In the past two years, Mikayla Mulligan has woken up and worked with dogs, cats, snakes, rats, hamsters, rabbits, chinchillas, iguanas and birds. She has even worked with “Franklin” the tortoise. But contrary to assumptions, Mulligan does not work at a zoo. She is a sophomore studying veterinary technology at the University of Nebraska-Nebraska College of Technical (NCTA) in Curtis, and caring for the college’s wide variety of animals is part of several classes preparing her to work rotations in the college’s new Dr. Walter Long Veterinary Technology Teaching Clinic.
Mulligan, who is from Grand Island, Neb., now works in the Dr. Walter Long teaching clinic as part of a nursing class. The clinic is designed to help students gain experience at a working animal clinic. Students under the supervision of the college’s three veterinarians and two licensed veterinary technicians perform basic grooming, flea dips, vaccinations, nail trims, and de-worming procedures on college- and student-owned animals.
Before she graduates, Mulligan will work all the positions at the clinic, but first she will have to work her way up the ladder as a clinic attendant, a technician, a receptionist and an office manager.
The clinic, which opened in November 2011, is named after Dr. Walter Long. A plaque on a clinic wall describes Long’s contributions to NCTA’s Veterinary Technology program. Born in Lincoln, Long graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1944. He served in the military during World War II and worked after the war as a county agent in North Platte. In 1956, he earned a DVM degree and began practicing veterinary medicine in Burwell. In 1968, he was appointed the first division head of the new veterinary technology program at NCTA (then the University of Nebraska School of Technical Agriculture). He remained for 22 years, helping develop one of the nation’s top veterinary technology programs. In 1973 the program became one of the first in the nation accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).
The clinic that now bears Long’s name is housed in NCTA’s historic and completely redesigned “Dairy Barn,” attached to the Veterinary Technology Teaching Complex. NCTA administrators hope the clinic will attract more students like Mulligan, who seek “hands-on” experience in their agricultural-related trades.
“When I learned about the college, I immediately fell in love,” said Mulligan. “There was no other place that offered the same hands-on experience like NCTA. If I had gone to a university or any other college, I would constantly be in the classroom reading out of a book or listening to a professor talk about situations and procedures, but here I get to actually learn with my hands what I am taught in the classroom.”
In addition to learning with their hands, students benefit from non-traditional classroom settings, a small student-to-teacher ratio, and professors who share a dedication to agriculture and passion for entrepreneurship.
Within the veterinary technology program, prospective students are often surprised to hear about the college’s 25 different animal species.
“One day I could be working with the exotics, like learning to clip a bird’s wing,” Mulligan said during a tour of the clinic. “That’s when I met Prissy, a beautiful yellow-crested cockatoo. Or there is Rosy, a Hog Island Boa; she is truly exceptional and very fast when it comes to catching her food. The true celebrity is Monty, an albino Burmese Python. The next day, though, I can be working with dogs and cats. There is a class dedicated to each species here, including production animals such as cattle and horses.”
NCTA is one of only two institutions in the nation that provide a two year college setting dedicated solely to agriculture, and its veterinary technology program offers a very large college-based collection of exotic animals. The Veterinary Technology major requires 80 credit hours and is AVMA accredited. Upon completion of the Veterinary Technician Option graduates are eligible to sit for the Veterinary Technician National Board Exam and become a licensed veterinary technician. Graduates may also transfer and work towards a veterinary technologist bachelor’s degree which can include meeting pre-veterinary program entrance requirements at UNL. ❖