Sierra Yost- UMaine 2020 Valedictorian


Sierra Yost: I’m Sierra Yost, I am a chemical engineering major here in the Honors College and I’m from Windham, Maine.

I am a Pulp and Paper Scholar which has been a huge thing for me all four years. I am also in All Maine Women, and I was recognized on the America East All-Academic team in 2018. I do intramural soccer, I’m in All Maine Women, I’m in Engineers Without Borders, I’m in the American Institute of Chemical Engineers Student Chapter, and the Technical Association of the Pulp and Paper Industries Student Chapter.

The Pulp & Paper Foundation has played a huge part in my time here the past four years. I came in thinking the pulp and paper industry was dying. I was still a Pulp and Paper Scholar, but I was like, I don’t know that there’s a lot to do hereafter, but I think again with all the plastic replacement stuff the pulp and paper industry is booming and I think that that’s where I want to spend the rest of my time. I’ve done two terms of co-op at Onyx Specialty Papers in western Massachusetts in their new business development division and I also have completed an honors thesis using cellulose nanofibrils to make single-use utensils that are biodegradable. Being environmentally conscious is a really important thing and I think as a chemical engineer I’ve a responsibility to society to kind of help us move in the right direction.

I chose UMaine not only for the Pulp & Paper Foundation but also because both of my parents are alumni, and it’s about two hours from my house which is like a good distance so my parents can’t come drop in at the drop of a hat but also that I can go home when I want to.

UMaine has made a huge difference in my life, not only the friends I’ve made along the way or the mentors that I have had but just the opportunities that I’ve had. I came in thinking I’d rather be a chemistry student and realized that chemical engineering is actually the perfect way for me to go. I love my major, I love what I’m doing with it and I think that that whole mind shift from chemistry to chemical engineering has made a huge difference in my life.

I’ve had three people that are really important to me in the past four years. My honors professor, Dr. Mark Haggerty, has been a huge influence on how I see the world and how I write. Dr. Doug Bousfield is my honors advisor who has really introduced me to research and how I’m gonna see and pursue the next four years of my life, and my coach, coach Mark Lech has been a huge life mentor to me.

I think it’s really important as we move towards more plastic alternatives to be on the forefront of that and to kind of get ahead of the curve because a lot of things right now are still plastic so as we work and can move forward with more biodegradable and environmentally friendly options, I think we should. I am going to pursue a doctorate in chemical engineering. I have not yet decided on my school. I have four choices that I’m really looking at right now though.