AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — As of this week, faculty and staff at the Texas Tech University School of Veterinary Medicine began moving into their new facilities.

Britt Conklin, DVM the Associate Dean for Clinical Programs at the School of Veterinary Medicine, said the main building was mostly move-in ready for staff and faculty. Construction crews from Western Builders were still working on the interior and exterior on Tuesday, August 3.

Conklin said said the west wing with the laboratories still needed some work, but the east academic wing was nearly ready for students.

He said they have spoken to many of the students, who were excited to get started, especially as only 64 spots were available for more than 700 applicants.

“This inaugural class are pioneers, and they’re excited to help write the page of history that’s occurring right now,” Conklin said. “We’re excited to finally get them here. We’re excited to finally start this engine and go ahead and see where we end up.”

According to Conklin, they developed a curriculum to develop clinical skills, not just knowledge. He also said the facilities are purpose-built to meet that curriculum.

“We’re going to work hard at developing those students to get ready for real practice and we have a program that really gets there fast. So, by the end of their third year, they look a lot more like a veterinarian that’s fixing to graduate their fourth year because we put them out in a clinical rotation in their fourth year and they actually have to add value and work within a practice,” Conklin added.

Assistant Professor of Behavior and Welfare, Nichole Anderson, PhD, said she was excited for this class to get started.

“I actually do primarily research. So, for me, I’ll be looking at the students a little bit more in the capacity of getting them in labs, getting them hands on with animals for a research lens, watching behavior, and then the spring, I will actually begin teaching some veterinary level classes,” Anderson said.

Conklin said once the vet school reaches full maturity, it will have about 120 faculty and staff, and up to 500 students, including veterinary and graduate students.

The faculty stressed their excitement about finally moving into the new building.

“It’s surreal. I mean, I don’t know that anybody can really give you a clear indication of what it’s like. We’re living in the moment. I’m sure retrospectively someday down the road, we’ll think, ‘Wow, that was a really neat time,'” said Conklin.

Both Conklin and Anderson addressed the need for the vet school in Amarillo.

“I think it’s going to build some really great networks. I think it’s going to help raise attention to this area. Yes, we might have the lowest population, but not when it comes to animals,” Anderson said.

When asked about that immense need, Conklin said, “We’ve known it’s needed…Veterinarians in this area—well, in a lot of rural and regional communities—really struggle with getting employees, getting skilled professionals, getting veterinarians. And so having this here will help develop a lot of those practices, and help them function at a higher level,” Conklin added.

He said the inaugural class will arrive next week, with a full week of orientation beginning August 9. Classes will begin August 16.