A 2017 graduate of Southern Arkansas University saw her dream of helping animals take one step closer to becoming reality as she was accepted into veterinary school at Louisiana State University.
According to a press release, Riley Loftin, who received her undergraduate degree in Agricultural Science: Pre-Veterinary from SAU in December 2017, was recently notified of her acceptance into the school.
“Animals are so important to me, and I want to be able to advocate for them because they cannot speak for themselves,” Loftin said. “They can’t tell someone where they are hurting, how they’re hurting, or how you can help them. I want to be able to make a difference in this world, and I won’t be satisfied with anything else.”
Loftin, a native of Blossom, Texas, received an academic scholarship to attend SAU. She began her academic career intending to teach, but after her first year as an education major, decided she wanted “to do something for animals.”
“I’d had a couple of dogs that had developed tumors, and when they died, I got so upset,” she said. “I wanted to help them but I didn’t know how.”
In summer 2016, she got the opportunity to work for a veterinary clinic in Reno, Texas. It was there she found her calling. “It was so exciting. I love small animals. I did a lot of kennel work, and got to assist with surgeries.”
Since this past March, Loftin has been working for the Ward Veterinary Clinic in El Dorado, Arkansas.
Switching to Agricultural Science was an amazing experience for Loftin. “I had no background in farming or agriculture per se, and my exposure to animals was limited, but it was the best experience,” she said. “I got to work with large animals and study the internal biology. It was a little overwhelming at first; I had to figure out how to study for it. But my professors were so very supportive.”
She praised Dr. David Sanson, associate professor of agriculture, for making himself available to students “at all times of the day. He was always willing to help me before or after school. He’s always there.” She also credited Dr. Pierre Boumtje, professor of agriculture economics, with aiding her in her studies.
The toughest part of transitioning from the education field to agriculture was “the knowledge that, eventually, you are going to have to deal with death, especially if you continue in the animal science arena,” she said. “But I look at quality of life over quantity, and that helped me make the transition.”
Sanson reflected on her academic experience. “Riley transferred to the department, so she had to take some classes out of sequence,” he said. “She is a dedicated student who put her education as her No. 1 priority. However, she was also active in the department, serving as an Ag Ambassador.”
As a member of the Honors College, Loftin completed two Honors classes with Sanson in which she conducted a small research study. She also served two semesters as a Supplemental Instructor for Introduction to Animal Science.
“Riley was an excellent student and has an excellent work ethic,” Sanson said. “I am excited that she has been accepted into veterinary school.”
Loftin called working with larger animals an exhilarating experience. “It was intimidating, too,” she laughed. “It was a great learning experience. I really enjoyed studying animal reproductive physiology and animal nutrition lab. I got to touch the insides of living animals! It was fun working with them and seeing how they interacted with me.”
Loftin researched a variety of veterinary schools and sent out her applications upon graduating. “I waited for a long, long time,” she said, with a laugh, of the application process. “I found out I’d gotten accepted into LSU’s program on my dad’s and husband’s birthday. I called Dad and said ‘happy birthday,’ and then called him back an hour later and said LSU had sent a letter saying, ‘congratulations.’ It was indescribable; I cried, and my puppy thought I was crazy.”
Loftin called her time at SAU a wonderful experience. “There are so many friendly people here, always willing to help, no matter what you need help with,” she said. “I wouldn’t have chosen anywhere else for my undergrad.”
She and her husband, Seth Loftin, an SAU Engineering graduate who presently works for Aerojet Rocketdyne in Camden, Arkansas, expect to move to Baton Rouge, Louisiana by August.
“My husband is stoked about it,” she said, of her acceptance into veterinary school. “I’ll have a tough class load. I anticipate I will have to change the way I studied before, and I’m kind of nervous, but excited, too.”
She is using her present experience at the Ward clinic to learn the business side of veterinary work. “I’d like to own my own business one day,” she said. “My goal is to be my own boss.”
She is the daughter of Chad and Jeri Brakebill. Her brother, Cobyn, transferred to SAU from Paris Junior College and is a mass communication major.