This story is part of a series following University of Findlay alumni who have gone on to have meaningful lives and productive careers right here in the local Findlay community. Their stories provide a glimpse of the difference UF students and graduates make in the lives and businesses of our immediate area, and of the impact a UF education can have right here at home.
When folks think of veterinarians, they likely have visions of them being raised as young Dr. Doolittles or Ace Venturas, calling forth their veritable gang of four-legged creatures at every beck and call. This, however, isn’t always the case, to which Andrea (Wittler) Niese ’04, a small animal vet working in Hancock County at VCA Findlay Animal Care Center, can attest. While much of her daily life now is spent around multiple dogs and cats, it wasn’t because of a childhood spent that way.
Growing up in Fort Jennings, Ohio, about an hour north east of Findlay, with her parents and two younger sisters, Niese’s only regular pet was a family dog, despite what she said were “repeated requests for a horse.” Regardless of the lack of direct experience, at a very young age, she both learned what a veterinarian was and decided that she was going to be one when she got older, and when it came time for her to go to college, that aspiration had not changed. When a representative came to visit at her high school, she said, she learned that University of Findlay had a premier pre-vet program. The high acceptance rate into vet school that UF undergraduates experience, coupled with the potentially accelerated three-year program made Niese want to take a visit to campus, and she soon found that the small, rural community atmosphere in which she had been brought up was comparable to what she found in Findlay. “I thought [UF] was too close to home originally,” she said. “But when I visited campus, I instantly fell in love.” She felt that the city of Findlay presented in itself a less daunting atmosphere than other, bigger cities might.
And so, Niese did make Findlay her college home, becoming an Oiler and nearly immediately immersing herself in the business of college life. She “maxed out” her class schedule, studied hard and, realizing a bit of her dream of being around horses, both worked at a private horse farm and joined the English Equestrian team for her second year at UF. “I learned so much from that and got to enjoy travelling with the team for that year,” she said. “I wouldn’t trade that experience for the world.” It was a challenging time, she said, but one that she got through with the help of friends and faculty at UF.
As a culmination of all of her hard work and the positive support from those around her at UF, Niese graduated in three years with a Bachelor of Science in Biology with a Chemistry minor, and was accepted to The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine on her very first try. She credits her immediate acceptance to graduate school, she said, not only to the people at UF, or even to her own work ethic; rather, she suggested that the quality and practicality of the work and experience she got while at the University were equally as helpful and certainly deciding factors toward her OSU acceptance. She noted, specifically, that the curriculum at UF, the hands-on experience, and the “support and prep work done to fill out applications and prepare for the interview process,” were paramount to her getting into OSU with little struggle. It’s a testament to the steps taken toward the meaningful life and productive career that UF understands so well and takes so seriously in its students and graduates.
Now Niese, having graduated from OSU in 2008, is back in Hancock County, working in the city of her undergraduate alma mater. It’s a place not only familiar, she said, but one that has numerous benefits for its workforce. She lists the variety of friendly people she sees with their pets, the proximity to larger cities if specialty care might be required for a patient, and the progressive and growing community with many opportunities that the Findlay area boasts. “The job of a veterinarian is so much more than I envisioned when I was seven,” Niese said. “I started because I love animals but have learned I really enjoy connecting with clients and educating them about their pet’s health and medical needs. Sometimes you are a listening ear for a client about their life struggles when a pet’s problems add to their many worries or how their pet has filled a void or provided support for them or just provided love and joy in their lives.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has made it much more difficult for her to be a “listening ear,” Niese confessed, as she explained that it has definitely created a disruption in how VCA likes to practice. Offering curbside exams, discussing more issues over the phone, and limiting face to face interaction for physical distancing purposes has been hard both for her and for the clients as well. It seems, though, that her time at UF even prepared for the unexpected in that way. “I miss that connection, especially as a new vet in the area,” she explained. “[But] it helps to feel a bond with the area having gone to school here. I like connecting with people when I say I attended UF and grew up nearby. It feels like I’m giving back to the community that aided me on the path to achieving my goal,” she explained.
In the sort of “happier-ever-after” phase of life for Niese, she lives outside of Glandorf, Ohio, in Putnam County with her husband, four kids, and another due in March of 2021. And it appears, in this fairy tale, that her childhood wishes have finally come to fruition, creating in their later-in-life wake the perfect example of the dream she had envisioned as a child. “We live on our little four-acre hobby farm that includes a handful of Dexter cows and calves, a flock of chickens and occasionally a pig or two,” she explained. “We also have a Boston Terrier with one eye named Watson, four goldfish and an aquatic frog. So, I finally achieved my other dream of living with my family on a farm and having a menagerie of animals.”