Funk Honored With 2021 NC State Veterinary Medicine Distinguished Alumni Award

Julie Funk, who received a Ph.D. in production medicine and epidemiology in 2000 from the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine, is this year’s recipient of the college’s Distinguished Alumni Award. 

Funk was one of 14 alumni honored by NC State during the 16th annual Evening of the Stars on Oct. 28, presented by the NC State Alumni Association. The awards honor extraordinary graduates university-wide, including innovative and influential graduates within the veterinary profession for the past 30 years.  

Funk was named the founding dean of the University of Arizona College of Veterinary Medicine in March 2019, bringing extensive experience in teaching, private practice and administration to the college, which welcomed its second-ever class of veterinary students this fall.

“There are so many prestigious and impactful alumni of the college, and I am honored to be considered in the company of previous and future honorees,” says Funk. “I am so proud of being an alumna of the college. My doctoral degree provided me the opportunity for a career in academic veterinary medicine. I am fortunate to be able to work in an area I love.”

After earning a doctorate from the NC State CVM’s comparative biomedical sciences program — thesis: epidemiology of Salmonella on North Carolina swine farms — Funk taught such topics as food safety, public health and zoonotic disease as an assistant professor at the Ohio State University for six years. 

Julie Funk

“My Ph.D. training provided a strong foundation for my career,” Funk says. Photo by David Sanders.

She then served in several roles at Michigan State University, including an associate professor from 2006 to 2014 and associate dean of academic programs and student success from 2014 to 2019 before heading to the University of Arizona.  

A first-generation college student, Funk did not plan for a career in academia when she began her veterinary medicine studies. After receiving her DVM from Michigan State University, Funk’s passion for an academic career began while earning a master’s degree from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

When she decided to pursue a Ph.D. and a faculty career, she decided to come to NC State, motivated by the encouragement of Paula Cray, now head of the CVM Department of Population Health and Pathobiology, and one of Cray’s collaborators at the time, Peter Davies. Cray and Davies were mentors and role models during Funk’s time at NC State.

“My Ph.D. training provided a strong foundation for my career,” Funk says. “There was, of course, the focus on developing skills as a researcher, but there was also a broader education regarding engagement with stakeholders, networking and collaborating with other researchers, and strong mentorship for navigating an academic career. I am so grateful to have been supported so well in my Ph.D. program.”

Inspired by her mentors, Funk made prioritizing such unwavering support a cornerstone of her own academic career. She says the aspect of her work she treasures the most is helping others achieve their dreams and goals, including students who aim for a career in academia or faculty and staff looking to develop their careers.  

“It is a real privilege to have a career in academic veterinary medicine,” says Funk. “Supporting people and advancing the profession is the privilege I get every day.” 

With her distinguished alumni award, Funk joins an impressive group of CVM graduates. Last year, Philip Nelson, dean of the Western University of Health Sciences College of Veterinary Medicine, received the honor.

Previous recipients include Tracy Hanner, the college’s first African American graduate, Meg Sutherland-Smith, the director of veterinary services at the San Diego Zoo, Operation Catnip founder and shelter medicine professor Julie Levy, and global health leader Wondwossen Gebreyes.

~Jordan Bartel/NC State Veterinary Medicine