S.D. Farmers Union Supports Veterinary Student Through Graduate Scholarship
Lauren Larson knew from a young age that she wanted to become a veterinarian.
“I was four or five when I understood what a vet was, and from that time on, it was the career I set my heart on,” explained the recipient of the 2022 South Dakota Farmers Union $2,500 Graduate Scholarship.
In middle school Larson began taking care of neighbors’ pets when they traveled. This is how she ended up adopting her first dog, Sydney. Her neighbors had recently become grandparents and they ended up traveling too much to care for Sydney.
“From the first day I began taking care of her, she became my dog. She loved to cuddle. There’s just something about your first dog that will always be really special,” Larson said.
It is this connection to Sydney and other companion pets that influenced Larson to focus her studies on small animal medicine. But because she wants to build her career in South Dakota, Larson said as a veterinary student, she is trained to care for all animals – large and small.
“I love South Dakota. I see myself building my career here so, there is a good chance I will also care for cattle and other livestock. We are trained in large and small animal medicine, so I will be ready.”
Only 10 percent get in
Even though Larson knew she wanted to become a veterinarian as a kindergartener; and she was a good student, taking college-level courses in high school, getting accepted to veterinary school was not easy.
“It is very competitive,” said Larson, explaining that nationwide, only 10 percent of students who apply get in.
The first time she applied as a junior studying Animal Science at South Dakota State University (SDSU), Larson was not accepted. “It was really hard to work for something my whole life and when it doesn’t happen, it was very disappointing. But it really pushed me,” she said.
December 2020 Larson received degrees from SDSU in Animal Science, Animal Health and Biology. Driven to strengthen her veterinary school application, Larson worked full-time as a veterinary assistant for Creekside Veterinary Clinic in Mitchell.
“It was such a good experience – getting my hands on so many different animals and seeing all sides of veterinary medicine and getting to be a part of surgeries and really hard cases, it all prepared me for what I will be doing in my future.”
The second time she applied, Larson was among the 20 students accepted into the Veterinary Medicine program hosted by SDSU and the University of Minnesota. She has excelled, maintaining a 3.5 grade point average. She currently serves as class president.
Larson is on track to graduate in 2025. By the time she graduates, Larson’s school tuition will total about $250,000. She says the South Dakota Farmers Union Graduate Scholarship means more to her than its financial support.
“It reaffirms that South Dakota is supporting me in my journey,” she said. “This means a lot to me. I really look forward to serving South Dakotans as a veterinarian.”
Supporting the next generation of agriculture professionals is the reason South Dakota Farmers Union and Traveler’s Motor Club team up each year to sponsor the graduate student scholarship explains Gene Hammond, President, and principal owner of Travelers Motor Club.
“We are a rural motor club so rural America is important to us. We believe the best way to preserve rural America is to invest in the next generation,” Hammond said. “To provide for someone who wants to advance themselves and provide services through becoming educated as a veterinarian, or agronomist or another career to benefit rural citizens, we just see great value in that.”
Now accepting applications for 2023 scholarship
Applications are now open for the 2023 Agriculture Graduate School Scholarship. To learn more, visit http://www.sdfu.org and click on the Education tab.
–South Dakota Farmers Union