Samantha Zurlinden has never been afraid to pursue her dreams, even when the path seemed uncertain and the obstacles insurmountable.
The Annable Scholarship has been the stuff that Zurlinden’s dreams are made of.
Zurlinden, a member of the Class of 2022 at the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine, is one of the recipients of the scholarship, funded by a $5 million endowment from donors Ross and Michele Annable, matched by another $5 million from the R.B. Terry Charitable Foundation.
The Annable Scholarships are need-based, covering up to half the cost of tuition and fees. The scholarship encourages recipients to lend their time and talent to their communities and to serve animals and animal owners with compassion — students like Zurlinden, a young mom who plans to work in shelter medicine after graduation. Zurlinden was one of 33 CVM students named 2019-2020 Annable Scholars last fall.
The scholarship, which Zurlinden received at the beginning of the academic year and is awarded on a one-year basis, has already impacted her life enormously. “I was so excited,” she says. “I am overwhelmed with gratitude. It will make a huge difference in our family’s finances.”
Zurlinden grew up loving working with animals and attended Colorado State University where she majored in zoology. Working as a zookeeper after school, she began to take an interest in animal behavior in veterinary care. She also began volunteering at an animal shelter, where she quickly realized she could apply her zookeeping skills to bettering animals’ lives.
Typical zookeeper responsibilities include feeding, maintaining and cleaning the animals, diet preparation, behavioral observation, record keeping, exhibit maintenance and providing environmental enrichment for the animals in their care. They look for any signs of injuries or illness in the animals, and in the case of sickness or injury, the keeper is responsible for contacting a veterinarian, and sometimes a zookeeper will assist a veterinarian.
She cared for the work deeply and later made the decision to leave her zoo job to work at the shelter full time.
The dream didn’t end there. Encouraged by a veterinarian she worked with to become a veterinarian herself, Zurlinden began to look into various schools but was overwhelmed by the cost, but undeterred. And after her husband, Todd, was offered a job in the Triangle area in 2016, they moved here — close to the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine, the most affordable world-class college of its kind in the nation.
Zurlinden enrolled at the CVM in 2017, but sometimes even wonderful dreams have interruptions. Shortly after learning she had been accepted to NC State, Zurlinden learned that she was expecting a baby — a slight change of plans. Fortunately, it was possible to defer her enrollment, and a year later, now a mom with a son named Gavin, she finally began her CVM journey.
The Annable Scholarship is need-based, covering up to half the cost of tuition and fees for DVM candidates. The scholarship also encourages volunteerism and community leadership.
There have been sobering realities Zurlinden has faced along the way. The commitment of time and family resources necessary to be successful in veterinary school is demanding not just for the student, but for other family members, too. The presence of other students who are also mothers with families and adult responsibilities means they can be an important source of support and understanding for one another.
“Going to school here has been a wonderful experience,” she says. “I’m very appreciative of its diversity, and how everyone’s perspective is valued.”
Finances are another source of “mom guilt,” as Zurlinden calls it. It’s not only the cost of student loans, but the additional cost of daycare that is a burden. That’s why a scholarship can be of enormous importance, not just financially, but for peace of mind.
One thing has remained the same as Zurlinden has pursued her dream: her dedication to shelter animals. She believes that finding solutions for these animals is an important community service — and simply the right thing to do. Her goal is to use her DVM with an emphasis on animal behavior to help animals in shelters become more prepared for living with families and less fearful or aggressive.
“The behavior of shelter animals is a large obstacle to their adoption and something veterinarians can help with,” she says. “Behavior impacts health, welfare, shelter outcomes and the human-animal bond.”
In addition to her plans to work in shelter medicine after earning her DVM, she intends to continue doing volunteer work in the community. It’s all part of the sense of appreciation she feels for the help she receives as an Annable Scholar.
“It’s just wonderful to feel that the school believes in me,” she says.
She is also deeply grateful to the Annables for establishing a scholarship endowment that is such a perfect fit for her circumstances.
“It motivates me to push myself and work hard to learn how to be a successful veterinarian because there are people like the Annables who believe in my capabilities and my aspirations enough to support me with it,” says Zurlinden. “To me, the scholarship has a pay-it-forward effect and will motivate me to contribute to my community and the success of others in my career.”
~Steve Volstad/NC State Veterinary Medicine