While attending UC Davis, although a research-based institution, there is this belief that the only path for an Animal Science major is to go to veterinary school. Luckily for me, being a veterinarian is absolutely what I want to do. For others, they realize soon after starting their undergraduate career it is not the path for them. This culture really needs to change for students to realize they can study animals without being a veterinarian.
With that being said, I have been incredibly torn lately trying to decide what I want to do immediately after finishing my Bachelor of Science degree at Davis. When I was in equine genetics last year and offered a position doing research in that lab, I realized I could become specialized in more ways than one. (Which sounds so appealing to me!) Although staying in that lab didn't work out for me due to some other life challenges that were thrown at me, it started me on the route of considering graduate school as a part of my future.
Then I took the Animal Ethics class at UC Davis and found another love in ethics and welfare. During ethics class, we had many guest lecturers - those who studied poultry, elephants, horses, cattle, raptors - and I realized that I could study animal welfare and another revelation came about. I could study animal welfare in graduate school and beyond? Could I incorporate this into my veterinary work in the future? I do want so greatly to give back to the horse world and be involved with non profits and rescue animals. Could I somehow tie in welfare work and veterinary care in a philanthropic way? I have always felt a deep connection to animals and feel like I should respect that gift and do work that emphasizes it.
One of the most special things about UC Davis, although the animal science advising office seems to in general encourage veterinary school, is that if you give a professor the time of day to sit and ask them about their academic path and/or research, they will go above and beyond giving advice. In the past year, I have met several animal welfare specialists and behaviorists that are truly wonderful people. One of them being Dr. Kathy Holcomb, who taught my Animal Science 115 - Adv. Equine Production course. After reaching out to her earlier this week, she wrote back to me with the most thoughtful response that has opened my eyes to so many paths I could choose to go down.
I am unsure of what I am going to do, but I am going to start by continuing to study for the GRE so I can improve those scores and I am going to contact the UC Davis Animal Biology graduate group to see what the steps for applying are. The only downside I can see is delaying my life for another two years, which isn't bad if it gets me where I want to be, but delays my ability to start my career and make an income. A serious consideration, but I think if it could get me where I want to be, two years means nothing.