Austell native earns animal science degree from Fort Valley State University

by Pamela Berry-Johnson

Posted on May 14, 2022

When Jennifer Vazquez receives her diploma at Fort Valley State University's 2022 Spring Commencement Ceremony on May 14, it will set a milestone for her family.

Vazquez, a native of Austell, Georgia, will graduate from FVSU's College of Agriculture, Family Sciences and Technology (CAFST) as an animal science major. She will be the first in her family to earn a college degree.

"I first found out about Fort Valley State University because I knew what specific major I wanted to go into in high school. I had to do some searching myself because I am a first-generation (college) student," Vazquez said. She said she did not know anything about college or the application process but forged on anyway. "I went ahead based on knowing what I wanted to do in my career, and that's why I selected Fort Valley State University," the future FVSU alumna said.

Additionally, Vazquez stated that her Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) instructors in high school and her best friend's mother were instrumental in pushing her to achieve a higher education. "She always told me I would get far if I continued my studies," Vazquez said.

Furthermore, Vazquez said she wanted to work with animals in the future. "I wanted to do something in that field of study, so the animal science program seemed like the best major for a pre-vet (veterinary school) student," the Austell native said.

Vazquez said she really appreciated the class sizes at FVSU. "The smaller classes help a lot in addition to having that one-on-one time with your professors. There were some classes that were considered full, but even then, the number of students that were in there wasn't that much compared to larger universities. I think even though FVSU is considered a small university, it offers so many opportunities, and that's a great advantage," she said.

The 22-year-old describes her FVSU experience as heartwarming. "When I got here, I didn't know anybody. That first week of kickoff, I made so many friends, and those are the same friends I'm graduating with. It (FVSU) has been a home away from home and I'm definitely part of the Wildcat family," she said.

Additionally, Vazquez said she will never forget FVSU, and will support and promote her alma mater after graduation.

While maintaining a strict academic regimen, Vazquez participated in numerous extra-curricular activities. She served as a Golden Student Ambassador where she provided tours to students, a New Student Orientation Leader, and participated in the Animal Science Club and Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANNRS). She also pledged and became a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated.

Her advice to students seeking academic success at FVSU is to study and practice discipline. Vazquez said there is always some activity taking place on campus, which is nice for the student body. However, before anything, students are in college to learn. Students must have the discipline to study for exams and to plan a schedule to be successful and graduate.

After graduation, Vazquez says she will be conducting research, and preparing for graduate school. "I'll be taking what I've learned here and be working at an invitro fertilization (IVF) clinic to gain some practical work experience. I'll also be participating in a research program at Utah State University this summer. After that year, I'm hoping to go to the University of California at Davis, where I will study animal reproduction. It's a fully funded fellowship that I was offered while here," she said.

Overall, Vazquez said graduating from college is a huge accomplishment, but it would not have been possible without the support of family. "My family immigrated to the United States from Mexico with nothing. Even then, they gave me everything so I could succeed and have an opportunity to walk across that stage, so my family is very, very happy. My parents sacrificed a lot to come to this country, and I feel those sacrifices were not in vain. There will be a lot of clapping, cheering and crying taking place," she said.


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