Skip to main content

Wall of notes with words of advice greets veterinary students

August 27, 2013 By Chris Barncard

Photo: notes on bulletin board

A wall of the classroom being used for veterinary student orientation meetings was filled with notes from older students, faculty and staff. The note-posting tradition has been going on for four years.


“Sleep, breathe and laugh!” may seem more like a list of involuntary functions than advice.

But the hustle of graduate school can make students in general, and the UW–Madison School of Veterinary Medicine’s incoming Class of 2017 in particular, forget about the little things.

That’s why Lynn Maki, the vet school’s interim associate dean for academic affairs, made sure some simple advice — “Soak up the knowledge, learn from mistakes. Sleep, breathe and laugh!” — made it onto the wall of the classroom the new class was using for orientation meetings last week alongside dozens of similar notes from older students, faculty and staff.

“It can be as simple as, ‘Good luck this year!’ to really ‘tasky’ information about what to focus on and keep in mind,” Maki says.

Photo: notes on bulletin board

One faculty member added a little artistic flair.

Messages vary. Pathology professor Marie Pinkerton took the opportunity to introduce herself (as the “crazy hamster lady”). Chris Olsen, professor and interim vice provost for teaching and learning, suggested the new folks “Let the little stuff roll off your back.” Former Dean Bernard Easterday likes to remind the typically driven students to stay open to the potential of new experiences and paths in their careers.

The note-posting tradition has been going for four years, since two students and Professor Linda Sullivan picked up the idea during a trip to the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Veterinary Leadership Experience.

As many as 100 messages have greeted the new cohort of students in recent years, but does the advice sink in?

“I’m not so sure; we’re throwing a lot at them during orientation,” Maki says. “But it’s a visual clue that there are more people here — beyond their classmates and administration — ready to help make this a rewarding experience for them.”