Students Are Worth Celebrating

Mar 22, 2021 / Message from the Dean

[students Razyeeh Mazaheri and Daniel Shinsako]

Above, 2021 graduates Razyeeh Mazaheri and Daniel Shinsako, who will share their gratitude for scholarship support at the May 8 virtual celebration. This message will appear in the April/May 2021 issue of the Chicago Veterinary Medical Association Bulletin.

Join our Scholarship Celebration on May 8

As we wrap up this academic year, we take tremendous pride in our graduating seniors. They’ve shown resilience and deep commitment to their goals over the past year, a year that forced them (and all of us) to abruptly adapt to the new reality of a global pandemic.

Like the Class of 2020 before them, they will have to forgo the joyful graduation ceremony. The pandemic prevents them from being hooded in front of their classmates, faculty, family, and friends. Fortunately, campus has created an opportunity for 2020 and 2021 graduates. They can sign up for a time to be videotaped individually while crossing the Krannert Center stage. Our college is exploring options to celebrate graduation in person with appropriate social distancing.

Celebrate Online

The college’s annual awards and scholarships banquet has transitioned to a virtual event. The silver lining of that event being online is that everyone everywhere can participate. I hope you will mark your calendar for May 8, the day the website for the scholarship celebration will go live at this URL: vetmed.illinois.edu/celebrates/

Visiting the site to hear from students and donors is one way you can show your support for our students.

Among the featured speakers are two graduating seniors from the Chicagoland area, Daniel Shinsako from Oak Park and Razyeeh Mazaheri from McHenry.

Shinsako, who is pursuing board certification in small animal surgery, remarks that “scholarships take a huge weight off the shoulders of future veterinarians, improving their quality of life long after graduation.”

Mazaheri says scholarships allowed her to pursue numerous leadership roles as a student, including efforts to alleviate students’ mental health issues and encourage diversity in the veterinary profession. “None of this would have been possible without the financial support I’ve been granted,” she says.

You’ll also hear from Dr. Stephen Hadley, a 1987 graduate of the college, whose family recently announced a $500,000 scholarship that will lead to greater equity and diversity within the profession. The Hadley Family DOVE (Diversifying Opportunity in Veterinary Education) Scholarship will enrich the educational experience for all our students and help the veterinary profession become more representative of society.

More Ways to Celebrate

I encourage you to find ways to celebrate and support the students who represent the future of our profession. A 2020 report from the American Veterinary Medical Association showed that the average student debt at graduation nationally remains at about $150,000. The good news was that the proportion of those graduating with no debt was nearly 1 in 5 students (18%). That marks a return to levels of 20 years ago, after dipping to as low as 1 in 10. The troubling news is that more than 10% of graduates bear burdens of $300,000 or more.

There’s a new way for practitioners with debt and their employers to address this problem. Legislation passed as part of the pandemic relief bill allows employers to make tax-free contributions of up to $5,250 per year to an employee’s educational loans. This provision in the 2020 CARES Act has been extended for 5 years.

Of course, scholarships make a huge impact on the financial and mental health of students. CVMA has funded student scholarships for decades. If you’d like to find out how you can support Illinois students with a scholarship gift, please contact Christine Dietrich, our assistant dean for advancement, at cdietric@illinois.edu.