Animal science major Nabilah Curtis (19c) uses every opportunity she can to chase her dream of becoming a veterinarian. Participating in the vet shadowing program with Clinical Assistant Professor and College Veterinarian Kirstin Ruffner gave her the opportunity to gain firsthand experience working with large animals on campus. “I think the shadowing program has definitely opened my eyes a bit more to large animal medicine. I never thought about being a cow, sheep, or horse vet, but while watching Dr. Ruffner work, I started to be able to see myself in that same position.” Nabilah hopes to attend vet school after Berry and work with both small and large animals.
Sarah Cooper (19c) was looking for a college where she could ride on a competitive equestrian team while working as a paid researcher in a science lab. Only one college fit her criteria – Berry!
Choosing Berry has helped Sarah win the prestigious Goldwater Scholarship this year and compete nationally for the college equestrian team.
“I love it here so much. I’m a student-athlete and a fulltime student, and I work about 16 hours doing research in the chemistry department. In most other schools you could only be an athlete or have a job,” she said.
Berry is known for its academic rigor, but also for its small class and lab sizes. Sarah wants everyone to know Berry is the reason for her success. The attention from professors – not overworked graduate students typical of large universities – allows her to excel and thrive.
“Classes are competitive, but it’s not cutthroat. Students work together all the time. It’s very team oriented at Berry,” Sarah noted.
Earning the Goldwater Scholarship allows Sarah, a rising senior, to pursue a spot at one of the top 10 graduate programs in the country in her quest to earn a Ph.D. and eventually work in pharmaceutical research and development. The Goldwater is one of the most prestigious scholarships in the natural sciences, engineering and mathematics, recognizing students who excel in undergraduate research with faculty. Sarah joins winners from Cal Tech, Stanford, Harvard, MIT, Duke and Princeton among others.
Berry science professors teach three classes every semester, giving them time to mentor students outside of class. For Sarah, that mentor is Associate Professor of Biochemistry Dominic Qualley.
“Pretty much anybody who is motivated here can do research,” Dr. Qualley said, adding that the school also provides support for faculty and students wishing to travel to conferences to present their findings.
“At a large university, professors won’t give you the time of day. They focus on the grad students,” Sarah said. “The hours that the professors at Berry spend with students provide us with valuable firsthand instruction.”
And when Sarah needs a break from all that research and studying, she reaps the benefit of being able to board her horse, Dinky, on the world’s largest campus.
“I can just drive up to mountain campus and tell her how my test went,” she said laughing.
Keiley Ayers, a senior from Ohio, dreamed of being a vet but she never imagined getting “up close and personal” with a giraffe. But that’s exactly what happened during an internship after her junior year in South Africa on the Safari4U veterinary program. Transporting giraffes from one setting to another, she guided them with ropes. “It was amazing to see those beautiful animals up close and personal!”
Keiley came to visit Berry after seeing a photo on a brochure of a student in a field surrounded by cows. She enrolled when she realized it had everything she was looking for in a college: a top animal science program, a community that shared her Christian values and a strong lacrosse program. And now that she’s graduating, she’s realized her dream come true with admission to several top veterinary programs.
Her internship not only exposed her to many aspects of being a vet, but it also “helped me to realize how much I have learned during my time at Berry.” Since she was with students from different colleges, she found herself helping to teach others in her group. “That reminded me that my hard work has paid off!”
Keiley credits all of her experiences – her on-campus jobs, her research experiences, her African internship, even her lacrosse playing – as contributions to her overall success and satisfaction with Berry. But she gives a special shout-out to her faculty members who, she said, “are truly invested in your life and success … they have played a huge role in helping me get to where I am today.”
Avery James is building a remarkable record at Berry: the junior is a talented poet and a top psychology student who is a two-time state forensics champion competing at a national level. She volunteers with developmentally challenged children and is working on securing an internship at a nonprofit serving homeless women and children. When she graduates from Berry, she plans on earning two graduate degrees: a Master of Fine Arts in poetry first and then an advanced degree to work as a clinical psychologist. And talking to Avery, one has no doubt that she will reach all her goals.
What’s surprising to hear Avery admit is that when she first came to Berry from Conyers, Georgia, she was “a bit shy.” Then she saw a sign for a Forensics Union meeting, which she mistook for a forensic psychology meeting. “It didn’t take me long to realize I was at a club meeting, not a psychology class,” she laughed. “It was the happiest accident I ever made.” Being a member of Berry’s very successful Forensics Union has given her the “confidence to become an advocate for social change.”
Avery has ready advice for students considering Berry: always talk to your professors. “They love it when you come into their offices – in fact, they expect it.” Also, learn to balance your personal needs with those of others. “Even though college is very hectic and you’ll be pulled in a million directions, put yourself first.” And finally, “Don’t pet the deer. I learned that the hard way,” she laughs.
Tyler Vaughan loves to solve puzzles and one of the puzzles he’s most enjoyed solving at Berry is that of his future profession.
