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Karryssa Fenderson (2014)

Karryssa Fenderson's headshot

Currently, Karryssa is an Associate Veterinarian at a small animal general practice in Southern California. Reflecting on her time as a Cornell Tradition fellow, she came to value how powerful a team of passionate individuals can be and what they can accomplish. As an undergrad, Karryssa participated in Alternative Spring Breaks, volunteering in New York City facilities with therapeutic horseback riding for the differently-abled. She shared that they had spent weeks preparing for the trip and everyone had a role to ensure its success. “Having a motivated team from start to finish was essential and veterinary medicine is no different. Everyone has a role at my clinic and we rely on each other to deliver the highest quality medicine and care to our patients. During the Alternative Breaks trip, we also learned about mindfulness and respect of others. Everyone has a story to tell, and everyone comes with different experiences. This was, and still is, an important concept when volunteering to help others or working with clients from different backgrounds. People may be fighting a battle you know nothing about.”

One of the highlights of Karryssa’s experience as a Cornell Tradition Fellow was a trip to South Africa, where she spent a month near Johannesburg alongside veterinarians from all over the world providing veterinary care to wildlife of all sizes. She helped conduct research on sedation protocols in wildebeests, did health checks on crocodiles and antelope, hand-raised an orphaned baby rhino, and monitored anesthesia for surgery on a lioness.

She also spent a lot of time getting to know the locals and taking in the culture of a country with eleven national languages. “I am still so thankful for this opportunity, and it could not have been possible without financial help from my Tradition grant and Cornell alumni donors. This trip confirmed my path to veterinary school and still inspires me.” Before the pandemic, Karryssa was planning a trip to Guatemala to provide veterinary care internationally. Despite the change in plans, her goal is to pursue international travel in the near future.

Tradition Fellows have a commitment to service that extends beyond their time on the hill. Karryssa’s veterinary career extends beyond her daily life in private practice. Throughout veterinary school, she volunteered for and directed local veterinary clinics for the homeless and low-income communities. Currently, she is president of her local veterinary medical association. Through this organization, she leads monthly chapter meetings, but also participates in monthly free veterinary clinics that provide preventative care and education for residents of low-income communities. “I am truly convinced from the happiness it brings me that the time I spend volunteering helps me more than it does the community I serve.”

Karryssa encourages current Fellows to take advantage of the opportunities available. Use a spring break to volunteer with Alternative Breaks. Participate in the smaller volunteer events to meet your fellow Cornellians. Plan a project with the funds from your service account or apply for a fellowship award. Apply for jobs knowing that the Tradition will partially subsidize your pay. Sign up to be a peer advisor or get mentored by your upper class colleagues. While Karryssa was a fellow, she gained veterinary and general experience volunteering, found a subsidized work-study position in the Animal Health Diagnostic Lab, and made countless treasured memories with fellow Cornellians. “Take advantage of the resources available because you never know where life will take you.”

When we asked Karryssa if there were any other details she would like to share, her last comments were: “My advice for current Tradition fellows - you are at Cornell because of your brilliant mind and excellent work ethic. Take the time to learn and grow as an individual outside of your studies. Also, do not be afraid to ask for help! There are so many untouched (and sometimes unexpected) resources available to you, so take advantage. The time you spend at Cornell will be forever memorable.”