Convocation ‘24: Sierra Sayles, BSc Animal Science

Donna McKinnon - 12 June 2024


The initial years of Sierra Sayles' undergraduate program were difficult, she says, and it wasn’t until she took her first animal science courses that she was able to connect her childhood love to her studies, reigniting her passion for both her program and for science in general.

It is a passion that informs not only Sierra’s academic life, but also her volunteer work with the Land and Wildlife Conservation Society and the Pre-Vet/Animal Health Club, in various roles.

As a student, however, her best experience was her involvement with the Dairy Challenge — a North American competition which gives students the opportunity to evaluate a well-managed dairy and then recommend management enhancements to a panel of judges composed of industry and academic professionals.

“I learned so much about dairy management best practices and the overall industry and gained invaluable consulting experience,” she says, adding that it also connected her to a new group of friends and peers within her field.

Now working on a dairy calf consulting internship, Sierra will be presenting her research in June in Florida and is excited to begin a master’s degree in animal science this fall.

Congratulations Sierra!


What program are you graduating from?

Bachelor of Science in Agriculture, Animal Science major

What led you to choose your current area of study, and why the U of A for your studies?

I have loved being around animals ever since I was young, and grew up riding horses. This led me to pursue a career in the agriculture industry. Knowing that the University of Alberta is not only a top university, but has an amazing agriculture/animal science program, I was very excited to accept my admission here.

What is one of your favourite memories from your time at the U of A?

My favourite memory from my undergrad was participating in the Dairy Challenge [for which she received credits in AN SC 473, the Dairy Challenge] this past winter semester. I learned so much about dairy management best practices and the overall industry, gained invaluable consulting experience, improved my public speaking skills and made friends that I am so grateful for.

Tell us about your favourite professor and/or class.

My favourite professor from my time here at the U of A is Anne Laarman. I took his class in my 4th year, and loved his teaching style and approachability, which prompted me to do an individual research project with him, and subsequently a summer research term with him. Since beginning research with Professor Laarman, I have developed so much professionally, and kickstarted my career within the agriculture industry.

Did you take on any leadership roles while you were a student? 

I was VP External and Marketing at the U of A’s Land and Wildlife Conservation Society, which involved making social media posts, connecting with local conservation organizations and participating in community clean-up days run by our group.

Did you face any significant obstacles or challenges during your program?

During my first two years, university was very hard. I wasn't passionate about my classes, I had a hard time finding the study methods that worked best for me and overall didn't like my program. Once I started taking animal science courses, I fell in love with my program and realized again why I love school. My animal science classes were exactly what I had always been interested in and it was so great to reignite my passion for science.

What advice do you have for current and future students?

Your first couple years are always the hardest. You're learning how to navigate university, how to study effectively for courses and you are learning who you are. Don't let this dissuade you from your passions, you'll really find your niche in university and come out on top. You might change your major, extend your degree, or feel like you haven't got anything figured out, but hard work pays off and you'll end up exactly where you're supposed to be.

How do you plan on celebrating convocation?

Going on a family trip to Nashville, and working as much as I can over the summer.

What's next after graduation?

Presenting my research at the American Dairy Science Association Annual Meeting in Florida in June, doing a dairy calf consulting internship and beginning my MSc in Animal Science looking at dairy calf nutrition in the fall!