5 Questions: ACES start leads to future in veterinary medicine for zoo and wild animals

Jacob Dalen headshot
Jacob Dalen

Now in veterinary school at U of I, animal lover Jacob Dalen got his start in the Department of Animal Sciences' pre-vet track, and minored in Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences. This week's 5 Questions Friday looks back at Dalen's time at ACES.

Where did you grow up? Do you have an agriculture background? If so, what did that look like?

I grew up in Manhattan, IL, which is a smaller town about 100 miles north of the UIUC campus. My family owns a very small hay field that we harvest every summer, but my grandparents are the last true link to agriculture that I have. At one point, they owned hundreds of acres of crop fields, so I have always felt like I have a connection to agriculture in that respect. Now, I have a horse back home and still help out with the hay occasionally, so it is still a part of my life.

How did you choose U of I, ACES, and your major?

To be quite honest, I originally chose U of I because it is the only Illinois school that also has a veterinary school on the same campus. What solidified my decision was coming for an admitted students day where I was told about the Animal Sciences (ANSC) department and what it had to offer for people that wanted to go into veterinary medicine. The Animal Sciences curriculum and its ability to prepare me for my future career definitely sets UIUC apart from other institutions. From that day forward, I knew that I would be participating in the ANSC program at the U of I. Looking back now that I am in veterinary school, I know that I made a great choice!

Who were your favorite professor(s) and why?

This is definitely a hard question, but I would have to say it is a toss-up between Dr. Anna Dilger in Animal Sciences and Dr. Mike Ward in Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences. Both professors are extremely passionate about what they do and teach and are able to successfully integrate what they do as researchers into all of their courses. I was able to be a teaching assistant for one of Dr. Dilger's classes the past two years, and it was a blast. Dr. Ward is one of the reasons that I want to work with birds in the future as well, for the ornithology trips that I have taken for his courses have shown me the beauty of many native bird species. These professors are who inspired me to continue on the path I am still on today.

Were you involved in student organizations? If so, which, what was your role, and why was it rewarding?

As an undergraduate, I was involved in the Illini Wildlife and Conservation Club (IWCC) on campus, which is an RSO that focuses on getting students excited about conservation and helping them to experience nature and the many careers that one can strive for in related fields. Last year, I was the President of the club, so it was rewarding to see that students enjoyed all of the trips to zoos and aquariums and the guest speakers that we had lecture for our meetings. I am very passionate about conservation and helping species of concern, so this club was a great fit and allowed me to make an impact during my undergraduate years.

What advice do you have for high school juniors and seniors considering what to do after graduation?

One piece of advice that I have for current high school students is to stick with your passion and do not stray from that just because others try to deter you tell you that it will not work out in the long run. This isn't to say that those passions won't change over the next few years, but I've learned to hold my ground on these types of things, for others' opinions shouldn't hold anything over your future. If you don't have anything that you are passionate about, though, I would say to give everything a try, even if it is just one meeting for a club. You never know what is out there when you first go to college, so it's important to always keep an open mind!