Transfer from the Islands

The College of Veterinary Medicine has traditionally accepted students from the “Island Schools” (Ross University, St. George’s University, and St. Matthew’s University) to complete their fourth-year clinical rotations on campus.

Over the past few years however, more and more students from those schools are opting to come to Iowa State earlier, transferring in after their first or second year of veterinary classes.

“I wanted to be at a school where I would have more hands-on experiences and more clinical opportunities,” said Samantha Sotillo, a fourth-year student. “The comprehensiveness and the clinical programs available here at Iowa State was a major reason why I transferred.”

Fellow transfer Jessica LeGrand, also a fourth-year student, had a similar reason for leaving the Caribbean and moving to Ames.

“There are far more opportunities offered at Iowa State that weren’t offered at Ross,” LeGrand said. “I needed more opportunities to get involved in laboratories and to make connections for my residency application.”

There are currently 23 transfer students enrolled in the College of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Monica Howard, assistant dean of veterinary student success, advises each of transfer students.

The college has been accepting transfers since 2006 and 34 have graduated from Iowa State.

“Several of the transfers are very involved and doing great things from Summer Scholars to holding executive positions in clubs and organizations,” Howard said.

One of those students is Brittany Skaggs, a current VM3 student who transferred to Iowa State last fall semester.

“I am interested in poultry medicine and Iowa has a huge agricultural industry,” said Skaggs, who holds several student leadership positions. “Transferring here meant I could take part in the poultry industry and work with producers first-hand.”

It didn’t take long for Skaggs to do just that. Last summer she participated in the college’s Summer Scholar Program, working with poultry veterinarians on a research project on infectious bronchitis virus in chickens.

Other transfer students also have adjusted quickly to their new academic surroundings. Vibhuti Oberoi, another VM3 student, serves on the college’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee. Despite transferring in the spring semester, Sotillo has been involved in several clubs including SCACVIM. Third-year student Samantha Tirone became the president of the student chapter of the Association of Reptilian and Amphibian Veterinarians.

“I tried to become as involved as I could so I could establish a support network after I transferred,” said LeGrand.

She’s not kidding. Not only did LeGrand work in a research lab but she served as an officer for both SPECTRUM ASLAP. She also was involved in the Diagnostic Imaging Club, Internal Medicine Club, Surgery Club, AAEP and many, many more.

Joining clubs was just one of the ways the transfer students acclimated themselves to their new academic surroundings.

“I asked my peers for guidance and tips on how they studied to develop my own study methods,” Oberoi said. “The hardest part was having to make up extra classes that Iowa State students take in the first year,” Tirone said. “Because I hadn’t taken those classes while I was at Ross, I had to take summer courses and even some extra courses my second year.”

There were other, more obvious, adjustments to make. Many of the students transferred just as the COVID pandemic forced in-person classes to move online.

“Meeting new people was difficult due to COVID,” Skaggs said. “Nobody had ever seen my face before, and masks only added to that.” Oberoi had a similar experience. “Because I came in during the pandemic, I had only met with my cohort of classmates and had to adjust to learning online with new professors and different teaching methods,” the California native said. “It was also my first time being anywhere in the Midwest, so living through my first Iowa winter was an interesting learning experience.”

All credit Howard with making the adjustment to life at Iowa State an easier transition to make.

“I know she truly cares about each one of us,” Skaggs said. “She really makes us all feel welcome and words cannot describe how much that means to us as transfers.”

October 2021