College welcomes new veterinary students, with a focus on inclusion, equity and diversity

Dr. Mark Stetter, at a podium, wearing a mask
Dr. Mark Stetter welcomes the D.V.M. class of 2024:”This journey will not be easy, but it will be transformational.” (Chase Baker/CVMBS photo)

The Doctor of Veterinary Medicine coating ceremony is an annual rite of passage. Students receive their blue doctor-in-training coats and take the Veterinarian’s Oath, pledging to prevent and relieve animal suffering. Normally, there’s lots of hugging, high fives and family photos.

But, like all things academic this year, the ceremony that marks the start of their 4-year journey toward a doctorate morphed into a blend of in-person and virtual pomp, while abiding by the University’s COVID-19 protocols.

CSU’s veterinary program received nearly 2,500 applications this year, the most applicants for any veterinary program in the world. On Friday, 137 of the 157 accepted students participated in the tradition in a new way sitting six feet apart, wearing masks. Those unable to attend, including the 14 students in the University of Alaska-Fairbanks partnership, attended via livestream.

Dr. Mark Stetter, dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, called the class a “truly an elite group of talented and very dedicated individuals.”

The ceremony was held at the Hilton Hotel, just south of CSU’s main campus, and began with the CSU Land Acknowledgement, a statement that recognizes the long history of Native peoples and nations that lived on and stewarded the land where the university now resides.

ballroom socially distanced seating
The DVM Class of 2020 coating ceremony adapted to COVID with social distancing, masks, and a livestream. (Chase Baker/CVMBS photo)

Nearly 2,000 friends and family members followed along via the livestream, and Stetter took the opportunity to address them: “I appreciate the heavy responsibility you have placed on all of us for the safety and security of the students in this room. The faculty and staff here in the college and the university, take the health and safety of our students as our highest priority. This has always been the case and even more so now with the COVID crisis.”

Stetter noted that many ingredients go into creating a top veterinary program, but the most important contributions come from the students, faculty and staff, “who work here, study here and discover here, are what makes this place so special.”

Associate professor of RNA virology, Rushika Perera, Ph.D., who serves as the chair of the college’s diversity and inclusion committee, spoke about CSU’s Principles of Community, encouraging the students to fight for an inclusive community during a time of nationwide tensions and unrest revolving around racial and discrimination issues.

“We ask you to join us in our fight towards making this environment an inclusive, diverse and equitable environment,” Perera told the students, reminding them to embrace, enjoy and learn from the differences of those within the community.

Dr. Jackie Christakos, CSU alumna and president elect of the Colorado Veterinary Medical Association, offered words of encouragement to the class of 2024: “Congratulations and welcome to this amazing, challenging, sometimes heartbreaking, but often wonderful and rewarding profession we call veterinary medicine. In this unprecedented time, community has never been more important.”

On behalf of the faculty, Dr. Forgivemore Magunda, assistant professor of anatomic pathology and recipient of the 2020 Zoetis Distinguished Teaching Award, said: “I am excited that you are here today, of all the places you could be. I am excited also, because of all the places you have been… but I am most excited for all of the things you will be.”

One by one, the students made their way across the stage as Dr. Jeremy Delcambre read a short biography and handed them a welcome package. The ceremony concluded with the students reciting the Veterinarian’s Oath.

“I sincerely wish each one of you peace, positivity and confidence, as you transition to this very challenging and very, very rewarding experience,” Dr. Melinda Frye, associate dean for veterinary academic and student affairs, said in conclusion as the students departed with individually wrapped celebratory cookies in place of the usual cake and punch reception.

Veterinarian's Oath, 2018 Coating Ceremony