Portland Community College Rock Creek's vet tech program running strong
When stepping onto a college campus, you often expect certain sounds. The toll of a grand bell tower, the chatter of students walking to class.
On the Portland Community College Rock Creek campus, however, you might also hear a cow's "moo" or a horse's "neigh."
Although much has changed for PCC Rock Creek since its initial establishment, one part of campus has remained relatively the same — the farm. When the 265-acre campus was purchased, a portion of the land was dedicated to the creation of a campus farm that would offer hands-on training programs aimed at future farmers and those interested in working with animals.
When PCC Rock Creek was established in 1976, many people — including faculty members of PCC's main campus near Tigard, and local government officials — were not in favor of the Rock Creek campus being built. Faculty members thought the new campus would overextend resources and doubted anyone would be willing to trek from Portland to what was then an undeveloped area surrounded by farmland.
Nonetheless, for the past 43 years, PCC has been teaching students skills in farm management using first-hand experience provided by the campus farm and in the decades since, PCC Rock Creek's Veterinary Technology program has become increasingly competitive. Since 1993, graduates of the vet-tech program have surpassed national averages on the national licensing exam.
Among the resident cows, sheep, alpacas, llama, horses, rabbits, dogs and cats at the farm, you'll also find students, who attend the farm every day to feed farm animals, taking vitals, clean kennels, administer vaccinations or take the horses out for a run.
"We get about twice as many applicants each year than we have room for," said Farm Coordinator Terry Lookabill, who has been overseeing the farm for 25 years. "We have 30 spots in the program."
There's a reason the program is so appealing, Lookabill said.
"We put them right to work out here," he said. "I think that one of the strengths of this program is the fact that we have this farm here with a variety of species for the students.
"In fact, the first week of classes they are out here learning about horse safety. By the second or third week we have them out here vaccinating cows and immediately following that we'll do sheep," he said. "We get them hands on right away with the large animals."
But what happens in the summer when veterinary technology students are out getting more experience in their summer clinicals?
"We adopt out most of the dogs and cats this time of year." Lookabill said. "We have classes going until the first week of July, so we have students here doing the feedings and exercising the horses. Then come first of August, the students go off to their clinicals and the morning feeding is taken over by the staff and student employees come in at night to take care of things."
By Monica Salazar
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