Behind the major with Ember Reyes: Caring for animals


Ember Reyes

Ember Reyes is a sophomore working towards a bachelor’s of science while majoring in animal science on a pre-veterinary track at West Texas A&M University. Reyes was born and raised in Ohio but her family moved to San Antonio, Texas, about eight years ago. Reyes has found many opportunities at WT that will help her towards her future career and goals.

Reyes’ passion for being a veterinarian began in high school when she worked as a trainer with guide dogs for the blind. After spending most of her life surrounded by animals, Reyes knew she wanted to help animals as a career.

“I want to go to veterinary school and I’m looking at schools overseas, but then I would come back to the states and be a veterinarian for a guide dog organization,” Reyes said. “So, I can train service animals; I could be a vet that practices medicine and do research on the animal side with genetics and breeding.”

Reyes is interested in getting her Doctor of Philosophy degree in animal genetics or humanities and cultural relations. Reyes was raised to truly value and protect the disabled community, so working with guide dogs for the blind allows her to give back to that community specifically.

“On the clinical side, it’s more people than animals, so you get to know how to react and respond to people for comfort,” Reyes said. “So, since I’m very much a caretaker, I like the idea of caring for people and animals since they can’t tell you what is wrong.”

There are two sides to veterinary medicine— the clinical side and the research side. Clinical practice is most recognized through a typical veterinary office specializing in animal checkups and other standard procedures. The research side is full of understanding breeds, specializing in innovating medicine for animals and furthering genetic knowledge and symbiotic relationships.

“I’ll already be practicing medicine and training, but I also really enjoy researching as well, especially when it comes to genetics and breeding,” Reyes said. “That [animal research] has a huge role in guide dogs, especially since experts say research helps in furthering knowledge on genetics and the relationship between symbiotic relationships.”

Although Reyes is filled with a constant workload, she enjoys every minute of the hard work as she loves the challenge of complex topics.

“My favorite thing is the challenge that comes with the career because I really like challenges,” Reyes said. “I really enjoy all of my classes, even though they have a huge workload, since I also enjoy the academic environment. So, I like being in animal science because there is a lot of collaboration during lectures.”

Reyes is a lifelong learner who compares herself to a sponge and likes to soak up random information about things. However, the workload can become overwhelming with the other classes required by the university.

“I think my least favorite part of my major right now is the courses that aren’t professionally related to my career degree,” Reyes said. “I like to learn everything, but there are a lot of times I have to take a lot of additional classes that I will never use again. Since academics is based on performance and grades, it distracts and sometimes becomes difficult to manage the heavier STEM classes with the other required ones.”

Every student faces that frustration; taking classes the university requires that have no relation to their degree plan. So, more complex and challenging majors tend to be overwhelmed by balancing their difficult courses and the others to keep their grade point average high.

“I chose WT for several reasons, but my agricultural teacher, who was my mentor from 8th grade through 12th grade, pushed me to visit the campus because his daughter goes here,” Reyes said. “This school was definitely one of my top choices because I had met Dr. Posey, who’s in charge of pre-veterinary, in eighth grade and always remembered him. WT also felt at home when I stepped on campus for the first time, so I knew this was where I could grow, have opportunities and was only 8 hours away from home.”

Like many other students, Reyes has found many opportunities to help gain experience and knowledge toward becoming a veterinarian.

“For professional opportunities, I work at the veterinary school as a research lab assistant, and I was hired during my first semester of college, which was pretty big and it’s my first summer job I’ve gotten in the industry,” Reyes said. “So, I’ve been given the chance to learn the type of community that I will be a part of. Academically, I feel like WT has the most knowledgeable professors, and not just like the most knowledgeable but the most passionate. It can feel like a one-on-one conversation rather than a lecture. For personal goals, it’s been really good to step into adulthood and be able to practice different aspects of my life.”

Outside of school, Reyes works at VERO, the on-campus veterinary school, pre-veterinary club, rifle club, kickboxes and spin classes. These organizations and communities give Reyes a chance to balance homework and doing activities she enjoys.

Reyes believes you should not expect perfection and embrace what has been given to you.

“My first piece of advice is something my parents taught me; don’t expect perfection but expect a correction,”Reyes said. “Life is not about getting it perfect but about learning and growing yourself and helping others learn and grow as well. As a perfectionist, this gives me direction to keep in mind to love what I’m doing and not just do things. The second piece of advice I’d give is; to let go of what you think you know and embrace what you’re being given. It’s important to be flexible in letting go of something out of control and embrace those opportunities given to you because we tend to figure it out while we’re doing something.”