Interest in Veterinary Medicine Came Late for Northeast Grad

Published on: July 21, 2020 ,

Most veterinarians will say they have always been interested in animals, but that is not the case for one Northeast Community College graduate who earned her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree a year ago.

Dr. Ashley Quinn of Ainsworth said she had no idea what her career path might be when she graduated from Ainsworth High School in 2010 and enrolled at Northeast. “I was actually looking more at criminal justice,” Quinn remembered, “but although the instructors were great, it just wasn’t for me. I did take a science course that sparked my interest.”

Quinn met with Michael Lechner, a long-time agricultural instructor at Northeast, and talked with him about taking some ag classes. “I took some animal science classes,” she said, “and it just kind of clicked after that.”

Quinn went on to earn an associate degree in animal science college transfer, planning to apply for a veterinary science program but being realistic about how tough it can be to get accepted. “The animal science degree would let me do several things,” she said, “including working for USDA.”

After graduating from Northeast, Quinn transferred to the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. “Transferring was really easy,” she said, “and the people at Northeast really helped make sure that I was taking the right courses for University credit.”

She earned her bachelor’s degree and applied for the two-plus-two veterinary science program with Iowa State. “I didn’t get into the program the first year,” Quinn said, “but they put me on a wait list.”

Quinn asked for advice on how to improve her chances of being accepted into the veterinary science program the next year and was told that some experience with a veterinary practice would be helpful, so she spent the gap year working at the Sandhills Animal Health Clinic in Ainsworth with Dr. Chere Stephen. “We had dogs and cats at home,” Quinn said, “but my first real exposure to large animals was at Northeast. The year with Dr. Chere provided great experience with both companion and large animals. ”

In 2015, Quinn was accepted into the cooperative program between UNL and Iowa State. She spent the first two years at UNL in smaller classes with more hands-on experience, with the last two years at Iowa State with more than 100 other students. “Because I had gone through this when I transferred from Northeast to UNL in 2012,” Quinn said, “I was prepared for the culture shock of going from the small, more personal classes to the lecture halls with as many as 150 students.”

Quinn said another benefit of the two-plus-two program between UNL and Iowa State is that she saved money by paying Nebraska in-state tuition, just as she had saved on tuition by attending her first two years at Northeast.

She earned her DVM in 2019 and returned to Ainsworth to work with Dr. Stephen. She said the all-female practice is a little unusual in beef country. “We don’t get too much guff from anybody,” she said, “once we get out and work and show them we know what we’re doing.”

“I’ve been five-foot-one most of my life,” Quinn explained. “I’ve always found a way to make things work. Sometimes I might need a stool or something to make my arm a little longer, but I manage.”

During her time at Northeast, Quinn had some animal handling experience on the College farm and is excited that updated facilities are planned for ag students on the Acklie Family College Farm as part of the Nexus project. “I think it will be wonderful for students to be able to get more hands-on experience with animals,” Quinn said.

The initial phase of construction on the Nexus project includes a new veterinary technology clinic and classrooms, a new farm site with a large animal handling facility and other farm structures for livestock operations, a farm office and storage. The new facilities will be located near the Chuck M. Pohlman Agriculture Complex on E. Benjamin Ave. in Norfolk. Site work began in April and construction should be completed by the Fall of 2021.

The funding for the agriculture facilities will come from the College’s commitment of $10 million, as well as external fundraising to fill the gap. With a total project cost of $22.3 million, the College has raised enough funds to begin construction; however, fundraising for the Nexus campaign will continue, as more is needed for equipment, technology and furnishings.

In August 2019, the Acklie Charitable Foundation (ACF) announced a $5 million lead gift to the Nexus project. ACF was founded by the late Duane Acklie and Phyllis Acklie, both Madison County natives and graduates of Norfolk Junior College, a predecessor institution of Northeast Community College.

For more information on the Nexus Campaign, contact Northeast Associate Vice President for Development and External Affairs Dr. Tracy Kruse, at tracyk@northeast.edu, or call (402) 844-7056. Online donations may be made through agwaternexus.com. Checks may also be mailed to Nexus Campaign, Northeast Community College Foundation, P.O. Box 469, Norfolk, NE 68702-0469.