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Northeast vet tech alum earns her doctorate of veterinary medicine

Northeast vet tech alum earns her doctorate of veterinary medicine

NELIGH, Neb. - A 2007 graduate of the Northeast Community College veterinary technology program received her doctorate in veterinary medicine from Iowa State University (ISU) in May.

Jessica Pelley McManigal believes the training she received at Northeast gave her a head start over other students in the Iowa State veterinary medicine program. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, she completed her last semester early and passed all required tests to become a licensed veterinarian before her scheduled graduation date. She has signed a contract to practice at Animal Clinic Suburban in Omaha, where she once worked as a veterinary technician. 

“The Northeast vet tech program is excellent,” McManigal said. “I was well prepared to work as a vet tech, and the hands-on training I received at Northeast gave me an advantage in veterinary science.”

McManigal is the daughter of Jim and Jacque Pelley, of Neligh, and the wife of Brett McManigal, formerly of Verdigre. She said she can’t imagine tackling pharmacology without the training she received in the Northeast vet tech program.

“I had experience doing things like blood draws that other classmates didn’t have,” she explained.

Dr. Michael Cooper, director of the Northeast veterinary technology program, said Northeast also has a pre-veterinary medicine program, with course work designed to prepare students academically for the rigor of veterinary school.

“With the pre-veterinary medicine program, there is little hands-on training until veterinary school,” Cooper said. “Most pre-veterinary students find jobs in veterinary clinics and gain their skills there and in veterinary school.”

“Our mission in the Northeast veterinary technology program,” Cooper continued, “is to produce licensed vet techs who work under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian. But for those students who have the ability, there is a path to go beyond the associate of applied science degree.”

That is the path McManigal chose. She said she always knew she wanted to be a veterinarian, and started as a vet tech so that she could get more experience with animals. She worked several years as a vet tech before starting on her bachelor’s degree at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL). She then entered the ISU-UNL Professional Program in Veterinary Medicine, taking her first two years at UNL and the last two at Iowa State.

McManigal plans to work with small animals and exotics. She has an interest in zoo animals, and spent a three-week preceptorship at the Oklahoma City Zoo. The zoo was closed to the public at the time because of COVID-19 restrictions. McManigal said the staff was divided into two teams that avoided any contact with each other to help prevent exposing the entire staff if one member contracted the virus. During the time in Oklahoma City, McManigal got to work on an elk, bobcat, tortoise, rattlesnake, frog and birds.

McManigal received her vet tech training at Northeast in the nearly 100-year-old repurposed dairy barn that many students call simply “the farm.” She said the building was old and had some issues, but the equipment was similar to what she encountered on her first job with a 10-doctor veterinary practice in Omaha. She is excited about the construction of a new clinic and classroom building for future Northeast vet tech students.

Site work is underway on the new veterinary technology building at Northeast, part of the initial construction in the Nexus project. The initial phase of construction also includes a new farm site with a large animal handling facility and other farm structures for livestock operations, a farm office and storage. The new facilities will be located near the Chuck M. Pohlman Agriculture Complex on E. Benjamin Ave. in Norfolk. Construction on the initial phase projects should be completed by the Fall of 2021. Groundbreaking ceremonies are planned at 10 a.m., on Thursday, September 10.

The funding for the agriculture facilities will come from the College’s commitment of $10 million, as well as external fundraising to fill the gap. With a total project cost of $22.3 million, the College has raised enough funds to begin construction; however, fundraising for the Nexus campaign will continue, as more is needed for equipment, technology and furnishings.

In August 2019, the Acklie Charitable Foundation (ACF) announced a $5 million lead gift to the Nexus project. ACF was founded by the late Duane Acklie and Phyllis Acklie, both Madison County natives and graduates of Norfolk Junior College, a predecessor institution of Northeast Community College.

For more information on the Nexus Campaign, contact Dr. Tracy Kruse, associate vice president of development and external affairs and executive director of the Northeast Foundation, at, or call (402) 844-7056. Online donations may be made through Checks may also be mailed to Nexus Campaign, Northeast Community College Foundation, P.O. Box 469, Norfolk, NE 68702-0469.