July 27, 2005
Purdue awards first veterinary technician distance-learning degrees
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. Although Beth Basar completed her coursework online, she'll be donning cap and gown with the rest of the graduates at Purdue University on Aug. 6 when she becomes one of the first graduates of the university's Veterinary Technology Distance Learning program.
Basar, of Round Rock, Texas, and Michelle Gamage, of Fork Union, Va., are the first to receive undergraduate degrees from a curriculum delivered completely by distance learning from Purdue University. The program for veterinary technicians in Purdue's School of Veterinary Medicine is an associate of science degree program, accredited by both the Indiana Commission for Higher Education and American Veterinary Medicine Association.
Basar is employed in a small-animal veterinary hospital, where she plans to continue to work using her new knowledge and decision-making skills. With completion of the degree and passing of the Veterinary Technician National Examination and Texas state examination, Basar will be eligible to become a registered veterinary technician. She earned her bachelor's degree in animal science from Purdue in 1988 and moved to Texas in 1991 when her husband, also a Purdue graduate, got a job in Houston.
"When I decided to pursue my veterinary technology degree, I looked for an accredited program locally and didn't find one, so I started to look at distance learning," Basar said. "I've always liked Purdue, and knew I could trust a degree program from my alma mater."
Gamage has been working full time at Fork Union Animal Clinic for the past seven years. She received a bachelor's degree from Virginia Intermont College and chose Purdue for her veterinary technician's degree because of what she described as the comprehensiveness of the program.
"As soon as I learned how to do something new, I immediately applied it to our patients and was able to see it all in action," Gamage said. "Everything came together more quickly and made more sense when I was able to apply what I was learning quickly, rather than storing all that information for later use."
Graduates of the Web-based program, which began in 1999 with 23 students, go on to work in a variety of settings and perform many veterinary nursing procedures and technical laboratory procedures with companion, food and laboratory animals. In spring semester 2005, there were 214 students enrolled.
"The biggest challenge for students involved in distance-learning programs is maintaining self-motivation and discipline to complete the entire curriculum," said Pete Bill, director of the veterinary technology distance-learning program and an associate professor in the School of Veterinary Medicine. "Our biggest challenge as educators is to make sure the students have contact with real people so they don't feel alienated."
With students from all over the world, including Belgium, Israel and Hong Kong, Bill says they have built a tight virtual community through e-mail and Internet bulletin boards, and they often celebrate each others' anniversaries and achievements. A Web page called Pete's Pub, where no instructors are allowed, is a place where students can interact as normally as possible within the constraints of a virtual campus watering hole.
"These are students trying to get an education from a rigorous curriculum while still dealing with job and families," Bill said. "It may take them four to five years to get through our curriculum, which was developed directly from the on-campus, 18-month program. We try to facilitate discussions and help the students bond so that, in the end, they help each other."
The curriculum for the online associate's degree program is modeled on the campus program with 35 core courses and 17 clinical mentorship experiences for a total of 70 credit hours. Clinical mentorships are practicums done in a veterinary practice in which the student is required to practice and document successfully performed essential tasks under the supervision of a veterinarian or a licensed, certified, or registered veterinary technician.
Purdue's School of Veterinary Medicine, which opened in 1959, is the only veterinary school in Indiana and one of only 28 in the entire country. Purdue's veterinary technology associate degree curriculum is the one of two university-based programs nationally. The school also offers a doctor of veterinary medicine and a bachelor's degree in veterinary technology, post-graduate internships and residencies for veterinarians seeking specialty training, and graduate degrees in the departments of basic medical sciences, pathobiology and clinical sciences.
Home to the Veterinary Teaching Hospital and the Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory, the school serves as a major referral center for the diagnosis and treatment of diseases of all species of companion and food animals, as well as exotic pets and wildlife. The school has a faculty of 95, including specialists who are board-certified in their areas of expertise.
Writer: Maggie Morris, (765) 494-2432, firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: Robert (Pete) Bill, (765) 494-8636, email@example.com
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; firstname.lastname@example.org
Note to Journalists: Beth Basar will be in West Lafayette from August 4-7, and both students are available by phone. Contact Maggie Morris, (765) 494-2432, email@example.com for phone numbers or to set up an interview.
A publication-quality photograph is available at http://news.uns.purdue.edu/uns/images/+2005/vettech-distance.jpg
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