Dean’s Global Vision Leads to Expanded Global Engagement for Students

Friday, December 15, 2023

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Students take a group photo in front of a picturesque lake and mountain region in Switzerland

Of the numerous notable advancements Dean Willie Reed has pioneered for Purdue Veterinary Medicine during his tenure, perhaps the most far-reaching involves global engagement. The establishment of the college’s Global Engagement Office with a full-time director in 2015 was followed by a consequent, soaring increase in global engagement involving both DVM and veterinary nursing students. Within the DVM student population, global engagement has risen from 25% of the graduating class having traveled abroad to more than 60%. Among veterinary nursing students, participation in study abroad opportunities has grown from 14% of the student body to as much as 50% at its highest point. The total number of students studying abroad each year has increased from 29 in 2010 to a peak of over 80 students.

Looking at just this past summer and fall, 64 students traveled abroad for study and research, and those numbers are only expected to increase, given the impressive number of applications flowing in, according to Global Engagement Director Addison Sheldon. Additionally, the college has added a number of partner universities over the years, resulting in the creation of new exchange programs at the same time that the college has worked to maintain longstanding partner relationships. Today the college has over 20 partners with which to exchange students and faculty. These include Sichuan Agricultural University in China, Chulalongkorn University in Thailand, Rakuno Gakuen University and Kitasato University in Japan, the University of Zurich in Switzerland, Seoul National University in South Korea, and Universidad Austral de Chile in Chile, just to name a few. In addition, a new pre-veterinary program to Zimbabwe coming in the summer of 2024 will offer the first ever opportunity for pre-veterinary students in the Purdue Vet Scholars Program, as well as first-year veterinary nursing students, to study abroad. Vet Scholars is an early admission program designed to recruit highly qualified, graduating high school seniors to the DVM program.

Not only are many Purdue Veterinary Medicine students studying abroad to make their mark on the world, PVM also upholds a strong tradition of welcoming international students to Lynn Hall. Summer exchange programs provide opportunities to host groups from universities in Thailand, China, and Japan. Moreover, students from countries such as Brazil, Italy, India, Chile, Switzerland, South Korea, and Colombia are hosted by faculty and fourth-year Purdue veterinary students on rotations in the Purdue University Veterinary Hospital, as part of exchanges that also involve PVM faculty traveling abroad.

Mr. Sheldon maintains that the college’s strength in these partnerships lies in the numerous group-led programs offered to PVM students. One of the first such programs was the Exotic Pet, Zoo, and Conservation Medicine excursion to the Czech Republic. Since then, more programs have been added, including Global Perspectives in Veterinary Nursing in Japan, Wildlife Medicine and Rehabilitation in Guatemala, Traditional Chinese Approaches to Veterinary Medicine in China, Clinical Rotation in Small Animal Medicine in Switzerland, and Pathobiology of Native Brazilian Wildlife in Brazil.

“We live in a world that is connected in many different ways, and the rise of global migration comes with a higher probability of transmitted disease, human-wildlife conflict, and food safety issues,” Mr. Sheldon said as he explained why global engagement is vital to a veterinary student’s education. “As we’ve seen time and time again, an issue in one part of the world is not always isolated. That’s why we need globally conscious veterinarians who can recognize the impact of global influences on human and animal health and use their knowledge and skills to tackle those issues.”

Dr. Zhong leans against the railing in the observation area watching the surgery staff work with a horse
Dr. Zhijun Zhong, professor and surgeon from the Sichuan Agricultural University College of Veterinary Medicine, observes the surgery team in action in the Equine Hospital during a visit to Purdue accompanied by five students over the summer.

As someone who has studied abroad himself, participating in programs in both China and Austria during his time as an undergraduate Purdue student, Mr. Sheldon understands the immense impact international engagement can have on students’ lives and careers. “Traveling is fun, and our students learn to cultivate respect and understanding for the people and cultures they visit, but that’s only the beginning,” he said. “Our programs familiarize students with international issues that impact the veterinary profession and help them develop an understanding of the role that they can play in global health.”

After becoming dean in 2007, Dr. Reed established the goal of providing 100% of PVM students with an international experience. So far the college has progressed to the point that about 70% of PVM students have at least one international experience before they graduate. A significant factor undergirding that accomplishment is Dean Reed’s commitment to provide financial support for students seeking international experiences. He established PVM Global Scholarships, which amounted to a total of $68,000 in 2023. This dedication to student success and academic vitality does not go unnoticed by the students themselves.

Jesus Hernandez, president of the International Veterinary Students Association chapter at Purdue and member of the DVM Class of 2026, commented on the significance of Dean Reed’s emphasis on global engagement. “To me, it signifies a pioneering commitment to fostering a global perspective within the academic community,” he said. “It suggests a recognition of the interconnectedness of today’s world and the necessity for students to be well-versed in international issues. Global engagement can enrich educational experiences, promote cultural understanding, and prepare students for diverse professional environments.”

These small steps and giant leaps that have carried PVM to prominence as a national leader in global engagement would not be possible without plenty of support from college faculty and staff. In particular, a special thank you is in order for Dr. Tomohito Inoue, lecturer in anesthesiology; Dr. Jeff Ko, professor of anesthesiology; Dr. Riyi Shi, Mari Hulman George Endowed Professor of Applied Neuroscience; and Dr. Steve Thompson, clinical associate professor of small animal primary care, for helping to host international visitors during summer exchange programs. Additionally, a number of other faculty and students help exchange students feel welcome throughout the year. Mr. Sheldon also credits the leadership and support provided by the dean and his leadership team as being essential in bringing about growing opportunities for PVM students to pursue global engagement for years to come.

Writer(s): Madeline Brod, communications intern |

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