From anchors away to paws on deck

After taking time off for a deployment in Africa, U.S. Navy reservist Sean Rodriguez is set to earn his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree — putting him one step closer to opening his own small-animal practice.

Sean Rodriguez portrait

May 8, 2023
Contact: Deidra Ashley,

Some students arrive at college with no idea what they want to study or what job they want to pursue. That’s not the case for soon-to-be graduate Sean Rodriguez.

When Rodriguez was a child, his first puppy, a Labrador retriever named Blackie, got parvovirus. Unfortunately, Blackie didn’t beat the disease.

“From that point on, I knew I wanted to help animals,” Rodriguez said.

The first-generation student from Fontana, California, set out to become a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine — a degree he’ll earn this weekend. But it wasn’t always a straightforward path. In 2021, the U.S. Navy reservist's education was interrupted when he was deployed to Djibouti, Africa.

Read on for a Q&A with Rodriguez about his Mizzou experience.

Why did you choose Mizzou?

I applied to about seven schools, and Mizzou was my top pick. When I first came to interview here, I was very nervous. But the students who were showing me around made me feel welcome. After that, I met some of the faculty members and walked around campus. People were very friendly, and I knew this was the place for me.

What was it like transitioning back to school after being deployed for a year?

Being deployed is nothing like being in college — your priorities are just different. When I first came back to Mizzou, I had to learn how to learn again. My classmates, professors and fiancée were a huge help getting me reintroduced to civilization.

What are you going to remember most about your time at Mizzou?

The highlights of my time here have been my classes and the people I got to know. My classmates and I have been together for so many years, and they’ve always been very helpful and nice. Veterinary medicine isn’t always easy, so it’s great to have that network of people you can trust.

Also, the faculty were so supportive and willing to jump through hoops to help me finish my degree after being deployed. I wouldn’t be graduating if it wasn’t for them.

What advice do you have for prospective students?

Be prepared for hard work, but also make sure you’re taking time to decompress and relax. Even if I’m studying for a big test, I like to work out, play video games or take my dogs for a walk. School will still be there when you’re done.

What are your plans after graduation?

My fiancée and I are busy planning our wedding, so that’s the priority right now. I’m going to work as a veterinary technician for a while, and the ultimate goal is to move back to California, where my fiancée and I are both from, and start our own practice. It’s really important to us to help better our community there.

Meet more spring 2023 graduates

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