Do you work in the veterinary medicine field or know someone who does? Current senior Catherine “Cat” Swinsky dreams of working as a veterinary surgeon after graduation this May. She would love your advice about the best places to train, the best practitioners to work alongside, and any other insights you may want to offer her.

Catherine is a biology major whose academic work and research has focused on the function of bird tails in slow flight. Her dream job is to work for an organization like VCA (Veterinary Centers of America) with a focus on medicine and rehabilitative efforts for both wildlife and domesticated animals. As a student with a dual focus on academics and involvement, Cat is the perfect example to her peers of what it means to be a citizen leader.

Cat came to Longwood because she felt like Longwood chose her. She was tagging along for the ride (unhappily she adds) when her sister was touring universities, and when she got to Longwood, her mood instantly changed. She confirmed “I love how personable and small campus is, and how much it feels like home… I chose Longwood because Longwood first chose me.” While Cat wasn’t ready to tour colleges, she knew from that experience that Longwood was the place to continue her education. An avid biologist, Cat has always been interested in animals and physiology, urging “I love to understand how the body works, and not just for humans, but for all animals.” Cat continued “I fell in love with what it means to care for animals when I started working as a Veterinary Assistant at VCA, and developed critical thinking skills when I was immersed in the research process at Longwood.”

In addition to her rigorous academic work, Cat is also heavily involved around campus in extracurricular activities. She is the current vice president of the Student Government Association, a sister and former director of standards and ethics for her sorority, Alpha Delta Pi, the president of Beta Beta Beta, the last lecture chair for the Geist Chapter of Mortar Board, and researches the function of bird tails in slow flight. Formerly, she was a dancer on Blue Heat Dance Team, a junior marshal representing the Office of the President, a greek ambassador, a desk aide for the Office of Residential and Commuter Life, and participated in the PRISM intensive summer research program. Needless to say, Cat stays pretty busy.

If Cat could thank one person from her time at Longwood, she would thank Praise Nyambiya ‘18, because “he was my mentor in both my major and in my leadership roles… he helped me understand the many roles and responsibilities I was taking on and he was always there to guide me” Cat said with a huge smile. She continued “Praise was always there, no matter what, through my entire Longwood experience, and I can’t thank him enough.” And Cat’s favorite class? That would be BIOL473: Comparative Biomechanics with Dr. Brandon Jackson because “Dr. Jackson truly taught us as if we are becoming experts in our field, because we really are. The class allowed us to teach our peers once a week and challenged us to work independently outside of class,” Cat confirmed. She talked at length about the class and the experiences she garnered from both inside the classroom and in the field studying and research birds and flight. “It was the first class that made me feel confident in the biologist I am becoming… it taught me not to rely so heavily on others and to explore the ideas I have that could affect the world” she finished.

The invisible force behind Cat’s drive comes from her experiences as a first-generation student. She, and many others who are the first in their family to attend college, feel the pressure to succeed; “It was a lot of pressure to go to college and to have the weight of success looming and carried around on my shoulders… I want the people that mean the most to me in my life to be proud of me, and what I have achieved,” she urged. Different from many college students, Cat has an interesting philosophy when it comes to success: “college students get in this mindset that if you set goals and don’t meet them, you aren’t successful, but failure is still a success because you have learned something and can grow beyond it,” she explained. Cat continued, “Success for me is about being proud of the work I have done, even if I don't reach each of my goals.”

Consider connecting with Catherine on LinkedIn and share your advice and any job opportunities that could be available to her after graduation.

About the Author

Dustyn Hall ‘18

Dustyn Hall '18 is the Director of Young Alumni & Student Giving in the Office of Institutional Advancement and has served in that role since July 2019. Before his current service at Longwood began, Dustyn worked for Phi Mu Delta National Fraternity & Educational Foundation as the Director of Advancement, where he oversaw the development, communications, and alumni engagement sectors of their operations.

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