EWC hopes to expand vet program

‘They have all the opportunities in the world to go wherever they want’

Rhett Breedlove
Posted 4/12/24

TORRINGTON – The Eastern Wyoming College (EWC) board of trustees met for the monthly discussion of college topics, plans, and crucial agenda items.

College president Dr. Jeffry Hawes was …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

EWC hopes to expand vet program

‘They have all the opportunities in the world to go wherever they want’


TORRINGTON – The Eastern Wyoming College (EWC) board of trustees met for the monthly discussion of college topics, plans, and crucial agenda items.

College president Dr. Jeffry Hawes was present along with chairman Jackie Van Mark and vice chairman Rick Vonburg.

Trustee members Kurt Sittner, Randy Adams, Robert Baumgartner, Doug Mercer, and Jim Willox were all additionally present, while Trustee Katherine Patrick attended digitally.

Perhaps the most noteworthy item on the evening’s agenda was the recognition of both recent and anticipated future progress of the college Veterinary Technology (vet-tech) program, currently headed up by Dr. Colleen Mitchell.

Dr. Colleen Mitchell would present crucial information before the Board in regard to significant accomplishments made by vet-tech students, recent scholarships awarded, and future program needs.

According to Dr. Mitchell, the program enrollment has become so high with first-and second-year students, the college in years to come may have no choice but to continue program expansion with resources and even additional buildings.

The vet-tech program head would begin her presentation by giving well-deserved acknowledgment of both her students and colleagues.

“I do want to mention several of our students have been awarded scholarships by the drug companies Pfizer and Merk,” Dr. Mitchell began. “Several of them applied for and got those scholarships, so we are very proud of them on that.”

“We use models a lot for students to practice. What vets-techs do is actually a wide variety of things. We usually think about them working in clinicals practices. That’s just a part of what our students are qualified to do such as working at vet labs and zoos. Also, things point to control hotlines, emergency clinics, and specialty clinics.”

Dr. Mitchell, with the presence of the entire vet-tech student body, would continue to speak before the board with a sincere explanation of the cruciality and ever-growing industry demand in both the country and vastly worldwide.

“Vet clinics are in high demand, and they can all find a job,” Dr. Mitchell continued. “There is no problem with that at all. I have had numerous people contact me looking for technicals both close and far away. We have vet-tecs right now with salaries increasing rapidly, and they have all the opportunities in the world to go wherever they want. Washington state can’t get enough students to work for them. They can have government work, corporations, everything. This is the whole range besides working in vet clinics. This is where most of them go, but some want to try other fields in the vet profession.”

As Dr. Mitchell continued with her presentation while holding her colleagues and students in very high regard, the seasoned professor ensured one other thing was to be brought up at the meeting.

Despite significant recent accomplishments within the program, the program head was resolute in mentioning more improvements can be made; this as well as supplementary support from the Board will be essential in moving forward.

“The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) committee on Veterinary Tech Education and Activities continued the EWC vet-tech program on full accreditation. Not every vet-tech school does this, but we did. This is a huge congrats. We weren’t perfect as they did some up some deficiencies. Not that they are major, it’s just they are more important. The good news is we have five to six years to correct them. We have to keep working on our protocols, but a major deficiency would be where we need your help. Money in other words.”

The room responded with light laughter.

“This would include buildings and an increase in our faculty type thing. Right now, I’m the only full-time vet. Our adjunct helps quite a bit, but right now we have two job openings listed for program veterinarians, and that’s how we are going to try and get program staffing. If we hire two vets, that will allow the program director more time for administrative and teaching duties while allowing faculty to have more time. If we have more faculty, we will have more time to prepare for classes and counsel them. The long-term needs are the building. We need a new vet-tech building. It has to go through the plans, but we need more to work through major deficiencies and there needs to be more working as a college to take care of that. It won’t be built in five years, but it’s expected we keep moving forward on those plans.”

The room applauded as Dr. Mitchell finished her presentation. Soon thereafter, vice chairman Vonburg gave further kudos to the vet-tech program for their recent endeavors as well as other contributions.

“Congrats on full accreditation,” Vonburg said. “Also, thank you for hosting the state FFA science contest. That takes a lot of work. Many years ago, we were at an ag meeting, and they said we want to do an ag contest, so you can blame us for that. We know that takes a lot of work, so we greatly appreciate that, and we appreciate all you’ve done.”

“There’s only certain programs that have this level of rigor,” president Dr. Hawes added. “There’s rigor in everything, but very few have accrediting bodies with accreditation such as healthcare and nursing programs. There’s a lot the leadership had to put in for this accreditation standard, and they’ve had very high success rates.”

The meeting continued further with a discussion regarding the EWC Gear Up program, headed by college staff Chelsea Ballard.

According to Ballard, the direction the program is headed deals primarily with continuing to not only grow the program but to begin recruitment efforts just a few years earlier.

As Ballard explained before the Board of Trustees, talking about higher education with students well before high school plants a positive seed in helping them set their minds much sooner; as well as being better prepared academically and financially.

When it came to this particular notion, Ballard expressed a firm belief our local high and middle school students should take top consideration for recruitment heading forward.

“I have been asked to share where the program is, where it is was, and where it’s going,” Ballard said. “The first thing is through our financial items. The grant is almost half a mile a year over the course of seven years. We are in year seven right now. We have many objectives to serve here at EWC, and one is getting our locals to come here. The goal is to get them to graduate and come here. We have put a lot of emphasis on this, and we are trying to get them used to coming here early. The goal is to get them to come to our school, and not immediately go to Casper College or UW right away. We want them to come here first, and then transition on elsewhere. That is the goal with our seventh through twelve graders. That is a direct reflection of what is happening. We are moving in a very positive direction and a large piece is for our local students; especially low-income first-year students that don’t get as many opportunities. Often times they don’t know what to do or where to go, so they just stay home. We appreciate your support in what we are doing to share with our population.”

Just prior to the adjournment of the meeting, college legislative intern, Brandon Patterson, gave a brief but enlightening account of recent first-hand experiences with Wyoming’s latest legislative session.

“I spent every day I could there from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., going to committee meetings, and had a lot to take in,” Patterson said. “It started off very interesting. Actually, a fun fact, as it went on it didn’t get less interesting. My time there was very decent. Many things I took away are it’s not as political as it sounds, and it’s not at all like DC politics where it seems super contentious. They seem to work very well with each other, they take other’s opinions and take thoughts from other sides into consideration. They work very long days, as some were there from 7 a.m. to 12 at night going through all the things they had to get done. There was a lot of hard work and dedication, with quite a lot of different people.”

The meeting adjourned at 7:30 p.m. and will reconvene on May 14 at 4 p.m.

If you would like more information or have further questions regarding EWC, feel free to call 307-532-8200 or visit www.ewc.wy.edu.