By Lon Tegels
College of Forestry, Agriculture and Natural Resources
University of Arkansas at Monticello
Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying ‘I will try again tomorrow.‘ –Mary Anne Radmacher, American author, and artist
Monticello, AR– When UAM Veterinarian Dr. Rocky Lindsey first met UAM pre-vet student Faith Lawrence-Harris, she was extremely shy and timid. As he got to know his student, he could see she was full of “grit.”
It’s that same grit that has paid off. After three years of repeated applications, Lawrence-Harris learned she has been accepted into the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine. Lawrence-Harris is a 2019 UAM graduate with a degree in Animal Science and Agriculture. It took her stubbornness and years of determination to beat down the competition and get an interview. She recently learned that she will be attending classes at the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine this fall.
Lawrence-Harris says since the time she was a little girl crawling under the fence to play with the cows on her grandparent’s farm, she knew she wanted to be a veterinarian. While growing up, her father, Gary Lawrence, was the fire chief and EMT in her hometown of Huntington, Arkansas. He would tell all sorts of medical stories. She would watch ER and anything else medically related on TV. She says she initially thought she wanted to work in human medicine, but she found her place with animals as time went on. She became active in the local Future Farmers of America chapter and as part of the poultry team. Anything she could find animal-wise, she was doing it.
Lawrence-Harris give credit to the UAM Agriculture Department. She credits her success to her professors Jason Cater, Rocky Lindsey, and UAM farm manager Greg Montgomery. “Those are the people who led me this way and never gave up on me,” said Lawrence-Harris. She says they continued to encourage her after graduation. “They were a phone call away and still there for me. I didn’t even have to be a student anymore; they were so determined in my success that they were there for me even after I graduated.”
Lawrence-Harris says it took her three years of applying to get into vet school. This year she applied at LSU, Mississippi State, and Lincoln Memorial in Tennessee. She accepted the offer by LSU, which means her out-of-state tuition is covered. She was also chosen as an alternate at Mississippi State.
Dr. Lindsey says that because Arkansas doesn’t have its own veterinary school, the state has made arrangements with neighboring states. He says LSU will accept up to eight students each year. If accepted, the state of Arkansas will then make up the difference for the out-of-state tuition. Other states having contracts with Arkansas include Oklahoma State, Missouri, and Tuskegee. Mississippi State also has an arrangement, accepting up to four students, but is not obligated to accept any students each year. The out-of-state reimbursement is also different from the other schools. Lindsey says Lawrence-Harris is the 2nd UAM student in 2 years to be accepted at LSU.
She says the selection pool is competitive. And you never quite know what the school is looking for. Each year is different. “One year, if you didn’t make a 4.0-grade point, you were dropped from consideration. The best you can do is to work your butt off to make the best grade and get the experience to make yourself unique. You need something on your application that makes you stand out.” The first initial cut is GPA. Some years you might be able to get in with a 3.3 GPA; other years, it’s 4.0. You just don’t know. She says recommendation letters are also critical.
Lindsey says the veterinarian field is so competitive that students enroll in medical school because they cannot get into veterinary school.
Ultimately the 24-year-old Lawrence-Harris wants to be a mixed practice veterinarian in the small town she grew up in. She would like to work with both large and small animals or whatever comes through the front door. “What few veterinarians we have in the rural areas are getting older in age and ready to retire. I’d really like to bring a new veterinary clinic in here, so we still have one. Our rural communities are where you really need your vets. The big cities have tons of vet clinics, but in our rural communities are really deprived. “said Lawrence-Harris.
Lindsey agrees with Lawrence-Harris. He says the rural area is really underserved. “There is lots of opportunity for students in a rural area if you are content with that. He says rural area means that a veterinarian might not have all the big toys that the large practices have,” said Lindsey. He emphasizes how underserved the rural areas are. “I know of five places off the top of my head that if veterinary students who are graduating will go, they’ll do well. You have to want to do it.”
Lawrence-Harris learned about UAM through her brother-in-law, who was attending here. Her husband Jarrett Harris also attended UAM with a major in Criminal Justice. He has a semester left and plans to finish up his degree with online classes once Faith completes her veterinary school.
The University of Arkansas at Monticello offers pre-veterinary classes. “UAM is uniquely suited. We give students practical hands-on experience with cattle.” UAM has its own beef operation and working farm. Students will vaccinate, deworm, treat, and handle them. “Even if you’re not interested in working cows, if you learn how to work them, that experience really pops out in an interview or application to vet school. There is not a lot of that out there, said Lindsey. He says when LSU recruiters are looking for Arkansas students to enroll in their veterinary program, the University of Arkansas at Monticello is one of the first places they look.
“The professors I had at the ag department were amazing, and they were steppingstones for me to get where I am. They pushed people’s dreams and will do anything to help you,” said Lawrence-Harris.
For more information about the UAM pre-vet program you can contact the UAM College of Forestry, Agriculture and Natural Resources at 870-460-1052.