Arkansas State University announced Friday an agreement to collaborate with Adtalem Global Education of Chicago to explore the feasibility of creating the first in-state veterinary medical school.
Adtalem is a global workforce solutions provider and the parent company of AVMA-accredited Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine. It would provide expertise related to veterinary program management and accreditation, as well as capital and operating expense funding.
The memorandum of understanding signed Friday between Arkansas State and the company is subject to approval by the ASU System Board of Trustees and ATGE Board. Arkansas State said Provost Alan Utter will be the lead contact for the 180-day exploration period.
"The demand for veterinarians is significant as more households enjoy pet ownership, and Arkansas livestock producers have acknowledged a shortage of veterinarians for large animals," Chancellor Kelly Damphousse said in a news release. "This is a concern that our College of Agriculture faculty and others across the region have expressed to us. I am excited to begin the discussion on our campus. We plan to work closely with veterinarians throughout Arkansas as we move forward in the development of this new college."
The university created a veterinary college task force to work with Damphousse in the vetting process. Donald "Bud" Kennedy, professor of animal science and interim dean of the College of Agriculture, will chair the task force.
"I want to stress that we are at the beginning stages," Damphousse said. "Along with chairing our task force, I have asked Dr. Kennedy to assist with selection of participants and request that they return with a recommendation later this year."
The proposed veterinary medicine program would enroll about 120 students per year. Accreditation for the college would be sought by the university, and graduates would have A-State academic credentials.
The Arkansas Farm Bureau, which has long supported the possibility of establishing an in-state veterinary school, called Arkansas State's plans "exciting news" and said such a school would be welcomed in Arkansas.
Steve Eddington, the bureau's vice president of public relations, noted the large presence of the poultry industry and large animal agriculture in the state.
"We do hear repeatedly from our livestock producers of the challenges they have of veterinarians who are not comfortable doing large animal practices," he said.
Kathy Boden Holland, group president of medical and health care for Adtalem, said Adtalem looks forward to supporting A-State with its operational expertise and employer partnerships. The ASU System also signaled its support.
"We see opportunities to work with student programs such as 4-H and the National FFA Organization, as well as food safety initiatives," System President Charles "Chuck" Welch said. "It would also complement our agriculture and biotechnology-related programs, the long-standing two-year veterinary technician program at ASU-Beebe and our red wolf conservation efforts."
(With reporting by Todd Traub.)