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Pre-Vet Club takes off

By Amy Lohmann '14
November 4, 2011

Members of the St. Olaf Pre-Vet Club, including founder Marie Bak '14 (second from right), participate in the Walk for Animals

When she was looking at colleges, Marie Bak '14 was drawn to those that have clubs for students who, like herself, are interested in careers in veterinary medicine.

Although St. Olaf didn't have such a club, she still visited — and its strong academic programs won her over.

Bak knew there must be other students on the Hill who share her goal of becoming a veterinarian, so when she arrived at St. Olaf she began working with Assistant Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies Diane Angell to establish the St. Olaf Pre-Vet Club.

The club started out small, with three members, but has grown to include 17 members this fall. They meet once a month and communicate frequently between meetings. "This is a stellar group," says Angell. "I know I am energized just by staying in their email loop."

The group's mission is to bring together students interested in pre-veterinary studies; promote interest in the science of veterinary medicine; provide resources and information about veterinary school; encourage community awareness about animal health; and participate in community service. They have implemented their goals by working with experienced veterinarians and by sharing their interest with students at local schools.

"We have worked closely with Cannon Valley Veterinary Clinic," says Bak. "One of the vets there, Marcia Bisel, is a 1992 graduate of St. Olaf. Last spring she talked to the club about the transition between St. Olaf and veterinary school."

Members of the St. Olaf Pre-Vet Club during a visit to the Northfield High School last month.

Other local veterinarians have come to the group with information about opportunities for working in the food-animal industry and in animal research. The group has also visited the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine and met with admissions officers there.

"Acceptance into veterinary school is unique in the fact that starting early is essential to your resume," says Bak. "Vet schools pay attention to the dedication you show even back in high school, so it's important to start volunteering early."

With this in mind, members of the club have made visits to the Northfield High School and hope to continue their visits and expand them to the middle and elementary schools to raise student awareness about animal issues. In addition to giving information about high school and undergraduate preparation, they also want to inform the students about the abundance of pre-vet opportunities that are offered at St. Olaf and beyond.

While it's easy to assume that veterinary science is focused solely on creatures with claws or paws, Bak says it's imperative in the vet career path to be a people person as well as an animal person. "We are often asked why we want to be veterinarians instead of human doctors," she says. "Veterinary science is our passion. It is a job where we can help both the animals we love and the humans who love them."

"The opportunities we've had as a club are so much greater than the opportunities I would've had as an individual," says Bak. "I'm really excited to see how it keeps growing."

Contact Kari VanDerVeen at 507-786-3970 or