All Creatures Great and Small Learning Community Provides Opportunities for Incoming Veterinary Nursing Students

Friday, May 6, 2022

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A group of female students join together smiling standing in line with the Continuum sculpture in front of Lynn Hall
Members of the All Creatures Great and Small Learning Community pause for a photo-op in front of the Continuum sculpture, in conjunction with a learning community event in October.

Put yourself in the shoes of an incoming freshman veterinary nursing student setting foot on the main Purdue University campus for the first time – a campus shared with more than 40,000 other students. It can be both exciting and intimidating. How do you make connections? … Feel like you belong? … And establish a support system? Thankfully, now there’s the All Creatures Great and Small Learning Community created and tailored just for beginning Purdue University Veterinary Nursing students! The students in this learning community are given the chance to broaden their awareness and knowledge of the unique opportunities and challenges involved in veterinary nursing.

As members of the All Creatures Great and Small Learning Community, new students can participate in numerous activities outside the classroom that enhance in-class academic content. Visits to the Purdue University Veterinary Hospital and Veterinary Nursing labs along with other educational trips allow students to explore the profession in the real world. Social activities and service-learning experiences also enable the students to interact with upperclassmen as well as their fellow learning community members while serving Purdue and the Lafayette-West Lafayette community. Additionally, the students are able to interact with faculty members and instructors in the College of Veterinary Medicine through classroom learning and meals in the residence halls at Purdue.

First-time, beginning students admitted to the Veterinary Nursing Program in the College of Veterinary Medicine are eligible. There is an optional residential component in the Earhart Hall Residence Hall, which requires a signed housing contract to apply. However, circumstances preventing a student from living in Earhart, such as participating in the Honors College or Athletics, will be taken into consideration when conducting the placement process. All Creatures Great and Small is conducted in the fall semester only, with associated classes including:

  • VM 49000: All Creatures Great and Small
  • BIOL 11000: Fundamentals of Biology
  • ENGL 10600: English Composition

Other events and activities available to learning community members include a tour of a veterinary related facility, study groups, dining court topical meals, an annual Halloween party, and service events.

Veterinary Nursing Program staff members Paige Allen, MS, RVT, and Shelly Opperman created the All Creatures Great and Small Learning Community for veterinary nursing students in 2019. Paige is assistant director of academic advising and recruiting and Shelly is a senior academic advisor in the College of Veterinary Medicine. The goal in creating the learning community was to help students transition from high school to college and gain a sense of community and belonging during their first year on Purdue’s campus. “Becoming a part of a learning community makes a very large campus into a more personal experience for each student,” said Paige. She and Shelly’s aspirations when founding the learning community were bright and ambitious, and their hard work and dedication to the program have really paid off.

Shelly, Bryan, and Paige stand together smiling behind face masks as Shelly and Paige hold up their plaques
Veterinary Nursing Program staff members Shelly Opperman (left) and Paige Allen, MS, RVT (right) received the Student Impact Award from Associate Director of Residential Academic Initiatives Bryan Austin in the College of Veterinary Medicine Student Services Office September 29.

In September 2021, Paige and Shelly received Purdue University’s Student Impact Award for their outstanding work as instructors for All Creatures Great and Small. Even in the midst of a pandemic, their efforts continued to provide a safe and engaging space for new students to shine. “As advisors and instructors, we worked hard to meet Protect Purdue requirements to be able to meet in person, and in Fall 2020, the learning community was the only class most of our students had in person,” said Paige. “We are very grateful for the commitment of the Veterinary Nursing Program director and the staff for their support and participation in the learning community activities.”

Paige’s favorite part of leading students in the All Creatures Great and Small Learning Community is the game she plays to help learn their names. “At the start of every class, I ask for the initial of their first name, and then try to remember their full name from just that initial, and this repeats every week for 16 weeks,” she said. Shelly’s favorite part is getting to know the students on a personal level their freshman year when most of their classes are across campus and not in Lynn Hall – the home of the College of Veterinary Medicine. Paige and Shelly encourage new veterinary nursing students to join this learning community to begin to build the relationships and friendships that will sustain them throughout their time in college, and to connect with their advisors and other resources they may be not be aware are available to them.

Brooke Hopkins, a sophomore from Hope, Indiana, was involved in All Creatures Great and Small this past fall and provides valuable input for those who may be interested in the learning community. Brooke decided to join the community as a way to meet others in her program and get to know Lynn Hall, the building where she would end up spending most of her time. When asked about her favorite part of the learning community, Brooke emphasized her appreciation for the panel discussions featuring upperclassmen who came to speak to her class. “It relieves a lot of stress and answers a lot of questions that you can only get from those who are currently going through the program,” says Brooke. “You get to hear about favorite classes and rotations, but also about the common struggle classes. Everyone was reassuring and did a good job of letting us as freshmen know it would be okay.”

Brooke says she would absolutely recommend All Creatures Great and Small to all incoming freshmen. Contrary to what one may think, joining a learning community is certainly not a burden to add to a freshman schedule of classes, and getting to meet others within your program before the semester begins is definitely a bonus. “You also get a lot of important insights and get to talk to ambassadors that are further along in the program,” says Brooke. “I did not have clinical experience before coming to Purdue, so talking to others that were accepted into the program despite having little to no experience was good to hear about. Talking to people who had a lot of experience was nice, too, because you get differing viewpoints, which I really liked having beforehand.”

If you’re a prospective veterinary nursing student and All Creatures Great and Small sounds like the learning community for you, click here to apply.

Writer(s): Madeline Brod, PVM Communications Intern |

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