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Dr. Carmen Fuentealba, Dean of Long Island University’s newly accredited Veterinary College in New York State, knew what to do to open a veterinary college and she was quick to do it.
Dr. Carmen Fuentealba, Dean of Long Island College of Veterinary Medicine, was a founding member of two veterinary colleges that have been successfully accredited by the AVMA Council on Education. (Courtesy of LIU)
“The university is behind this project and it was a really easy process from that point of view,” she said.
The LIU, a privately held institution, will welcome its first 100 veterinary students to its post-campus in Brookville, approximately 27 miles east of New York City, in August.
The veterinary school received a letter from the AVMA Council on Education with reasonable assurance in October. The veterinary school received approval just two years after applying for a comprehensive on-site visit to the COE – a quick turnaround for the accreditation body. Typically, potential veterinary programs require an on-site advisory visit to assess how the COE assesses them before moving on to a full on-site visit (see table). A reasonable assurance letter is not a pre-accreditation measure, but it does indicate that the institute may receive accreditation in the future if the program executes all plans presented to the COE.
It helps that Dr. Fuentealba is no stranger to the accreditation process. From September 2002 to July 2007, she was a founding faculty member and assistant dean of clinical programs at the Veterinary College of the Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona, California, which received a reasonable assurance letter in 2001, and a founding member and assistant faculty dean for student affairs from August 2007 to January 2011 at the University of Calgary University of Veterinary Medicine, Alberta, which received a letter of reasonable assurance in 2007. She also served as Senior Associate Dean for Program Evaluation and Executive Associate Dean for Teaching and Learning from February 2011 to August 2017 in the Veterinary Faculty of Ross University in Basseterre, St. Kitts, which was accredited in 2011.
She said the experience with these three programs taught her how the accreditation process works and that LIU’s success with the first step towards accreditation was partly due to the veterinary school being able to quickly schedule an extensive on-site visit with the COE. The university hired Dr. Fuentealba in August 2017.
The Council received a request for an extensive site visit and, at its meeting in March 2018, issued a request for a site visit in August 2018.
“The next opening wasn’t until three years later, so we jumped. We had counselors reviewing the documents I had prepared to register the program with the New York State Education Department, as well as self-paced study. They confirmed what we need to do and we prepared to address the weaknesses. “
Amid the positive news from the COE, the LIU has been addressing some challenging issues in recent years, including conflicts between leadership and faculty, a drop in enrollment, and a low graduation rate.
The US Department of Education scorecard, a tool that uses data to compare institutions in the US, lists the graduation rate from the LIU at 51% with a retention rate in the first year of 76%. Of 3,020 full-time and part-time students, just over half graduated, 37% were transferred and 12% retired.
“The College of Veterinary Medicine is an important transformative initiative in cementing the university’s position as a national teaching and research university,” said Christopher Fevola, LIU’s chief financial officer. Fevola didn’t comment directly on why the LIU Board of Trustees decided to open a veterinary school, but said that more veterinary colleges were needed in the US
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that veterinary employment is expected to grow 18% from 2018-28.
Tim Atkinson, executive director of the New York State Veterinary Medical Society, said the US is lacking veterinarians
“There’s a growing gap between the number of veterinary vacancies and the number of veterinarians available to fill them, not just in New York but across the country,” Atkinson said. “We hope that LIU graduates can help our members recruit the staff they need to develop their practices.”
Veterinary College will be one of four programs in the Northeast, the others being the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine in Philadelphia; Cornell University Veterinary College, Ithaca, New York; and Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University in North Grafton, Massachusetts.
After the LIU board decided to open a veterinary school, the LIU brought Dr. Fuentealba, and she made it clear what had to be done to get the veterinary school up and running.
“The university made the decision and knew from the start that this was the money we needed, the infrastructure, the faculty, the equipment and the research support. And they knew what it would cost. Where the original money came from was not my responsibility, ”said Dr. Fuentealba. “I just told them, ‘This is what they need.’ Now that we have adequate assurance, I will raise funds for grants and additional facilities. “
Dr. Fuentealba is optimistic about the future of the veterinary school and the team that has built it.
