MJ Sun ’15 Takes Unique Path to Veterinary School

Posted on May 20th, 2015 by

MJ Sun '15

MJ Sun ’15

When Gustavus Adolphus College senior Mengyuan (MJ) Sun crosses the stage to receive her diploma on May 31, she will be more than 7,000 miles from her hometown of Sichuan, China. Her decision to attend Gustavus has paid off in more ways than one as she will leave the College with degrees in nursing and biology along with offers to attend eight different colleges of veterinary medicine.

Schools that wanted Sun to join their veterinary medicine program included Cornell University, University of Minnesota, University of Pennsylvania, University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Georgia, Michigan State University, Colorado State University, and Ohio State University. When it came time to make a decision, Sun chose Cornell University—the No. 2 ranked vet school according to U.S. News & World Report.

“The compelling reason for me to choose Cornell was not its sheer ranking, but something more personal,” Sun said.

When she was seven years old, Sun recalls watching a documentary about elephants. At the end of film, Cornell was credited for the research in animal science. From that point on, she says she wanted to attend the school in Ithaca, New York.

“I also really like how they use a problem-based learning approach,” Sun said. “Traditionally, vet students attend lectures for two or three years and then do clinical time for a full year at the end. Instead, Cornell has the problem-based approach that encourages students to put their lecture learning to case studies. This type of teaching better suits my learning style.”

In order to be accepted into eight prestigious veterinary schools, Sun had to build an impressive resume of accomplishments and experiences during her four years at Gustavus. After developing a passion for both animals and public health during her youth, Sun made the decision during her first year at Gustavus to pursue a challenging double major in nursing and biology.

She spent the summer after her freshman year studying bison behavior in South Dakota alongside biology professor Jon Grinnell. During January of 2014 she traveled back to her hometown in China and researched the perceptions of nursing in China. Last summer, she completed a 10-week internship with the Alaska Sealife Center, working as a veterinary lab assistant. Along with compiling an impressive 3.78 grade point average at Gustavus, she has received a number of honors and distinctions during her four years. She served as president of the Gustavus Pre-Veterinary Medicine Club and was coordinator of the Gustavus Pound Pals Program. She is a President’s Scholarship recipient, a member of the Guild of St. Lucia, a Phi Beta Kappa inductee, and a member of the Beta Beta Beta National Biology Honors Society. She was the recipient of the Francis M. Uhler Scholarship for 2014-15 and the winner of the Charles L. Hamrum Award, which recognizes the achievements of biology majors. She was inducted into the Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing and received the Biology Department Outstanding Service Award for 2015.

MJ Sun with Pig“The wide scope of experiences I have gained at Gustavus have prepared me for vet school. My experiences as a research student, intern, TA, tutor, student worker, and club leader, along with the liberal arts education has built me into a well-rounded person,” Sun said. “Gustavus helped foster my passion for learning, listening to others, discussing, and reading, regardless of whether the topic aligned with my own beliefs or interests. I have acquired an open mind during the past four years, which I think will lead me to a very open future career path.”

Most students interested in pursuing veterinary school don’t major in nursing, but Sun quickly discovered several benefits from doing so including learning about holistic care and improving her interpersonal communication skills.

“My experience in the Gustavus nursing program has really been rewarding,” Sun said. “The idea of holistic care helped me to identify many aspects of wellbeing other than physical soundness. Being able to assess a problem from multiple points of view gave me a robust foundation for my future in veterinary medicine. My patients won’t be able to tell me where it hurts, so I need to put together as many pieces of the medical puzzle as possible. Nursing also equipped me with skills to build relationships and solve conflicts with my future clients who are pet owners.”

Sun says that when she thinks about her future career path she would like to devote herself to a career that can help reduce both animal and human suffering through disease prevention. To that end, she plans to serve as a public health veterinarian who can contribute globally.

“While I work toward my Doctor in Veterinary Medicine degree, I am hoping to also pursue a Master in Public Health degree to aid my potential future career in public health,” Sun said. “For the first 20 years of my career I would like to practice and learn veterinary medicine, but my long term goal is to collaborate with physicians, nurses, medical researchers, and environmental conservationists in China or East Asia to improve the life quality of all beings.”


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication Luc Hatlestad



  1. Nissa Fell says:

    MJ is an amazingly talented and generous student! She has brought a wonderful presence to Health Service as a student worker and will never be forgotten. We all have loved our time getting to know her and will miss her immensely! Love you MJ!!

  2. Jeff Dahlseid says:

    Fantastic story on a fantastic person. Way to go MJ!

  3. Kendyl Greimann says:

    Congratulations, MJ! Your hard work has paid off. We are so proud of you.

  4. Lauren Johnson says:

    Way to go MJ!

  5. Cindy L. Ecklund says:

    So happy for you MJ! We are just starting our 2015 intern season here at the Alaska SeaLife Center and it was great to hear an update about you!

  6. Margaret Casey says:

    “Know what makes your graduation extra special? It’s having watched you grow up, having so many good memories of you and knowing all the challenges you’ve worked through to get to this day.”
    “At my graduation, our commencement speaker challenged us to be lifelong learners, and that’s my advice for you as you graduate. Whatever you do, never stop learning, exploring, growing and challenging yourself to be your best.” May you always dare to do great things with your life.”
    “Keep on growing. Keep adding to the goodness and beauty in the world. Keep developing those unique dreams and talents that make you who you are!”