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Surrounded by Support at the CVM

Amanda Maxwell showing off her Johns Hopkins tee shirt
Amanda Maxwell will start her residency at Johns Hopkins after graduating from the College of Veterinary Medicine. Photo by Sahar Sheikh-Ahmad, DVM class of 2020.

When Amanda Maxwell traveled from her native Maryland to visit NC State’s College of Veterinary Medicine, she knew.

Of course, she already was interested in attending one of the country’s top veterinary programs. The beautiful campus, friendly faculty and dedicated students, though, were what made the school immediately feel like home.

And that sense of community wasn’t limited to her initial visit — it has been a defining feature of Maxwell’s entire NC State career.

“What’s made my time here so meaningful is how supportive the faculty and staff have been and the friendships I’ve made,” Maxwell said. “There are about 10 out-of-state students each year, and I was really worried I wasn’t going to fit in, but I’ve made some of my lifelong best friends at this school.”

It wasn’t long before she found herself taking leadership roles within the class of 2020 community. When first-year veterinary students experienced scheduling conflicts for their exams, Maxwell stepped forward to help get the issue resolved — and was nominated as class vice president. She became president her second year and has held the role since.

“I didn’t intend to be the president of my class, but honestly, they’re such great people that when you’re nominated for something by this group, you want to do it,” she said. “It was really an honor and I wanted to give it my all.”

Though she graduates this month, there are still moments when Maxwell has to remind herself that she’s here at the CVM, that her dreams have become reality.

“Getting into veterinary school was an extraordinary opportunity,” she said. “Coming from a financially constricted background, it just didn’t seem possible, and I definitely didn’t think I’d get in applying my first time.”

Maxwell is the first in her family to graduate from a four-year institution. With the help of her older siblings, who guided her through paperwork, she enrolled at local community college and eventually transferred to Towson University.

Before applying to veterinary school, she worked for a year as a rodent technician at Johns Hopkins University, saving money as she developed skills in lab animal care. She was in her cubicle there when the acceptance email from NC State arrived. “I rushed through the hallways telling everyone I got in. It was a great day.”

Maxwell’s experiences as a rodent technician shaped her interests as a CVM student as well as the path of her career. After graduation, she’ll be returning to Johns Hopkins to work with lab animals again — this time as a resident. Accompanying her will be Toad, the dog she adopted from NC State’s own research animal program.

“I was able to land a residency at my top choice, and the support of my advisers at the CVM is honestly why I’m here,” Maxwell said. “They helped me apply for positions, find externship opportunities, create a CV, and edit my cover letters and my personal statement for the match.”

Externships are valuable for all veterinary students, and for Maxwell, they were particularly critical in getting training experience across species. The Winslow Foundation Scholarship, which she received her third and fourth years, has helped her pursue hands-on opportunities including at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Wake Forest University.

Amanda Maxwell in graduation regalia with dog Toad
Maxwell found a strong community — and her dog Toad — at the College of Veterinary Medicine. Photo by Sahar Sheikh-Ahmad, DVM class of 2020.

“When you have undergrad debt and are taking on vet school, it’s very overwhelming. It’s definitely something I think about,” Maxwell said. “I cried when I got the email that I was chosen for the Winslow Foundation Scholarship. I was thrilled to be considered. It’s huge.”

She hopes that scholarship donors know their investment makes a tremendous difference. “Their support is helping advance society because that’s what veterinarians do,” she said. “Every vet student I’ve met is exceptional in some way.”

One of those exceptional students was Samantha Lin, a fellow member of the class of 2020 who died in a traffic accident last August. Her loss impacted the entire CVM community. “We had to come together and figure out what to do as a class,” Maxwell said.

The soon-to-be-graduates have chosen to honor their classmate by giving back to future students. They had been selling merchandise and raised over $9,000, originally earmarked for a class celebration. Now those funds will be donated to the Teaching Animal Unit and to Lin’s scholarship.

At the college’s annual scholarship dinner in February, Maxwell had the opportunity to express her gratitude to CVM’s donors.

“I was nervous, of course, but I felt I had to do it because scholarships are so important. Donors need to know how important they are for us. I didn’t want to just do it for myself, but for every veterinary student who needs financial help,” she said.

In her remarks, Maxwell shared her belief that it takes a village for a student to succeed in veterinary school, echoing what was evident from the moment she arrived at CVM: “Surround yourself with supportive people, and it will happen.”

Read more about our extraordinary 2020 graduates. 

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