White Coats

Cindy Deppe

Separated by 35 years of education and experience, what could Miranda Thomas ’17 and Sara Mathews ’82 possibly have in common? Dedication to animal care, white coats, mutual admiration, and Grinnell’s externship program.

Thomas, a biology graduate now attending the College of Veterinary Medicine at Iowa State University, was matched with Mathews, a Vero Beach, Florida, veterinarian, during the spring of 2015. Mathews and her husband own and operate a small animal hospital, in addition to her pro bono work for trap/neuter/release animals. 

Thomas, who had veterinary medicine in mind since seventh grade, says her externship with 

Mathews “showed that my skill set and interests aligned with vet med but maybe not in a clinical setting. When I shadowed with Sara, we were with animals and clients all day, every day.” Now in her second year of veterinary training she is leaning toward research and possibly nongovernmental organization work in an international practice.

“Grinnell was such an amazing experience for me that I feel I have a lot to give back,” Mathews says about her commitment to four externships she has hosted to date. “I learn as much from the students as I give. I continue to be impressed by the quality and well-rounded nature of the students I see. I’m always a little sad when they leave.”

The connection forged between these two Grinnellians — both raised in Iowa, biology majors at Grinnell, and Iowa State vet students — led to Thomas asking Mathews to participate in her white coat ceremony, the rite-of-passage entry into the profession.

White coat ceremony with Miranda Thomas ’17 and Sara Mathews ’82

“It was an incredible honor to be asked,” Mathews said. “I respect Miranda and will continue to encourage young men and women in the profession, just as my own parents were encouraging to me.”

Thomas says, “I chose Sara for my white coat ceremony because I value her opinion and the symbolism of both of us choosing Grinnell and Iowa State. She’s so successful and loves what she does. I hope it’s good karma. Grinnell alumni are so amazing with keeping strong relationships and making sure others have opportunities. I want to do this in a few years when I can offer experience too.”  

What’s an Externship?

The externship program in the Center for Careers, Life, and Service (CLS) matches current students seeking to clarify their career path with alumni in their chosen career fields. Open to all students, the externship program is primarily geared toward first- and second-year students who are still exploring majors and career options. 

The three-to-five day externship experiences occur during spring break and involve shadowing an alumni professional through a normal day’s activities, including a homestay. Registration for 2019 externship hosts runs through Oct. 25.


Alumni interested in offering a spring break externship with homestay should contact Brooke Vonderheide, assistant director of alumni and donor relations, career programs, at 641-269-3196, vonderhe[at]grinnell[dot]edu. For general questions about the externship program, contact Stephanie Burrows, assistant director of advising and exploration, at 641-269-4940, burrowss[at]grinnell[dot]edu.

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