Each month, the Goodnight Scholars Program highlights a select number of current Goodnight Scholars who represent the Program’s highly diverse and involved student cohort. This month, the spotlight focuses on zoology major and aspiring veterinarian, Kelsie Gardner ’17.
Goodnight Scholars Program: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Kelsie Gardner: I was born in the small town of Newton, Massachusetts. Both my mother and father were originally from Maine, making me a purebred Yankee. I grew up in military housing on a quaint little street called Army St. Very original. We lived in Randolph, a suburb outside of Boston until I was in 5th grade. From there, we moved to New Hampshire. My dad was in the U.S. Coast Guard which meant the dreaded military transfers came around once every four to six years. We stayed in New Hampshire until my freshman year of high school, until we had to move again. This time to sunny North Carolina! What a novelty, summers longer than two months! Right now my family lives in the Outer Banks, less than 30 minutes from the beach. We have a little farm like we’ve always wanted with chickens, pheasants, rabbits, a dog, and a cat. Honestly, moving to North Carolina was one of the best things that has ever happened to me. Of course, I didn’t think that going through my last three years of high school in a new state. But NC State is an excellent school with a top notch vet program. I had always known I wanted to be a vet. My childhood was filled with my mother’s stories of delivering lambs in the dead of winter and taking in baby raccoons to bottle-feed by the fire. While being a vet doesn’t involve those kinds of scenarios on a regular basis, it does involve maternal or paternal instincts, strong morals, and an analytical mind. You need the compassion of a parent and the deductive reasoning of a scientist. Filling those roles is something I feel has always come naturally to me, and I truly love doing it.
Talk about some of your greatest accomplishments at NC State thus far.
My time at State has kind of been a whirlwind of chaos. There hasn’t been much time to look back and reflect on what’s been done because there’s always a new adventure around the corner. Freshman year was my most social year overall. I was in the herpetology club, zoology club, and companion animal club. While I didn’t hold any offices, I consider it an achievement simply to make it through all those clubs as an active member. In addition, I found time to earn the Distinguished Goodnight Award as well. Sophomore year was the year I went to India. There is an annual pre-vet trip that now goes to Namibia, but it used to go to the natural reserves in Sariska, Ranthambore, New Delhi, and Agra, India. There we got to hang out with bears, tigers, and elephants. Let me tell you, feeding watermelons to elephants is definitely something for the bucket list. It was also the year I started research at Dr. Brake’s poultry lab. While working with chickens is not my life goal, it does offer ample time to learn dissection skills and microbiological techniques that are invaluable at vet school. Junior year, last year, was the first year I got my own research project in enzyme studies at the poultry lab. Taking on 17 credit hours at the same time was probably not my best idea but hey, it built character. Lastly, it was the year I started my work at the vet school. It’s the same research I continued over the summer, in the enteric glial cell lab. It’s also where I hope to continue my PhD work in the future.
How has your involvement with the Goodnight Scholars Program looked over the years?
My Goodnight experience started off freshman year when I signed up to be in the Goodnight Scholars Executive Committee (GSEC). I have continued working with GSEC for the past 3 years of my college career as the secretary and vice president. This year, as a replacement for the large committee, GSEC has been broken into smaller, more focused committees. I am proud to say I will be chairing the Traditions Committee for this year. As previously mentioned, I tied with Jeb Smith for Distinguished Goodnight Scholar my freshman year which was quite a feat. It was the time when I really got to know my fellow scholars because I would see them on almost a nightly basis. I regret not to have been able to continue that through the years. In addition, I had the pleasure of being a mentor my sophomore year. Finally, I was able to go on the first ever Goodnight Scholars ASB trip to Peru. This was my first time ever leaving the good ol’ USA, and it was probably my favorite abroad trip I’ve ever been on. You don’t get much better than daily supplies of fresh fruit, pollo a la brasa, friendly dogs, and friendlier natives. Really though, the trip was absolutely amazing. It was just the perfect balance of hard labor, sightseeing, and learning. And the Inca Kola. If you don’t know what it is, look it up. And then fly to Peru to get it.
“Don’t get so caught up in the checklist of school that you forget to make friends and live a little. You need people skills and life experience just as much as your book smarts.”
What does being a Goodnight Scholar mean to you?
Being a Goodnight Scholar means responsibility, but the kind you enjoy. People believe in you to make a difference, which is exhilarating to an extent. It pushes you to do better and to strive for more out of your undergraduate career. In addition, it means being there to help others around you. Whether it’s your roommate, another Goodnight Scholar, or even your teacher, your position calls for you to show both respect and a helpful attitude. This role is enforced even more by the presence of Dr. Goodnight who shows up to our [Goodnight Graduation] Gala and All Goodnight Meeting annually. How cool is that? He shows up to these kinds of things because he respects the Program and the people who run it. Granted, he was the one who developed the Program so he should respect it. But it just goes to show, we do carry a reputation and it’s up to each successive generation of scholars to mold what it looks like. Most of all, being a Goodnight Scholar means adventure. It means open doors and bountiful opportunity. It means all the support and networking you could ever hope for. Traveling is much better with close friends, so why not take advantage of it when the Program makes it so easy?
What will the next few years look like for you?
My personal goal right now is to get into vet school and enroll in the PhD and DVM program. After about six to eight years of schooling, I hope to graduate on track and be ready to enter the work force. It’s hard to say exactly what I hope to be, considering there are so many different types of veterinary occupations out there right now. I want something that offers me both surgery and research projects, which would be more of a public health field. Something with the CDC most likely. But orthopedic surgery and rehabilitation would be quite the interesting job as well. There’s just so many options, and I don’t have the experience to make a permanent decision yet. I do know that I am going to need animals at home as well. I’d always had this dream as a kid to have an animal rehab farm when I retire, so I could continue to practice medicine from home. It would be the kind of farm that took in retired racehorses and other animal rejects. It’d be hard to find land like that close to Raleigh, for a decent price. But that’s a good bit in the future. Mostly, right now I’m hoping for a job that keeps me busy, keeps me happy, and has good people.
What advice would give to a new or prospective Goodnight Scholars about being involved at NC State and the Goodnight Scholars Program?
Have fun! Honestly, you do your best when you make a little time for yourself at the end of each day to decompress and go out with friends. Sometimes, it’s literally just drinking cocoa together and watching an episode, yes only one, of Game of Thrones. You have to learn how to limit yourself. But make sure you take time to reflect on the day and do something you enjoy. Go work out, read a book, or go try a new restaurant in downtown Raleigh. A lot of your time will need to be spent studying and the rest will be taken up by clubs, classes, required events, and maybe even a job. But it’s important to remember why you’re in school. You’re there for you. You’re there to pass your classes, educate yourself, and collect vital experience that will prepare you to get the job you want. But to do that, you can’t lose sight of your goals. Don’t get so caught up in the checklist of school that you forget to make friends and live a little. You need people skills and life experience just as much as your book smarts.