The SDSU Professional Program in Veterinary Medicine Class of 2025

 The first class of the SDSU Professional Program in Veterinary Medicine students were honored at the Inaugural Blue Coat Ceremony on Friday, November 5, where the students were presented with a personalized blue Carhartt work coat.  

“We carefully selected our first class of students, all of them are exceptionally bright and committed to learning the many aspects of veterinary medicine,” said Gary Gackstetter, Professor and Director of the Professional Program Veterinary Medicine. “We are confident they will all contribute to both animal and public health across the upper Midwest. These new blue coats are also a symbol of our confidence in these students.”  

The coats presented to each student represent not only the hard work they have completed to get to this point in their education, but the hard work ahead of them as they continue their education in veterinary medicine. 

“The blue Carhartt jacket is symbolic of the hard work and dedication that the Professional Program in Veterinary Medicine will require,” said Jessica Juarez, Assistant Professor and Assistant Director of PPVM. “It is a way for our students to proudly represent SDSU and each other when out on internships and other opportunities where they can wear the jacket.” 

Each coat presented at the ceremony was sponsored by a local veterinarian, symbolic of the support these students can expect as they prepare to join the profession of veterinary medicine.  

“This is perhaps the most unique aspect of the SDSU blue coat ceremony,” said Russ Daly, Professor, SDSU Extension Veterinarian and State Public Heath Veterinarian. “A South Dakota veterinarian purchased each coat, sometimes for a specific student they’d mentored. This was designed not only to help forge or strengthen a bond between the veterinarian and the student, it was also symbolic of the support these students can expect from the existing community of South Dakota veterinarians as they begin their careers.”  

Veterinary students celebrated at the inaugural Blue Coat Ceremony include:

  • Maria Aesoph of Orient, South Dakota sponsored by Dr. John Bode from Animal Health Center in Faulkton, South Dakota
  • Mackenzie Bartles of Starbuck, Minnesota sponsored by Dr. David Zeman from Brookings, South Dakota
  • Mariah Beckmann of Slayton, Minnesota sponsored by Dr. Jennifer Stevens from Horizon Pet Care in Brandon, South Dakota
  • Breanna Brown of Sabin, Minnesota sponsored by Dr. Olivia Mellgren from Webster Veterinary Clinic in Webster, South Dakota
  • Jana Bruce-Wattier of Sioux Falls, South Dakota sponsored by Dr. Corale Dorn from Dells Veterinary Services in Dell Rapids, South Dakota
  • Garrett Drum of Faith, South Dakota sponsored by Dr. Alice Harty from Milesville, South Dakota
  • Alisha Hebl of St. Paul, Minnesota sponsored by Dr. Dave Barz from Northwest Veterinary Supply in Parkston, South Dakota
  • Kitana Honkola of Eveleth, Minnesota sponsored by Dr. Greta Krafsur from Brookings, South Dakota
  • Cassie Juberien of Nicollet, Minnesota sponsored by Dr. William Howard from Howard Veterinary Clinic in Watertown, South Dakota
  • Renae Kayser of Marion, South Dakota sponsored by Dr. Eric Knock from Prairie View Veterinary Clinic in Miller, South Dakota
  • Marissa Keenan of South Bend, Indiana sponsored by Dr. Heather Osnes from Oahe Veterinary Clinic in Pierre, South Dakota
  • Lauren Larson of Mitchell, South Dakota sponsored by Dr. Heather Lerseth-Fliehs from the Groton Veterinary Clinic in Groton, South Dakota
  • Hayley Leibel of Timber Lake, South Dakota sponsored by Dr. Pat Prusha from Oahe Veterinary Clinic in Mobridge, South Dakota and Dr. Corale Dorn of Dells Veterinary Service in Dell Rapids, South Dakota
  • Danica Loll of Wahpeton, North Dakota sponsored by Dr. Jane Hennings from Brookings, South Dakota
  • Shannon McBride of Shevlin, Minnesota sponsored by Dr. Kay Miller from Fulton, South Dakota
  • Laura Munger of Brookings, South Dakota sponsored by Dr. Darcee Munsterteiger from Northern Plains Animal Health in Aberdeen, South Dakota
  • Lacey Prescott of Franklin, South Dakota sponsored by Dr. Mark Appelhof from Clear Lake Veterinary Clinic in Clear Lake, South Dakota
  • Ana Ruiz of Watertown, South Dakota sponsored by Dr. Ben Wileman from Select Genetics in Willmar, Minnesota
  • Lauren Skogland of New Richmond, Wisconsin sponsored by Dr. Cynthia Franklin from Animal Health Clinic in Yankton, South Dakota
  • Courtney Timmer of Chaska, Minnesota sponsored by Dr. James McKnight from Brookings, South Dakota

“We are very proud of our students and very excited about starting this new tradition that will be unique to the SDSU Professional Program in Veterinary Medicine,” said John Killefer, South Dakota Corn Endowed Dean of the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences. “We are so grateful for the generous support from our veterinary professionals that allowed us to begin this blue coat tradition.”  

This fall, the first cohort of students began veterinary school at SDSU through the Professional Program in Veterinary Medicine in collaboration with the University of Minnesota. Students who completed the required pre-veterinary curriculum were able to apply to the professional program. Students who are admitted into the program will complete the first two years of their DVM degree at SDSU and then transfer to the University of Minnesota’s College of Veterinary Medicine for their final two years of study. To learn more about the program, contact Jessie Juarez, Assistant Director of the SDSU Professional Program in Veterinary Medicine, at or visit