Animal House: NC State’s Veterinary Open House

The N.C. State College of Veterinary Medicine opens its doors to showcase its facilities.
Written by Ayn-Monique Klahre | Photography by S.P. Murray


Things to do: Milk a cow, scan a microchip, stitch up a wounded stuffed animal. It’s a packed agenda at the annual open house at the North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM), a day-long affair that attracts more than 10,000 people in a single day to explore the anchor building on the 250-acre Centennial Biomedical Campus. 

NOTE: Unfortunately, NC State will be cancelling the 2020 Open House as a precautionary measure to avoid spreading COVID-19 (Coronavirus), since this event draws people from across the state onto campus. According to a statement: “The annual CVM Open House is an extremely popular community event, and we understand this will be disappointing news for many, but the safety of our students, staff, visitors and animals is always a top priority in any decision. We look forward to holding this again in the future.” Read more.

“People are curious about what’s going on,” says Jordan Bartel, communications strategist for the CVM. “They see the cows outside, but no one knows what happens inside—with this event, you get full access.” The annual event started in 1983, just weeks after the main facility was dedicated, and it’s almost entirely student-led. “We get people from all over Raleigh and North Carolina for this,” says Khushboo Dass, a third-year veterinary student who’s the senior chair of the event this year. “There’s really something for everyone.” 

The self-lead tour covers about 30 different areas in the 110,000-square-foot Veterinary Hospital, representing over 15 different specialty services and medical programs. “It’s a special chance to get here when all the doors are open,” says Dass. Inside, guests can tour the rooms, speak with doctors and veterinary students about equipment and treatments, and even watch live surgeries being performed on animals, an event that has gotten so popular that it’s live-streamed into lecture halls. (And don’t worry: for the squeamish, these displays are clearly marked—and so is the reptile room.) 

In the Simulation Laboratory (“Sim Lab”), for instance, where veterinary students practice hands-on skills like taking blood or performing biopsies, guests can explore the model animals and try a few things themselves. “And kids always love trying on the surgical gowns and gloves,” says Dr. Abi Taylor, a clinical Assistant Professor and director of the Simulation Laboratory. 

A favorite each year is the Teddy Bear Clinic, where children are invited to bring in beat-up stuffed animals (or choose from donations available there) for some expert healing. “The kids walk away saying they want to be vets,” Bartel says. “Kids are having fun and learning, but without feeling like they’re learning,” says Dass. One example: Exploring the parts of a cow’s stomach inside the anatomy lab. “People have heard cows have four stomachs, but when they see a model of how it’s actually divided into parts, they understand how it works.” 

Outside, guests can check out baby animals, including horses and goats in a petting zoo. There are also dozens of booths from student clubs and related organizations. “I think the diversity of the work we do is the biggest surprise,” says Dass. “People think about vets treating their cats and dogs, but we’re involved with the USDA, in public health work and in exotic animals and cutting-edge research, too.” 

This year, there will be a “kid zone” that gathers some of the most popular events for younger guests, including the Teddy Bear Clinic, Dress Like a Vet, a photo booth and face painting. Each year, students, professors and staff volunteer their time to make the event happen. “It really is a campus-wide effort,” says Bartel. 

“The best part is teaching the public and showing them what we do,” says Taylor. “And it’s fun answering questions, particularly from the kids—they always make you look at things in a new light.” Dass agrees: “It’s a way for the vet school to remind ourselves that we get to work with great people and animals. It’s easy to forget that when you’re still on the academic side and bogged down with tests and deadlines,” Dass says. “You get inspired again.” 

Cancelled for 2020; for more information, visit