CVM to host the 2017 Student American Veterinary Medical Association Symposium
Posted February 27, 2017
For four days in March 2017, while the rest of campus is on
Spring Break, over 1,000 veterinary students from all over the
United States and abroad will flock to College Station for the 2017
Student American Veterinary Medical Association (SAVMA) Symposium.
The event promises to be a landmark moment for the CVM and a chance
to show the world what Texas A&M’s veterinary community is all
about. The symposium will be packed with opportunities for hands-on
learning and networking, with events ranging from lectures and wet
labs, to zoo and aquarium day trips, to research presentations and
competitions. The symposium will culminate in a lavish closing gala
in Kyle Field’s Hall of Champions.
The SAVMA Symposium will be one of the highlights of the
2016–2017 school year, and none of it would be possible without the
hard work of several dedicated CVM students: Chris Dolan ’17,
Bethany Wienheimer ’18, Austin Hardegree ’18, Nicole Fierce ’18,
Michael McEntire ’17, Caitlin Conner ’18, Garrett Crooks ’19,
Justin Casares ’18, Nicole Bertolini ’18, Nicole Fierce ’18, and
Lauren Thompson ’18. These dedicated Aggies compose the SAVMA
Symposium Planning Committee, and they’ve spent over a year
meticulously planning and organizing the event.
SAVMA Delegates: Michael McEntire, Caitlin Conner, and
The road to the 2017 symposium began in early 2014. Michael
McEntire was a SAVMA junior delegate—one of two students who
represent Texas A&M’s Student Chapter of the American
Veterinary Medical Association (SCAVMA) to the national
organization—when he was approached by Dr. Eleanor Green, the Carl
B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine, and Dr. Kenita Rogers, former
associate dean for professional programs, with the idea that Texas
A&M should place a bid to host the symposium. The answer was a
“My senior delegate, Stephen Marsh ’16, was just finishing up
his term representing Texas A&M, so it would be up to me and my
future junior delegate to place the bid,” McEntire explained.
McEntire, an aspiring zoo or aquarium veterinarian from Sandy,
Utah, got to work immediately, hosting brainstorming meetings with
students and faculty.
Caitlin Conner, of Forney, Texas, was elected SAVMA junior
delegate in November 2014, making McEntire the new senior delegate.
The pair immediately leapt into action. They had until Spring Break
to prepare their bid, which they would present at the 2015 SAVMA
Symposium at the University of Minnesota.
“We worked all over Christmas break on the bid, then rehearsed
weekly to bi-weekly leading up to Spring Break,” Conner said.
Together, they came up with unique wet lab and day trip ideas and
drafted a proposal to make Texas A&M stand out from the crowd.
McEntire created a PowerPoint presentation and video, and Conner
made a promotional booklet detailing Texas A&M’s plans.
After months of planning and practice, the big day arrived.
McEntire and Conner arrived at the University of Minnesota’s
symposium ready to make their case for Texas A&M in front of
the SAVMA House of Delegates.
“I was nervous,” Conner recalled. “It was the first time I had
really met most of these people, and I was standing up in front of
everybody in a suit and talking about how much I loved my
“Some of our selling points were the completion of the new
veterinary education complex, the beautiful spring Texas weather,
and the fun day trips we’re offering around the state,” McEntire
Indeed, the new facilities—which opened in August 2016—were one
of the things that made Texas A&M stand out. Until now, no
SAVMA symposium has been held entirely on a school’s campus.
“Symposia are almost always at convention centers,” Conner
explained. “Most schools just aren’t built for that many students
at one time. Our huge selling point was, ‘Come to Texas A&M.
We’re going to have this brand-new building—this brand-new complex
where we will hold the symposium in its entirety.’” All the labs,
lectures, exhibit halls, and House of Delegates meetings will
utilize the expanded CVM.
McEntire and Conner’s hard work paid off—Texas A&M won the
bid. When the pair returned to College Station, planning kicked
into high gear. McEntire, Conner, and SCAVMA President Chris Dolan
’17 assembled the SAVMA Planning Committee by hiring two general
managers, a treasurer, and a fundraising chair. They also took
charge of new planning subcommittees. McEntire chairs the marketing
and technology committee, Conner chairs evening events, and Dolan
is in charge of lecture and speaker planning.
Newest to the team is Garrett Crooks, a Buda, Texas, native and
Texas A&M graduate interested in zoological medicine. Crooks
was elected junior SAVMA delegate last fall. In the fall semester
— when the fourth-year students phase out of the planning
committee, Conner will take on McEntire’s senior delegate role, and
Crooks will replace Dolan as chair of the lecture and speaker
planning committee, and SCAVMA President-Elect Bethany Weinheimer
’18 will lead marketing and technology.
“Being a SAVMA delegate is a dual role,” Conner said. “We’re
liaisons between the national SAVMA and the planning committee
here. We also serve on the symposium committee within SAVMA, which
is full of delegates from Iowa State University, who hosted the
2016 symposium, and now the University of Pennsylvania, who won the
bid to host the 2018 symposium. We talk about symposium committee
things and get feedback from each other.”
