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Class of 2018 Story: A Road Scholar

The story of Olivia Myers’ fourth year at the College of Veterinary Medicine feels reminiscent of a Johnny Cash song: She’s been everywhere.

Myers recently returned to campus at NC State University to complete a final rotation in anesthesiology before graduation, after completing a number of externships that have taken her across the country. Each place exposed her to different aspects of swine health – from agricultural policy making in Washington, D.C., to swine genetics in Hendersonville, Tennessee, to private practice in Iowa and Minnesota.

Originally from Lexington, Myers always knew she wanted to earn a degree from NC State. Her parents are both alumni from the class of 1979. “I was brought up with the saying ‘you bleed red for a reason,’” she said.

Myers received her undergraduate degree in biology, with minors in chemistry and environmental science, from Catawba College, where she ran cross country and played tennis at the Division II level.

Athletics and academic scholarships meant she could save money for veterinary school.

When she was accepted to the DVM program at NC State, “it was a lifelong dream,” she said. “I really got the best of both worlds.”

Myers, who decided she wanted to be a veterinarian at age three, entered the program with the intention of pursuing mixed animal studies. She found her passion for swine medicine – which developed into a commitment to work with farmers to provide a safe food supply for the public – while making farm calls with a local swine veterinarian.

“Herd health is important to me as a veterinarian in order to produce healthy animals and therefore deliver healthy food,” she said. “If we don’t participate in animal agriculture, then people don’t eat.”

Because Myers’ studies are food animal-focused, externships have been critical in helping her gain valuable experience in the field. Learning how different areas of the country approach swine medicine has helped her develop new techniques to bring back to North Carolina. However, the expense of traveling adds up quickly.

While Myers was in Iowa – an eight-week externship that included a rotation through the Swine Medical Educational Center at Iowa State University, in addition to working with a private swine practitioner – she learned she had received her college’s Amy and Chris Keck Scholarship. “I started crying,” she said. “It was just a huge blessing to have people that don’t even know me supporting me.”

Scholarships and fellowships are especially important at the graduate level, Myers noted, because students pursuing advanced degrees likely already carry debt from their undergraduate education. The combined costs can influence the jobs students take after graduation and even the specialties they pursue.

“Being able to have scholarship support eight years into school is enormous. It took such a burden off of me. I can’t say my thanks enough.”

In addition to the Keck Scholarship, Myers has received the Hanns-Dieter Alhusen Swine Education Fellowship, the Lundy-Fetterman Endowed Scholarship and the T.D. O’Quinn Memorial Veterinary Endowed Scholarship. This support was crucial as Myers worked two jobs to support herself through veterinary school. She worked for a Raleigh dog-walking business, running dogs in the morning and evening and walking them at lunch, and as a mentor for NC State student-athletes, drawing on her own experiences as an undergraduate.

“It speaks a lot to the family at NC State,” she said of donor-funded scholarships. “Vet school is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. There were times when I was burned out, didn’t want to study, was staying up late and not getting enough sleep. One of the things that got me through was thinking about the people that had given me these scholarships. They believed in me, they supported me, they wanted me to succeed.

“If they were willing to put that faith in me, then I should be able to have the confidence and drive to continue to achieve my goals.”

The path to fulfilling those goals may have taken Myers far from home at times, but now she’s ready to practice in state. After she receives her DVM, she will be working at a small animal clinic and with a livestock veterinary service in eastern North Carolina. She is confident that her education has prepared her for a successful career.

“NC State has some really great programs, especially the veterinary school,” Myers said. “In order to continue to have students come through this program and be successful, we need support. I am extremely thankful for my scholarships. I tear up when I think about it, because I have always wanted this, and now I’m about to graduate. I have my scholarship donors to thank for that.”

~Amy Rossi/ NC State University Advancement