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Alumni Spotlight: Allison Flinn

allison flinnAllison Flinn grew up in Des Moines, Iowa, and always knew she wanted to be a veterinarian. Iowa State was the obvious choice for her, and she graduated with a B.S. in animal science in 2010. She was accepted into Iowa State’s College of Veterinary Medicine and achieved her dream of becoming a veterinarian in 2014. Today, she enjoys a successful career at Merck Animal Health.

While her undergrad energy was focused on getting into veterinary school, Flinn credits Dr. Howard Tyler for encouraging her to slow down and explore additional avenues and experiences. As a direct result, she accepted a public policy internship with the National Pork Producers Council her junior year and spent a semester in Washington, D.C. This was a pivotal moment that shaped her future as an advocate for animal health and agriculture.

“My time and energy up to that point had been spent in research and getting hands-on animal experience, but I hadn’t yet realized there was so much more to explore in the wider animal health industry,” Flinn said. “My advisor, Dr. Philip Spike, really encouraged me to look up from what I was doing to see other opportunities and the chance to fall in love with a new experience,” she added. “That is what happened for me in the policy arena.” Flinn’s first role at
Merck Animal Health was Director of Public Policy and Government Relations.

Currently, Flinn is the Executive Director of Value Chain and Consumer Affairs at Merck Animal Health. Her team’s mission is to deliver transparency through innovative technology, data, and valuable insights in order to build trust in the food value chain. In this role, she and her team collaborate with food value chain stakeholders to increase understanding and trust in food and modern animal agriculture while driving change and promoting continuous improvement in animal protein production. She says the combination of biopharmaceutical animal health products and leading-edge technology offers exciting new ways to keep animals healthy.

“Iowa State encouraged hard work and helped students like me find the right opportunities,” remembers Flinn. “When I reflect back on my Iowa State experience, I realize I was in the right place,” she said. “It’s not just the coursework, but the support for students that is world-class,” she added. “The CALS career center with Mike Gaul was a great resource that sets students up for success. Bottom line – it prepared me to be successful in veterinary school and in my future career.”

During her time at Iowa State, Flinn took advantage of every opportunity to learn and grow both personally and professionally. Working in multiple laboratories as an undergraduate research assistant, she gained hands-on mouse, dairy calf, and swine experience. Her favorite class was ANS 319: Animal Nutrition, and she later served as a TA for the class. Somehow, she also found time to coach a youth soccer team in Ames and was an Iowa State cheerleader for two years.

Flinn recommends current students make a point to get to know people in the industry. “Speak up about what you’re interested in and share a few skills you’d like to learn more about,” she said, adding, “Don’t forget to focus on what you’re passionate about. This helps professionals guide you to the right opportunities.”