At the 2016 Iowa State Convention, the SAVMA delegates spent
most of their time in SAVMA delegate meetings.
“It gave us the opportunity to come together with delegates from
all the other schools and learn from each other,” Crooks said.
“Seeing how the symposium there functioned and talking to others
that attended will allow us to continue building on the foundations
that have been laid by all the other host schools before us.”
As McEntire, Conner, and Crooks gear up for the 2017 symposium,
each has his or her own favorite experience to look forward to.
McEntire, who has served on the executive board for the national
SAVMA delegation, is thrilled to be hosting the event in his final
year at the CVM.
“I can’t wait to welcome all my delegate friends to Aggieland,”
Conner has been focusing her efforts on planning an “Experience
Texas Night” at the new Thomas G. Hildebrand, DVM ’56 Equine
“The plan is to get some Texas favorites on the menu, such as
barbecue, mini chicken fried steaks, and jalapeno poppers. We’ll
have a mechanical bull, roping lessons, and a live band,” Conner
explained. “It’s so people from all over the country, and the
world, can get a taste of Texas.”
For Crooks, hosting the symposium is all about showing attendees
the best time possible.
“I’m excited about providing the highest quality experience for
everyone that we can, in addition to showing everyone how great
things are in Texas,” he said.
General Managers: Nicole Bertolini and Justin
Nicole Bertolini and Justin Casares are the general managers,
working as a team to coordinate the committee’s biweekly meetings,
troubleshoot problems, and make sure everybody stays on the same
“Whenever there’s issues within committees on how to handle
something, we try to help out with that,” Casares said. “Whenever
someone has a general question, we’re typically the ones that
people go to try to figure it out. If we don’t know the answer, we
go find it.”
“We have our hands in everything,” Bertolini added. “So, we
still try to make sure that we know what’s going on in every
committee or stay up-to-date so that our two minds are on the same
page. We work 100 percent as a team.”
In addition to their general manager duties, each is in charge
of sub-committees. Bertolini leads the competitions and hospitality
committees. She’s excited about the opportunity to inject fun into
the symposium with both academic and athletic competitions.
Attendees will have the opportunity to compete in anatomy and
bovine palpitation contests. Bertolini also is planning a quiz bowl
using Zuku, a review to help prepare students for the North
American Veterinary Licensing Examination. She hopes to host the
bowl on Northgate to make the event both useful and fun. When
attendees want to blow off some steam and have fun with new people,
they can participate in dodgeball and volleyball tournaments. For
Bertolini, the SAVMA symposium isn’t just about veterinary
medicine; it’s also a key opportunity to have fun networking with
future veterinarians from around the world.
Casares’ committees handle host events—the opening ceremony and
closing gala—and day trips. The closing gala is one event that the
committee members are universally excited about.
“It’s going to be a huge event. We’re using the new Hall of
Champions at Kyle Field,” Casares said. His committee is planning a
fancy dinner, followed by live music and a chance for everyone to
mix and mingle with new friends.
Beyond the on-campus events, Casares’ committee is planning day
trips to see veterinarians in action around Texas.
From left—Justin Casares, Dr. Anna Reddish, Caitlin Conner and
“We’re organizing trips to the Houston Zoo, to the rodeo, and to
Sea World San Antonio,” Casares said. These behind-the-scenes
glimpses at veterinary specialties will be symposium highlights for
many students. For out-of-towners who want to experience some local
flavor, Casares is organizing trips to Messina Hof Winery and
Although they come from different backgrounds, Bertolini and
Casares are dedicated Aggies who are excited to represent their
school on an international scale. Bertolini hails from southeast
Houston and earned her undergraduate degree in zoology at Texas
A&M. She’s tentatively planning to go into a mixed animal
practice, possibly specializing in zoo animal medicine later.
“When Caitlin and Mike won the bid to host SAVMA at the CVM, I
knew it would be a huge deal and a great opportunity to work with
all kinds of people,” Bertolini said. “The last time we had the
symposium here was 11 years ago. To have it while I’m here at
school is very exciting.”
Casares grew up on a ranch in Mission, Texas, spending his youth
working with horses, cattle, and hogs. Like Bertolini, he plans to
pursue mixed animal medicine, but specialize in large animals.
“I come from a huge Aggie family, so we’re very passionate about
this school,” Casares said. “I wanted to get involved to be able to
represent Texas A&M on a national stage.”
Treasurer: Nicole Fierce
Nicole Fierce took an unusual route to the CVM. Originally from
Beaumont, Texas, she earned a degree in marketing from the
University of Texas. As much as she enjoyed her business classes,
she realized early on that she wasn’t destined for life in a
cubicle and began snatching up science electives to prepare for
veterinary school. These days, her business background makes her a
unique asset to the Planning Committee and well-suited to her role
“I’m also the class treasurer for the class of 2018,” she
explained. “Knowing how difficult it is to take care of money and
[given] my background in business and finance and accounting, I
wanted to be involved [with the planning committee] and figured
that being treasurer fit my skill set.”
