Elite 11 scholarship to support veterinary services statewide

· 5 min read

Elite 11 scholarship to support veterinary services statewide

Applications for first cohort being accepted through April 12
The windmill on East Campus, located behind the Animal Science Building, turns in the wind.
Craig Chandler | University Communication

The University of Nebraska–Lincoln is offering a new scholarship program aimed at growing the number of veterinarians serving livestock producers statewide.

Announced Feb. 29 by Gov. Jim Pillen, the Nebraska Elite 11 Veterinarian Program provides financial support to Nebraska students pursuing degrees in animal science or veterinary science at UNL’s College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources

“The need for production animal veterinarians is undeniable. It’s an issue for Nebraska and other state’s as well,” Gov. Pillen said. “Through this collaboration with UNL, Nebraska will be a leader in boosting the number of graduates in this field.”

Chancellor Rodney D. Bennett voiced strong support for the program, which he said will help the university meet two key goals.

“The Nebraska Elite 11 Veterinarian Program aligns with two key aims of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln — first, to attract, retain, and graduate Nebraska’s best and brightest students; and second, to contribute to resolving pressing issues within the state of Nebraska,” Bennett said. “The university appreciates Gov. Pillen’s leadership and the state’s support of this program that will impact not only UNL but all Nebraskans who benefit from veterinary services.”

Nebraska’s livestock industry contributes more than $6 billion annually to the state’s economy — an impact that is especially significant in rural counties and communities. Veterinarians play a critical role in keeping livestock healthy, improving herd health, and responding to disease and public health issues, among many other services, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Access to high-quality veterinary care improves profitability for livestock producers and contributes to peace of mind for producers when their animals need care.

But Nebraska and other states across the country are facing a steep shortage of food animal veterinarians. One reason for this is the cost of veterinary training, according to the USDA. The Elite 11 Program removes the barrier of cost for Nebraska students interested in food animal veterinary medicine.

“This is a great example of collaboration between the state and university that will benefit agriculture and all Nebraskans,” said Chris Kabourek, interim president of the University of Nebraska. “With the Elite 11 program, we will address important workforce needs while creating more opportunities for our young people to pursue their dreams right here in Nebraska. I’m grateful to Dean Tiffany Heng-Moss for her vision and leadership on this effort, and we thank Governor Pillen for his strong partnership on our shared goals for Nebraska’s growth and competitiveness.”

Dr. Larry Marshall has been a vet in Bertrand for nearly 40 years. He says students tend to return to their home communities to practice, which is both a benefit and a hindrance when it comes to recruiting food animal veterinarians, especially if that hometown is in another state.

“The point is that my plight in trying to find an associate is shared up and down areas of rural Nebraska with other veterinarians. This is a plan that I think is going to get to the root of the problem and it’s going to help solve that problem,” Marshall said. “Our goal is to find, cultivate, educate, mentor and lead these students down a path that will let them be successful food animal veterinarians in rural Nebraska.”

Up to 25 first-time freshmen will receive the Nebraska Aspiring Animal Production Veterinarians Program Scholarship, which covers 50% of their tuition for the first two years of their study in the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

After the second year, up to 13 of the original 25 scholarship recipients will be awarded a continuation scholarship, which covers 100% of tuition for their third and fourth years of study. Ultimately, 11 students will be selected as part of the Elite 11. Those students will receive 100% of tuition and fees for UNL’s professional program in veterinary medicine, in which students complete the first two years of veterinary school at Nebraska, followed by two more years of schooling at the Iowa State College of Veterinary Medicine. Students selected into the program will also receive mentoring and professional development throughout their studies.

“This program presents an incredible opportunity for Nebraska high school students who are passionate about agriculture and animal care to pursue careers in veterinary medicine without the burden of student loan debt,” said Tiffany Heng-Moss, dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources. “This is an important program that will have a big impact on our state, our agriculture industry, and on the students who take part in it. I’m grateful to Gov. Pillen and the state of Nebraska for making this possible.”

Graduates of the Elite 11 Program are required to stay in Nebraska and practice as a production-animal veterinarian for eight years. Application instructions for the first cohort of the program are now available online. Applications will be accepted through April 12. Scholarship recipients will be notified in late May.

“The Elite 11 Program brings together two of the things we are most passionate about at UNL — supporting Nebraska students and fulfilling our land-grant mission,” said Mike Boehm, vice chancellor for UNL’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources. “It’s truly a win-win.”

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