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Student Leaders Ready to Host National Event: Pride in New Facilities, Educational Opportunities Provide Inspiration for Task Ahead

Posted October 12, 2015

Veterinary students and SAVMA delegates Mike McEntire (left) and Caitlin Conner (right)
Veterinary students and SAVMA delegates Mike McEntire (left) and Caitlin Conner (right)

Veterinary students Mike McEntire and Caitlin Conner are the senior and junior Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) delegates, respectively, to the Student American Veterinary Medical Association (SAVMA). Due to their dedication and willingness to tackle a challenge, Texas A&M will be the host campus of the 2017 SAVMA National Symposium.

Pride in their campus and the new education building played a huge role in their pursuit. They can’t wait to extend a “Howdy” to the 1,200 students likely to attend the conference.

The successful bid began with Ricci Karkula CVM ’15. Karkula was the president of the national SAVMA organization and on the board of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). When she was the junior delegate, she approached Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine, about hosting the SAVMA National Symposium. Although Green and other members of the administration were in favor of hosting, they wanted to wait until the opening of our new Veterinary & Biomedical Education Complex.

“Dr. Green approached me at the 2014 symposium and said they wanted us to put in a bid for 2017,” McEntire said. “They wanted us to host the symposium in the new building. The new building was actually a big part of our bid and a big part of why we got it. We’re really excited about it.”
McEntire and Conner will be in charge of event planning, but they’ll have a lot of help. “We will oversee most of it,” Conner said. “There are general manager positions, a treasurer, and a fundraising chair…they’ll be doing most of the planning work, organizing everything, but we will oversee it.”

Knowing Texas A&M will be the host this far in advance has its advantages. Both CVM students are on the SAVMA Symposium Committee and are working with those who planned the last symposium, which should make for a smooth transition. The 2016 symposium will be in Iowa, and they’ll be involved with planning that event as well.

Opening CVM’s doors

At this point in the planning process, McEntire and Conner are meeting with professors and studying the new building plans. This will be a departure from previous symposia that were not held on the host school’s campus. “When you go to symposium, you want to experience the school, but most of the time you don’t get to,” McEntire noted, adding that, with the exception of the occasional campus-hosted wet lab, events are usually held in a convention center or large hotel. The size and layout of the new facilities will lend themselves, however, to multiple activities being held right in the heart of Texas A&M.

Describing the finished space and how it may be utilized for the symposium, McEntire said that upon entering the main front building, there will be four large lecture halls that seat 250 people each. “Collapsible walls can be removed to combine two of the rooms into one large exhibit hall which will give us the room we need to accommodate everyone.”

“The other two will be our equine lectures and our small animal lectures,” McEntire said. “There are also three smaller classrooms that seat about 100 students each. They’ll probably be our food animal and wildlife exotics lecture locations. One of them will host the House of Delegates.”

Experience Texas

The second building will have offices and multiple smaller classrooms. Small lectures for special-team medicine groups on topics such as crisis management and research opportunities will likely be held there. The third building is the lab building, where up to nine wet labs can be hosted simultaneously.

The size of the group will necessitate alternate locations for some of the larger gatherings, such as the gala and social events. They’re considering the Memorial Student Center or even the Zone at Kyle Field. For the welcoming Friday night event, McEntire and Conner are working on a gathering they’ll call “Experience Texas.” “That’s going to be out in the Thomas G. Hildebrand, DVM ‘56 Equine Complex,” Conner said. “We’re hoping to contact all the local barbecue vendors to have a ‘BBQ Taste-Off.’ Everybody will get a good taste of Texas barbecue—you don’t get that everywhere!” There may also be a mechanical bull; another activity probably not offered at other host campuses.

Green suggested the symposium include a formation performance by A&M’s mounted cavalry unit, and the Aggie Wranglers country-and-western dance team may perform and teach lessons “so that people from New York can learn how to two-step!” Conner said. “That’s probably the thing I’m most looking forward to.”

Aggie Pride

Although the two veterinary students have a lot of work ahead of them as the 2017 SAVMA National Symposium approaches, they’re ready and motivated to share the CVM, Texas A&M, and College Station with the country.

“I’m so proud of this school, and I’m so proud of my place in this school,” Conner said. “I’m just excited for people from other universities to be able to come here and experience that, the amazing new facilities we’re going to have, and the world-class education that we can provide.”

About the Delegates

McEntire is from Sandy, Utah, and came to veterinary school because of his long-time love of animals. He’s worked at zoos and aquariums, and likes the idea of combining medicine with conservation. “Working with the veterinarians at the zoos and aquariums has been really rewarding,” McEntire said. He’d like to continue in that field after graduation.

Conner is from Forney, Texas, east of Dallas. She has always wanted to be a veterinarian and grew up around animals. Her grandmother owned horses and was a chairperson for DFW Lab Rescue, a major Labrador retriever rescue group where her passion originated.

Mike McEntire and Caitlin Conner present the bid to host the 2017 SAVMA National Symposium.
Mike McEntire and Caitlin Conner present the bid to host the 2017 SAVMA National Symposium.


Contact Information: Megan Palsa,, 979-862-4216, 979-421-3121 (cell)

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