by Bryan Slinker, dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine
So, we start a new academic year and we just welcomed our latest generation of Coug veterinarians—the class of 2020. 2020 already! I spent two and a half days in August with this wonderful group of talented, smart, funny, delightful, enthusiastic people. And I am here to tell you our future is in good hands.
For many years, we have conducted an off-site, multiday experiential learning and team building session as part of the Cougar Orientation and Leadership Experience, or COLE. It is a big part of our commitment to the wellness of each class of students. They learn how to help each other succeed over their four years in veterinary school, which also helps them prepare to stay well and succeed as they enter professional practice. We cultivate a sense of community that we hope spans from when someone first visits us as a potential applicant, through decades of connections as Coug alumni. Building that community is fostered by the foundational experience of COLE. I always tell students that I am not sure how I would have reacted to this experience 40 years ago when I came off the farm to start veterinary school at WSU. But from my vantage point now, I see how critical it is to help get them off on the right foot for long-term wellness and mutual support. It is a foundation for their success as members of a profession with a strong community identity. And I so appreciate their willingness to engage. It is also the beginning of what we hope is a lifelong exploration of what it means to be a professional and to develop what has been called a “professional self” who is reflective, ethical, committed to serving others, and relishes ongoing learning.
I know I am biased because I am a Coug, but to witness the coming together of a highly diverse group of 130 individual students, and the beginning of their transformation into a cohesive community as part of the class of 2020 and our broader college family that encompasses alumni, friends, and others who are committed to WSU, makes me extremely proud of our college. I am especially proud and pleased to see this transformation expressed in the commitment of the 30 or so second and third year students who serve as peer mentors for the new class during COLE and on into the fall semester as we continue to work with them to build a strong professional identity. The engagement of these upper class students in this endeavor, and in so many other ways throughout their studies with us, is foundational for our sense of community.
Due to the commitment of our faculty, staff, and students I think we do this better than anyone else. And it all begins at COLE.