URI student named top animal science student in Northeast

Posted on
Somers, Conn., resident to graduate May 18; then on to vet school

KINGSTON, R.I. – May 8, 2008 – It would have been difficult for Rachael Gately to accomplish much more as an undergraduate student at the University of Rhode Island.

She served as president of the University’s Animal and Veterinary Science Club, received the President’s Excellence Award as the top animal science student at URI, and was awarded a Udall Scholarship, the nation’s most prestigious scholarship for students preparing for environmental careers.

To top off her four years at URI, she won the Outstanding Senior Award at the Northeast Student Affiliate conference at Delaware Valley College last month, where students from 13 colleges competed in livestock judging and other animal science contests.

“Penn State is always a powerhouse at the meeting, though URI is inching closer to knocking them off every year,” Gately said. “URI has never even nominated someone for the outstanding senior award before, so never did I ever think I’d beat the Penn State students for the award.”

One of Gately’s most meaningful experiences during her college career occurred as a result of winning the Udall Scholarship. In addition to providing her with funds to help pay for her senior year in college, it also provided her with a trip to Arizona to meet other Udall Scholars.

“It was an amazing four days of meeting with environmental and political leaders from around the country, touring the area, and working on some group projects,” she said. “We were treated like celebrities in Tucson, and I got to spend time with some of the most amazing people my age in the whole country.”

As Gately prepares to graduate from URI on May 18, she is looking forward to enrolling in veterinary school in the fall at Texas A&M University.

“I’ll probably become a large animal vet, because there aren’t many of them left in New England,” she said. “But I may also decide to go the avenue of public health. Zoonotic diseases – those that can be passed from animals to humans, like mad cow disease and avian influenza – are fascinating, and public health is so very important.”

Gately’s interest in becoming a large animal veterinarian emerged early. She has tended a flock of up to 50 sheep since elementary school, and she has won numerous national awards for her animals at livestock shows. She has worked at URI’s Peckham Farm, where students learn to raise and care for livestock, since her freshman year, and during lambing season she almost never leaves the farm.

“This year was a bad year for lambing all over the region,” she said. “We lost a couple of adults and a couple of lambs at Peckham Farm, and I lost 70 percent of this year’s lamb crop at home to a disease.”

But it hasn’t discouraged the URI student.

“I’m going on 16 years of running the farm I live on at home, starting with just a couple of pets,” Gately explained. “In the last couple of years I’ve received some big grants from the Natural Resources Conservation Service to rework my land so the animals don’t abuse it. When I’m done, I’ll have the optimal facility for raising livestock.”

Soon, she will also have the optimal skills and training to help ensure the health of livestock throughout the region.

URI Department of Communications & Marketing photo by Michael Salerno Photography.