From the moment Victoria Drouet Pratt (BS ’06, Poultry Science; DVM ’10) stepped on the Auburn University campus as a student, she knew her career goals to earn a bachelor’s degree in poultry science and a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree were possible.
The Cullman County native found that hands-on experience in all areas of an integrated commercial poultry industry to be invaluable.
“If I could go back and start over, I wouldn’t change the process,” Pratt said. “The work experience, coupled with classroom instruction, developed me into a very focused and driven poultry science/pre-vet student upon transfer to Auburn University.”
Starting off on the right foot
Entering a program at the junior college level has become increasingly available to Alabama students. While the appeal of entering Auburn as a freshman is obvious, the advantages of 2+2 programs are numerous.
The transfer process was easy for Pratt, who entered Auburn with a group of 2+2 students into the College of Agriculture. She felt instructors at Snead State had prepared her very well for her future courses at Auburn.
“Snead also had a wonderful relationship with the Auburn University Department of Poultry Science,” She said, “I met several of the Auburn faculty and many students during joint functions between the two schools.”
Codi Plaster, student services coordinator for the poultry science department, sees many advantages of the 2+2 program.
“Students are able to stay a little bit closer to home the first couple of years, get some of their core classes out of the way, it’s usually less expensive.” Plaster said. “Going through a 2+2 program you have a direct line of communication with our department, because we want you to feel like you’re an Auburn student even though you are not here yet.”
Department head Donald Conner also praised the value transferring into the program with relevant course experience.
“A significant proportion of our undergraduate students start out at a community college then transfer to Auburn to complete their BS degree.” He continued, “By partnering with specific community colleges we have formalized 2+2 programs that facilitate the transfer process for the students and help students stay on track to complete their BS degree on time.”
The AUBURN EXPERIENCE
Pratt settled in well at Auburn, joining clubs and enjoying her academic courses. As a member of the College of Agriculture’s Ag Ambassadors, Pratt represented the college to her peers on campus and the Auburn community.
“Ag Ambassadors allowed me to make professional connections throughout many areas of the agricultural community and helped me become more aware of the network that so many of the agriculture students share,” Pratt said.
She also joined the Poultry Science Club. While involved with this organization, she built friendships with fellow poultry science students and had the opportunity to network with leaders in the poultry industry.
“Many of my poultry science classmates and speakers I met during those years at Auburn remain colleagues of mine today,” she said.
As one of six children, Pratt understood the value of financial aid and successfully pursued scholarships to support her education.
“I was very fortunate to receive academic poultry scholarships that paid for my undergraduate degree at both schools,” she said.
The department provides about $100,000 in scholarships every year and about 80% of our students who applied for scholarships were awarded.
“We have additional scholarships for students who are interested in poultry science at Wallace State and Gasden State,” Plaster said. These scholarships directly support 2+2 transfer students.
Upon completing her DVM degree from Auburn in 2010, she entered the industry at a small-animal practice in Rome, Georgia. She then moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee, to work at an animal emergency and critical care hospital and to start her own ambulatory practice, Tri-State Veterinary Services LLC, serving the large-animal community of Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee. Pratt also worked as a relief veterinarian in the tri-state area.
In 2013, Pratt accepted a position with Elanco Animal Health’s Poultry Business Unit, working with commercial poultry companies covering 12 states while maintaining her private practice and relief veterinary work on the weekends. In her “spare time,” she and her husband started VNP Land and Cattle Company, a registered Black Angus farm in Chattanooga.
In 2015, she enrolled in the University of Georgia’s graduate program and is now pursuing her master’s in avian medicine.
“The modern poultry industry relies on solid veterinary care to produce the safe and wholesome poultry products we all enjoy,” Conner said, “The MAM degree provides veterinarians with highly focused training on poultry health that enables them to provide the best care possible to our commercial flocks.”
During the week, Pratt lives in Athens, Georgia, and travels home to Chattanooga on the weekends to spend time with her husband and son. After completing her master’s in avian medicine, she aims to work in production medicine at an integrated commercial broiler company, with an emphasis on bird health and welfare.
Her drive for this career stems from her desire to provide a nutritious and safe source of protein to people worldwide.
“I have always wanted to be a veterinarian, and once I learned more about the poultry industry, I realized how important it is to provide veterinary care for the birds that determine the livelihood of families where I come from,” she said. “I want to support the industry that has such a positive economical impact to the great state of Alabama.
“The poultry industry has a $15 billion impact on Alabama’s economy,” she said, “and I feel a tremendous responsibility to protect these birds and the lives that this industry touches.”
Conner weighed in on Pratt’s overwhelmingly positive impact on her industry. He considers alumni’s continued success in the industry post-graduation as one of the most rewarding aspects of working with the department, both personally and professionally.
“I see many of our alumni, like Victoria, taking on leadership roles to help the industry successfully tackle emerging challenges.” He remarked, “That is one reason we continually assess our curriculum to ensure our students get the best education and preparation possible.”