As treasurer, Fierce is responsible for managing a $400,000
budget. She has the final say on how much money goes to each
program. “I set the budget and write the checks and make sure we
don’t spend money that we don’t have,” she said.
It’s a big job, and Fierce is grateful to have a lot of support.
She works closely with the fundraising chair “to make sure we have
enough money coming in from large companies across the state and
nation so that we can fund our symposium to make it the best one
yet.” She also gets tips from outside the CVM, including guidance
from contacts at the AVMA and the copies of budgets from previous
Fierce enjoys her job, which has made her realize just how much
she enjoys working with people. The experience has even shaped her
thoughts about the future. “I think I’m probably going to do
general practice for a bit, but after that, who knows? I’ve been
recently thinking about getting to work with students because I’ve
enjoyed being in this sort of role,” she mused.
But for now, she’s thrilled to be a part of planning the
symposium and looks forward to introducing the CVM to the world.
“I’ve fallen in love with Texas A&M, and I want other people to
fall in love with it too,” she said.
Fundraising Chair: Lauren Thompson
The other half of the monetary team is Lauren Thompson,
fundraising chair. Originally from Grandview, Texas, Thompson’s
love of horses, and later, cattle, propelled her to veterinary
school. But it was her love of people and networking that compelled
her to apply for the fundraising position.
“I love this university. I love what it stands for, the
traditions and such. Having the opportunity to have other
veterinary students come down and see all that made me want to be a
part of symposium planning,” Thompson said. “When I was looking at
different positions, I was intrigued by fundraising chair. I
thought, ‘You know, that also gives me an opportunity to network
with companies and veterinarians and just talk to people, which I
enjoy doing.’ I decided to go ahead and apply, and here I am!”
As fundraising chair, Thompson is responsible for raising the
$400,000 necessary to host the symposium. It’s no small task, but
Thompson is enthusiastic and well-organized. She and her 12-member
fundraising committee plan to seek donations from companies both
big and small, as well as national and local.
“I formulated a sponsorship letter and then different packages,”
she explained. “We sent those, so the companies could see at which
level they would like to donate. At different sponsorship levels,
the companies get different booth spaces or advertisements.”
In the year leading up to the convention, Thompson and her team
of volunteers took advantage of every opportunity to find sponsors.
In March, she and the planning committee attended the Texas
Veterinary Medical Association meeting and the SAVMA symposium in
Ames, Iowa, to introduce herself and Texas A&M to potential
sponsors. She followed up at the AVMA convention in August and the
Southwestern Veterinary Symposium in September. As the symposium
gets closer, she planned to branch out and send volunteers
door-to-door to local companies and veterinary practices to get the
Bryan/College Station community involved.
Fundraising is a big job, but for Thompson, it’s a key part of
making this the biggest and best SAVMA symposium yet. “Everything
really is bigger in Texas,” she said. “I know that’s so cliché, but
I really think that’s something we can work on. We’re hoping that
it is going to be one of the bigger symposia. And since it’s
actually going to be at our school—which is completely different
from symposia in the past that are normally held at convention
centers—people will actually get to experience what it’s like to be
a student here.”
Thanks to the dedication and enthusiasm of this team of Aggie
veterinary students, the CVM is set to host what the committee
hopes is the biggest and best symposium yet. For the CVM family,
it’s a once-in-a-generation chance to showcase the school on a
2017 SAVMA Symposium Schedule
Thursday, March 16, 2017
8 a.m. – 5 p.m. – Diversity and wellness activities, lectures, and
wetlabs held at VBEC
7 p.m. – 8 p.m. – Opening Ceremony at the MSC in the Bethancourt
8:30 p.m. – 1 a.m. – Pubcrawl on Northgate (social event)
Friday, March 17, 2017
8 a.m. – 5 p.m. – Lectures, wetlabs, and academic and research
competitions held at VBEC
6 p.m. – 11 p.m. – Athletic competitions hosted at TAMU Rec
7 p.m. – 11 p.m. – Experience Texas (social event) at the
Hildebrand Equine Complex
Saturday, March 18, 2017
8 a.m. – 5 p.m. – Lectures, wetlabs, and academic competitions
held at VBEC
7 p.m. – 11 p.m. – Closing Gala (social event) at the Hall of
Champions in Kyle Field
Exhibit Hall Hours
Thursday: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Friday: 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Saturday: 8 a.m. – 12 p.m.
For more information, check out www.savmasymposium2017.com.
For more information about the Texas A&M College of
Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, please visit our
website at vetmed.tamu.edu or
join us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Contact Information: Megan Palsa, Executive Director of
Communications, Media & Public Relations, Texas A&M College
of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Science; firstname.lastname@example.org;
979-862-4216; 979-421-3121 (cell)
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