. The vet sci program receives over 300 applications every fall, but can only take 48 students due to the limitations of the facilities and resources on campus. For the lucky few who get in, the classrooms and labs are designed to be as similar as possible to an actual veterinarian’s workspace. The lab, said Dr. Frank Valenzisi, is set up as any quality research lab would be so that students can learn how to assist with diagnostic evaluations and help conduct therapeutic services. They would work with animals ranging from common domestic house pets like cats, dogs, hamsters and birds to (off site, at the Yaphank Farm) chickens to horses and cows. We were amused by the synthetic mouse available for students who might need time to acclimate to handling a real, live mouse.

valenzisi and raff
Patricia Raff, vet sci specialist, and Valenzisi show prospective students some of the resources in the classrooms.
(photo by Cynthia Eaton)

While the students were deep in the “clean corridor” (the entranceway to the lab as opposed to the “dirty corridor” exit hallway), I spoke with Patricia Raff, vet sci specialist. Raff has been at the college since 1994 and smiles broadly when she talks about the program.

Then something occurred to me. As an officer I’m used to seeing our FA members go above and beyond. But still I had to ask. “Patty, how long have you all been on campus today?” Four hours. On a Sunday. At a busy time of the semester.

“I don’t get it,” I continued. “Given the demand for the program and its small size, why do you all go so far above and beyond like this at open house each year?”

Raff’s answer was simple: They want the best students because the program is so academically rigorous and their dedication at open house helps students better comprehend what’s expected of them so they can determine whether it’s really a good fit.

That our members work so hard not only to get the best students but also to avoid frustrating and disappointing other students really impressed me.

As an FA officer for the last seven years, I guess I should know by now to expect the unexpected from our members. May the best 48 applicants make our vet sci faculty proud!