My Rollins Gateway: Vet with a Cause

January 12, 2021

By Adrienne Egolf

Marissa Cobuzio on a study break with Ari, the service dog she’s raising on campus.
Photo by Scott Cook.

Marissa Cobuzio ’19 is pursuing a career in mission-based veterinary medicine because she loves animals—and people.

There’s no doubt Marissa Cobuzio ’19 loves animals. So much so that for most of her life she’s dreamed of becoming a veterinarian. But talking to Cobuzio, it doesn’t take long to realize that at heart, she’s a people person. She’s effusive and energetic, and her passion for service peppers her conversation. Maybe that’s why her dual major in biology and sociology—two areas of study that even she admits are at the opposite ends of the scientific spectrum—makes so much sense for her.

As a member of Rollins’ Bonner Leaders Program—a cohort-based community service initiative that pairs students with local nonprofits—Cobuzio spent the last year and a half of her time at Rollins raising a black-lab-golden-retriever mix named Ari for Canine Companions for Independence (CCI). She also worked with the nonprofit to get Rollins approved as a service-dog-raising campus and developed alongside campus administration the infrastructure needed to continue the program for future Rollins students.

“The hope is to eventually apply to a residency program in the study of animal reproduction,” says Cobuzio, who’s a year into vet school at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. Her long-term goal is to work for a mission-based organization like CCI, where she can continue fusing the passions for helping animals and people that she started honing at Rollins.

We recently caught up with the vet-in-training to find out how her personalized pathway through Rollins helped broaden her worldview and shape the path she’s on now.

Marissa Cobuzio ’19 performing a biology experiment in a Rollins lab.
Photo by Scott Cook.

Future-Proof Education

A graduate of the Honors Program, Cobuzio credits Rollins for giving her the opportunity to get involved in a myriad of activities and organizations that brought her coursework to life, fostering actual learning rather than simple memorization.

“I think that Rollins is very good at making sure you’re able to relate what you’re learning in the classroom back to what’s actually happening in the world. It’s constantly like, ‘This is the theory. This is what’s happening. So where do we see it and how can we fix it?’ A crucial piece that Rollins has that other colleges don’t is empowering you to take action based on what you’ve learned and to understand all the different influences on what you’re studying.”

Marissa Cobuzio studying abroad in New Zealand.

Liberal Arts in Action

From learning about wildlife conservation in New Zealand to working alongside a local nonprofit to implement a service-dog-raising program at the College, Cobuzio stretched her Rollins experience to every corner of her burgeoning interests and passions.

“The Rollins approach educated me about the world in general, which I think is really important—not just for vet school, but for being a functioning human. In New Zealand, I learned about different approaches to environmental policies. Working with CCI, I learned about the animal reproduction work I want to do and how there’s a real mission behind it—in genetic testing as well as just general research on dog longevity and quality of life. The whole experience shifted my mindset about what I could do as a vet and how that could affect people.”

Marissa Cobuzio ’19 and one of her mentors, biology professor Jay Pieczynski, conduct research in a Rollins lab.
Photo by Scott Cook.

Mentorship, Mastered

From faculty advisors to fellow students to experts in Rollins’ Center for Leadership & Community Engagement (CLCE), Cobuzio had mentors on every step of her Rollins journey who encouraged her to explore multiple interests and chart her own course to personal and professional success.

“One of my mentors, [biology professor] Jay Pieczynski, helped me conduct mock interviews for vet schools, helped me research different programs, and helped me with requirements and getting an internship. He made a personal investment in me to make sure I was on the right path, which was huge. When I got into vet school, he was the first person I told. Bailey Clark in CLCE was my supervisor in the Bonner Leaders Program and was so wonderful at making sure I was caring not only for my academic health, but also my mental health and focusing on the things that really matter. I also loved working with sociology professor Amy Armenia, who was my thesis advisor. She always encouraged me and made sure I wasn’t overworking myself.”

Marissa Cobuzio ’19 walking down steps with her service dog Ari on graduation day.
Photo by Scott Cook.

Rollins Ready

Cobuzio entered Cornell’s prestigious vet school confident in her ability to embrace the rigor of the program. She was armed with her science studies at Rollins, which not only prepared her for intense coursework at the graduate level, but also shaped a deeper passion for scientific knowledge and how it can help others. Likewise, through her concurrent focus on sociology, she has developed an understanding of the intersectionality of identities, which will prove essential in her future work as a veterinarian specializing in helping members of the disabled community.

“I always knew I wanted to be a veterinarian, but Rollins helped me piece together my various passions to create a future I am excited about. Rollins enabled me to take a simple career aspiration and answer the question, ‘Who needs help and how can I use my career goals, experiences, and passions to serve that population?’ From there, I’ve been able to attend Cornell and receive the Armed Forces Health Professions Scholarship, where I will serve my country by working as a veterinarian with military working dogs.”

A visual representation of a student's journey through Rollins Gateway, from study abroad experiences to original research opportunities.

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