CSU, Chico

Sydney Gillam, Animal Science

Sydney Gillam, Animal Science

Some would say that the rigorous schooling required to be licensed in the medical field is no song and dance. However, the art of veterinary medicine has become a waltz for future veterinary student, animal science major, and competitive ballroom dancer Sydney Gillam. On average, less than 10 percent of applicants get accepted to veterinary schools across the country. Fortunately, that statistic isn't intimidating to this CSU, Chico senior who hopes to attend graduate school next year to continue her studies and obtain her license to practice veterinary medicine.

When she's not in school, Sydney is that she competes in ballroom dancing. She first enrolled in the ballroom dancing class at Chico State to relieve stress. She loved it so much that she decided to join Studio One in Chico, where she continues to master her unique hobby. The student has now become the teacher, and Sydney gives ballroom dance lessons at the studio once a week.  She also has been dancing competitively with her partner, DJ Long, for over two years. They compete mostly at contests in the Bay Area at the collegiate level. She will next be competing in a contest called Dance by the Shore at University of California, San Diego on March 2.

Upon graduating high school in 2008, Sydney knew which university she had her heart set on attending: California State University, Chico. "I came to the University Farm while I was a senior in high school with one of my ROP classes for the Agriculture Education Day," explained Sydney. "When I got to the farm, I met Cindy Daley and was immediately hooked. I remember she was showing us how to perform pregnancy checks on cows, and the whole program immediately just sounded so awesome to me. Cindy is the best person that I could have worked under."

Animal Science Professor Cindy Daley has been mentoring Gillam since she started her journey at Chico State five years ago. While here, Sydney has been involved with Agriculture Ambassadors as well as the Pre-Veterinary Club, of which she was president. In the Pre-Vet Club, Sydney helped mentor younger students on what steps they should take to get through the pre-veterinary program. "Sydney has been a wonderful mentor to the freshman pre-vet students. She's bright, cheerful, and encouraging," Daley said. "The pre-veterinary program is arguably the most difficult undergraduate program on campus, even more difficult than the pre-medical program. Sydney has advanced through all three phases of our pre-veterinary program with great success."

"I have always been determined to be a vet. My parents joke that I have said it since I could speak," said Gillam. "Originally I wanted to be a vet because I loved animals. As I grew older, my passion developed into helping animals and solving the puzzles they represent." Although she always knew she wanted to be a veterinarian, her first few steps on CSU, Chico's University Farm soil began to sway her decision on what type she intended to be. With little agriculture background, Sydney had originally planned to be a small-animal vet and work at a clinic similar to the one she worked during high school as an assistant.  However, through her animal science classes and hands-on labs at the University Farm, Gillam found a new passion for large animals. 

"Deciding to switch to being a large-animal vet has been an adjustment," explained Gillam. "I'm a girly girl, but I'm not afraid to get my hands dirty. I remember once I showed up at the farm for lab, just not even thinking about it, wearing a skirt and heels. The small-animal world is more uptight. It's been a nice adjustment, because livestock people seem to be more laid back. I remember someone once told me that for small animals, it's all about how pretty the stitches look, but for livestock, it's all about saving the animal's life."

Sydney currently works as a veterinary assistant at Erickson's Small Animal Veterinary Hospital in Chico, where she has been for about two and a half years. 

Sydney will graduate from CSU, Chico this spring with a major in animal science and minor in biology. She is currently waiting to hear back from graduate schools to determine where her next step will take her. She has applied to 10 veterinary schools, some as far as the University of Melbourne in Australia.  Out of the 10 schools to which she has applied, Sydney's top choices would be Oregon State University or Washington State University.

She attributes her success at Chico State to the mandatory advising with professors such as Cindy Daley who have helped her step by step to get where she needs to be. They have helped her to not only obtain her degree but also be a competitive applicant to veterinary school. Her favorite thing about CSU, Chico has been how close-knit the school is. "All my teachers call me by name in class and stop and say 'hi' to me in the halls. The staff makes students feel like they're each important," said Sydney. 

Five years from now, Sydney hopes to complete veterinary school. Where she ends up practicing will depend upon her student loan program, which provides $20,000 to six individuals a year with the stipulation that they work in an area of need as determined by the program coordinators once they are licensed. 

"There's just so much more variety in the large-animal aspect," said Sydney. "You never know what to expect each day.  In the small-animal world, there's shots, spays, neuters, etc.  But for large animal, you're on call daily and never know what'll happen that day."