Tyler came to Berry from Ringgold, Georgia, thinking he wanted to pursue a career as an actor. And indeed, he did land a plum role as the lead in a Berry production of “Peter and the Starcatcher.” Then he started to take classes in anatomy and physiology and thought about how interesting and complex the human body is. “I realized medicine has been an integral part of our success as a species. It contributes so much to our quality of life,” he reflected. As a Gate of Opportunity Scholar, Tyler had a job as a student trainer in sports medicine where he worked with several Berry athletic teams. With all the patient contact, he started to think about becoming a physical therapist working with performers. After conversations with friends and professors, however, Tyler realized he wanted to leap into the field of medicine with both feet and become an M.D. “From the minute I made the decision to become a doctor, everything just felt right,” he said. Tyler has shadowed an internist and a neurologist and made two medical mission trips to Nicaragua. He also volunteers at a nearby free clinic.
As a psychology major with a chemistry minor, Tyler has thought a lot about what motivates people. In his social psychology class, he learned that “as humans, we have two basic needs: to belong and to be correct.” He said that a choice for Berry allows students to both belong – and be right. “Berry’s community is so accepting. There’s some place for everyone to belong here,” he said.
In September of Andie Spearman’s senior year, nine months before graduation, her career was ready for launch.
The summer after her junior year, Andie, a marketing major from Atlanta, had a marketing and sales internship at Georgia-Pacific. Before her internship ended, she received an impressive job offer. After she walks across the graduation stage in May, she’ll become a business associate in the organization’s “Jump Start” program which will prepare her for a career with one of Georgia’s most prestigious companies. How did success come so readily to Andie? “My experience with the Enterprise Program on campus taught me so much,” said Andie. “I learned that any idea can flourish.” The program, which encompasses 15 different student enterprises on campus, offers real-world experience to students. As the director, she leads other students in everything from developing marketing campaigns and implementing strategies to community engagement and reaching revenue goals. What has been the highlight of her enterprise experience? “Seeing other people find their joy.” As a Gate of Opportunity Scholar, she is a member of another campus team that plans orientation for incoming scholars – another challenge she enjoys. Her favorite classes on campus also have a practical twist. In her Marketing Communications class, she worked with a nonprofit in the Rome area. Her Brand and Product Management class was built on examples from the real world.
Andie credits her two program supervisors for guiding her through her four years. “They’ve known me since day one, and we just do life together,” Andie said. How did Berry change her? “I’ve always been a hard worker, but Berry cultivated and helped me apply my talents. I faced some real challenges and have worked on things that haven’t come easily. I became the person I was meant to be at Berry.”
In her four years at Berry, senior Jennifer Wayman has worked as a veterinary assistant and research assistant as well as held positions at the horse barn, beef cattle unit, and the Berry student enterprises. “I have been able to invest myself in my on-campus jobs and develop quality relationships,” says Jennifer, an Animal Science/ Pre-Vet major. “Berry has prepared me with a pretty impressive resume. I feel like the experiences and opportunities I have gotten at Berry would not have been offered to me at other schools.” Berry’s firsthand experience also benefited Jennifer when she interned with the Georgia Department of Agriculture last summer. “I was able to experience veterinary medicine on a much larger scale,” she says. After graduating this spring, Jennifer plans on applying to veterinary school.
Story by student social media assistant Shannon Rainey
Greyhounds and fish and rabbits, oh my! These were some of the animals discussed at the Intercollegiate Animal Welfare Judging Competition. Professor Rebecca Dixon accompanied eight Berry animal science students as they traveled to Iowa to compete with 16 other teams from across the country. The competition included evaluations of virtual welfare situations for greyhounds, fish and rabbits. In the live scenario, the team had the opportunity to visit and evaluate housing situations for pigs. The team also got to meet animal welfare pioneer Temple Grandin. Former team leader and 2017 graduate Kristianna Saelens says that meeting Grandin “was incredible, and I know everybody on the team was excited about that, too.” She will be passing on the team captain role to teammates Helen Jones and Caleb Brezina. “My favorite part of the trip was getting the chance to break out of my comfort zone while learning about animals I did not know a lot about,” says Helen.
Story by student social media assistant Shannon Rainey
Dogs and cats and … elephants? Berry student Robert Stilz (19c) recently traveled to Thailand to work with rescued elephants in the Elephant Nature Park and with dogs and cats at Animal Rescue Kingdom shelter. It followed his work at the Berry College sheep unit and a local vet clinic. “Both prepared me by teaching me how to work with animals of all kinds and teaching me about veterinary medicine,” he says. Robert is an animal science/pre-vet major with minors in chemistry, Spanish, and One Health. He plans to earn his doctorate in veterinary medicine and his master’s in public health after graduating from Berry in 2019. “I still cannot believe what an amazing opportunity this trip was for me,” Robert says of the Thailand trip coordinated by Loop Abroad. “I’ve made lifelong memories and friendships on this trip and I would encourage anyone interested to seek out the same.”
Story by student social media assistant Shannon Rainey.
Mathematics major Hannah Marr (18c) headed to Maine this past summer for a software development internship with legendary outdoors retailer L.L. Bean. As a result of her finance team internship, L.L. Bean is continuing to use software tests that Hannah built. “I love being given a problem and expected to find a solution to it,” she said. The senior from Hendersonville, N.C., continues to share her knowledge as general manager for Berry’s Viking Math Tutoring, a student enterprise that offers math-tutoring services to the Rome City and Floyd County schools. After graduation, she plans to pursue a career in software development and deepen her knowledge about building workspaces, working with servers and programming languages, and developing applications. “Berry has connected me with a variety of people who have encouraged me in my journey and prepared me for life after college,” she said.
Story and photo by student social media assistant Saif Sarfani.