New UMass veterinary technology program to use Mount Ida campus

  • Holbrook Hall at the former Mount Ida College in Newton. FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 2/4/2020 4:23:44 PM

AMHERST — Beginning next fall, the University of Massachusetts Amherst will offer a four-year veterinary technology degree, with studies split between the Amherst and Mount Ida campuses.

Students enrolled in the program will spend their first two years in Amherst and the second half of the program in Newton, using the facilities of the former Mount Ida College that UMass acquired in 2018. The program will prepare students for careers as veterinary technologists.

“It’s very much hands-on, skills-based,” said Amy Rubin, veterinary technology program director at UMass. “We are essentially running the program under the American Veterinary Medical Association guidelines, so our students have to have accomplished a certain number of skills for all the different species and all the nursing skills required to be a veterinary technologist.”

UMass already offers bachelor’s degree programs in animal science and pre-veterinary science, and students currently in these programs have the option to transfer to the veterinary technology program. About 12 students already have opted to make this switch, according to Rubin. 

Technologists play a similar role in the veterinary field as nurses, Rubin said, and the career is well-suited for those who want to work closely with the animals.

“The way that we run this industry now is that veterinarians diagnose and then hand off all the hands-on nursing skills to the techs,” Rubin said, “so if you want to handle the animal and do the clinical care … you need to be a veterinary technologist.”

Mount Ida already had veterinary facilities available that would have cost UMass millions of dollars to establish in Amherst, according to Rubin. The Department of Veterinary and Animal Sciences considered creating the major in 2008 but decided not to at the time because of these expenses.

Students will focus on working with larger animals in Amherst and small animals in Newton, where Rubin said they will also be in “a great location to get their hands-on training” and internships. The Mount Ida campus is about eight miles from Boston.

The Newton campus was previously home to Mount Ida College, a private four-year college that closed abruptly in 2018 due to financial difficulties. UMass purchased the college that same year, naming the site the Mount Ida Campus of UMass Amherst.

The veterinary technology major’s presence in Newton represents a shift from the university’s initial usage of the Mount Ida campus for professional and graduate certificates and lifelong learning programs, which did not directly enroll undergraduates.

UMass Amherst’s operations at the campus have raised concerns among faculty at UMass Boston, who worried the Mount Ida programming would compete with UMass Boston’s offerings. Faculty at UMass Boston gathered at least 330 signatures in December asking for UMass Amherst for “a more transparent process for approving academic programs or courses offered at the Newton campus” and collaborate with UMass Boston in planning the Mount Ida campus, State House News Service reported

UMass Boston does not currently offer a veterinary technology degree.

Jacquelyn Voghel can be reached at
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