Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Leslie Irvine

Second Advisor

Patricia Adler

Third Advisor

Amy Wilkins

Fourth Advisor

Isaac Reed

Fifth Advisor

Harold Herzog


In this dissertation, I use 42 in-depth qualitative interviews with veterinary medical students to explore the experience of being in an educational program that tracks students based on the species of non-human animals that they wish to treat. Specifically, I examine how tracking produces multiple boundaries for veterinary students. The boundaries between different animal species produce consequences for the treatment of those animals; this has been well documented. Using a symbolic interactionist perspective, my research extends the body of knowledge on species boundaries by revealing other consequences of this boundary work. For example, I analyze the symbolic boundaries involved in the gendering of animals, practitioners, and professions. I also examine how boundaries influence the collective identity of students entering an occupation segmented into various specialties. The collective identity of veterinarian is one characterized by care, thus students have to construct different definitions of care to access and maintain the collective identity. The tracking system additionally produces consequences for the knowledge created and reproduced in different areas of animal medicine, creating a system of power and inequality based on whose knowledge is privileged, how, and why. Finally, socially constructed boundaries generated from tracking inevitably lead to cases that do not fit. In particular, horses serve as a "border species" for veterinary students who struggle to place them into the tracking system. I argue that border species, like other metaphorical borders, have the potential to challenge discourses and lead to social change.