Community-Engaged Student Leadership

June 27, 2022

A student's perspective on engaging with leadership.

Ricky Wagner, a veterinary student.
Ricky Wagner, a veterinary student, holds a Shar Pei dog.

As an incoming Doctor of Veterinary Medicine candidate, I shared many of the same goals as most incoming veterinary students. These objectives involved earning good grades, making friends, and having good relationships with faculty. However, my goals also included a desire to be more involved with our campus organizations. Working multiple jobs on top of heavy course loads during my undergraduate career made it impossible to commit to extracurricular activities. Attending veterinary school provided another chance to make a difference, and I jumped at the opportunity. 

My chance to make a difference first came in the summer of 2020 before school started. I decided to run for the Student Representative position in our inaugural Student Government Association (SGA) because I wanted to be a trusted voice and representative for our class in a growing program and was pleased to be voted into the position. Our duties included building the SGA from the ground up and establishing healthy communication between students and the staff and faculty. Having these duties early on helped me build relationships with both staff and students in a meaningful way and establish positive communication channels for the future.  

A group of over 25 students stand together in a basketball court. Some are holding dodgeballs.

Throughout my involvement with student leadership, I’ve made several positive contributions and changes across campus because I am passionate about bettering the experience for us students. One of my favorite contributions was creating and hosting the College of Veterinary Medicine’s First Annual Dodgeball Tournament. Together with Student Affairs and the Mental Health and Wellness committee, we brought my idea to fruition, and it was a huge success! The event gave students a chance to have fun, relieve stress, and enjoy community outside of an academic setting; plus, who could say no to free snacks and great prizes. The second tournament is already in the works for this summer.  

A recycling box near lockers in a student area.

In addition to inspiring a healthy student culture, I was able to take steps toward creating a more sustainable future for the College. To address a need to mitigate waste created by the plastic wrapping produced by dispensing lab coats and coveralls, I helped establish a functional recycling program. Because the plastic wrappers cannot be recycled in the school’s traditional recycling bins, I wanted to find a solution to avoid creating more landfill waste. So, I researched a recycling program that the school could utilize, gathered student support, and presented the idea to the school. As a result, the school approved and immediately implemented the program. My time as a Student Representative encouraged me to stay involved in student government in hopes of making a difference for future incoming students. I now serve as Vice President and oversee our VetCat and VetKitten mentorship programs, which help provide support for incoming students.  

Student leadership has given me a sense of purpose within the community, giving me ample opportunities to build meaningful relationships with faculty, staff, and other students. My involvement in student government set me apart and prepared me to be a proactive leader within the veterinary profession, and I look forward to taking my skills into the clinical year and my post-graduation career. I hope sharing a few of my accomplishments helps inspire students considering leadership to see themselves as capable of leading and initiating meaningful and exciting change within their CVM community.