However, other university staff are not as positive. Some members of the LIU faculty who would not comment on the protocol are concerned about the feasibility of the program and the burden on the university.
The university has reportedly fired several professors in recent years. In 2018, according to an Inside Higher Ed article, more than half of tenure-track appointments were not renewed and several professors were denied tenure or promotion to full professor on the university’s New York campus.
The number of faculty members has dropped 21% from 1,979 to 1,558 since 2015, according to a separate article by Inside Higher Ed.
According to Inside Higher Ed’s article, which pulled the numbers from audited financial statements, operating income fell 14% from approximately $ 396.5 million to $ 341.4 million from 2014 to 2019. However, net worth increased significantly over the same period, from around $ 291 million to around $ 506.9 million.
Several programs, both on the New York and post campuses, have also been funded or will not accept new students, including Bachelor of Arts programs in chemistry, history, philosophy, sociology, and physics. Master of Arts programs in Political Science, Art History, and the Arts; and a Master of Science program in applied mathematics.
Bachelor of Science programs in geology, geography and earth sciences and Bachelor of Arts programs in art history and Spanish had previously been cut.
The anonymous faculty members said denying promotions and freezing other programs was an attempt by the leadership to offset the high cost of the veterinary school.
Some students have spoken on issues at the university.
One Instagram account, @everything_broken_at_post, has over 200 posts that focus on things that need fixing on the post campus. Some photos contain broken furniture or mold. The account was created in 2018.
Time and money
The veterinary school is expected to open a new 47,000 square meter facility later this year. However, construction has yet to begin. The estimated cost is around $ 40 million.
Tim Dougherty, construction manager for the village of Brookville, said construction is expected to begin in early summer.
An illustration of the proposed facility for the Long Island University Veterinary College (courtesy of the LIU)
The university’s management has helped find an alternative space for the opening class to teach in case construction is not completed on time, said Dr. Fuentealba.
LIU also signed a 10 year lease with the Commack School District for Marion Carll Farm, one of the last remaining homesteads in the area. LIU paid the school district $ 50,000 for 6 acres of the property and will continue to pay $ 15,000 per year in rent for the first five years and $ 20,000 for the remainder of the lease. The land is to be used for grazing animals, on which veterinary school students would practice clinical skills, including those related to veterinary school.
Despite slow progress on the new build and tensions in some areas of the university, Fevola said the veterinary school has been well received by government agencies, health communities and donors alike.
“LIU’s financial position is the strongest in its long history,” said Fevola. “The university is determined to support world-class institutions, faculties, researchers and students for our inaugural class.”
Rather than specifically delving into how much the university raised for its $ 40 million veterinary college goal, Fevola wanted to go into a New York State pledge of $ 12 million in 2018 and several million dollars in private gifts Clues.
“This positive momentum and financial support all came before the LIU received its adequate security from the AVMA COE. Now that this important step towards accreditation has been completed, there is a whole new wave of development opportunities and we assume that the overall financial support will continue to increase significantly, ”said Fevola.
According to the LIU website, which will be in the top 10 highest tuition fees for U.S. veterinary colleges, tuition fees for veterinary students are expected to be around $ 55,000 per year.
Fevola said LIU is determined to stay affordable.
“College of Veterinary Medicine tuition and fees are quite cheap compared to peer colleges and universities in the region and across the country,” he said.
The veterinary school will use a distributive teaching model which means that the LIU will not build a teaching hospital but will work with organizations in the area where fourth year students can complete their clinical education. The students also supervised clinical experiences throughout their studies.
Dr. Karen Rosenthal, director of veterinary clinical science at LIU Veterinary College and director of veterinary clinical skills, said she grew up in the Long Island area and knows from personal experience how useful a second veterinary school in the state will be.
“When I grew up I knew there had to be something more here,” she said.
Dr. Rosenthal added that she was excited to be part of the founding faculty and get started.
“There is excitement from all veterinary departments,” she said. “It almost feels like we are horses at the starting gate, but the starter hasn’t lifted the gate yet.”