Meet the Associate Dean
Get to know our new Associate Dean for Student Affairs
The College of Veterinary Medicine is excited to announce Dr. Shannon Salinas as our new Associate Dean for Student Affairs. Dr. Salinas has over 25 years of experience in higher education in public, private, and Ivy League universities. So join us in welcoming back the former Wildcat and an official new member of the VetCat family.
Tell us a little about yourself and how you got where you are today.
I am from Tucson and have significant personal and family ties to the Sonoran Desert. After many years away, I am finally returning home! As a first-generation and unconventional college student (yes, I’m a Wildcat!) I sought the independence that could only come from meaningful work, opportunities made possible by high-quality education. After graduating from the University of Arizona, I attended law school at UC Berkeley. I chose to practice political asylum on behalf of Central Americans in support of the Sanctuary Movement. That work would lead me to Washington, DC, Geneva, and Mexico City, where I learned the value of each person’s right to tell their story and the importance of sharing it to find one’s authentic voice. It was an easy, albeit unexpected, transition to higher education. I’ve been fortunate to have enjoyed varied experiences in student affairs, faculty affairs, and strategic planning in public, private, and ivy league universities with professional, graduate, and undergraduate students. With every appointment, I learned something new and vital about what it means to serve a community of learners and teachers.
What drew you to the Arizona College of Veterinary Medicine?
This is an easy one! It was the innovative approach and vision of Dean Funk to promote a vibrant and diverse community of faculty, staff, and students to advance the profession in an engaged and respectful community purposefully. My initial impression when first learning about the unique and condensed curriculum, as well as the holistic admissions process, was that the Arizona College of Veterinary Medicine was focused on cultivating and educating leaders in academic and clinical practice while providing cutting-edge programs that will ultimately deliver exceptional services to animals and public health. The College is poised to transform the profession in a meaningful and provocative way - and in a place where there is great need. I immediately knew I wanted to be a part of building something new with terrific colleagues for a profession I care about and in a place I love.
Tell us about your vision for Student Affairs in this College.
Working collaboratively with students and colleagues, I would like to re-imagine and assess College resources and services to find increasingly effective ways to deploy them to prepare future veterinarians for “practice-ready” careers that are meaningful and fulfilling. Three years is not long, but it should be consequential, even transformative. A student’s time here should provide the foundation for ongoing and healthy personal and professional growth. In general, I envision four broad but essential areas for student success: First, the careful cultivation and admission of an annual class of committed and diverse students who will bring their own experiences, backgrounds, and perspectives that add to a culture of mutual respect. Second, students should quickly develop a sense of genuine ownership and belonging to the College – good health, wellness, and balanced life in a high-stakes learning environment can be challenging but not impossible. Its incumbent on the College to provide the necessary tools and resources in a non-judgmental and empathetic environment. Third, early and effective career planning and preparation is critical to developing a professional’s ability to seek and select the best match in opportunities leading to fulfilling work. Finally, individual and collective leadership opportunities through student organizations or other initiatives will strengthen true leadership skills that will foster the highest level of personal and professional integrity. It’s also an excellent way to develop a strong and ongoing sense of community, something every working professional will value after graduation.
What motivates you to liaise with students and faculty in this role?
I am motivated by mission-based institutions with shared goals and objectives. My belief in relationship-oriented culture, combined with the unique nature of our veterinary program, will be helpful as we work collaboratively to prepare students for whatever career they choose, whether in practice or research, academia, or public policy. It is rare to find a place where deeply held values are shared and the common purpose is clear. I am very excited to join Arizona’s College of Veterinary Medicine. This place has a special dynamic and progressive educational mission and a solid vision for the future of veterinary medicine. The approach and mission align beautifully with the University’s land grant status. I welcome this extraordinary opportunity to work with the entire community to prepare our students for a future of medical discovery and escalating social needs.
What do you look forward to bringing with you to Arizona?
I look forward to bringing my little traveling sanctuary of special needs and aging semi-feral New York City cats to the warm comforts of desert life. I trapped each of them in the streets and parks of my former Harlem neighborhood!
What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
In the past, I particularly appreciated traveling and have been lucky to have visited over 125 countries at the last count. For now, I am more interested in visiting only a few well-loved destinations – special places in Mexico and Asia. Other simple pleasures like reading, art, theater, and cooking (and eating too!) I have a special affection for animals and think a lot about our human relationships and interactions with them. I have done some rescue work with dogs, cats, and parrots. It doesn’t look like I’ll be stopping anytime soon.