Student Chapter Spotlight

Spotlight: Heather Sierstorpff

Heather Sierstorpff is a 2019 recipient of the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s Advancement in Animal Law Scholarship.

Heather Sierstorpff is a 2019 recipient of the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s Advancement in Animal Law Scholarship. This award honors students who demonstrate a commitment to the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s mission: “to advance the interests and protect the lives of animals through the legal system.” Recipients are actively involved in their Animal Legal Defense Fund Student Chapter while in law school and show promise in the field after graduation.

Heather is entering her third year at Florida A&M University College of Law, where she currently serves as President of the school’s Animal Legal Defense Fund Chapter. With the members of her chapter, she held an Animal Law Update CLE with the Florida Bar Association’s Animal Law Section. She also successfully campaigned the Academic Dean of FAMU to create an Animal Law course to be offered this fall. Heather plans seek work in the animal law field after graduation, and will maintain her relationship with her Chapter.

What Animal Legal Defense Fund Student Chapter activities are you proudest of and why? 

The events that I am proudest of on our campus are the promotion of “Speak Out for Farmed Animals Week” and “Justice for Animals Week.”  We partnered with a different group on campus each day and held both day and evening events in order to expose more students to these incredibly important legal issues. This allowed us to promote the intersection of Animal Law with all other areas of law.  Last year we partnered with the Women’s Law Caucus, the Environmental Law Society, the Criminal Law Society, and the Real Property, Probate, and Trust Law Society. I love these events because we are able to educate a different group of students on how they can defend and protect the interests of animals in any area of law. At the end of each event we were able to gain more members for our organization and help the chapter grow.

We were also honored to host a CLE event on our campus for the Animal Law Section of the Florida Bar.  This was an amazing experience for our chapter and our university.  We hosted students and attorneys from across the state of Florida as well as members from our National Chapter.  It was amazing to listen and be in the presence of so many other people in the Animal Law field and to experience their passion.  I am so grateful to have been a part of that experience.

Any other noteworthy experience?

As a chapter last year, we were very busy promoting two things that were near and dear to our hearts:  Amendment 13 to end Greyhound racing in the state of Florida, home to the most operating tracks in the United States and petitioning our University for an Animal Law course.   We held tabling events to educate the students and public, hosted speakers from the Committee to Protect Dogs and the Humane Society, and also volunteered at a voter registration event at a local high school to emphasize the importance of voting to high school students.  We were constantly passing out pins and pamphlets on campus and within our communities.  I also spoke at my daughter’s elementary school to explain what Amendment 13 was so that students could educate their families and have a meaningful discussion with their parents.

I am so proud to be a part of getting an Animal Law course offered on our campus.  We worked hard as a chapter and collected over 180 signatures and produced a binder with several curricula, our petition, and the signatures to our Academic Deans to show the University just how many opportunities Animal Law offers.  In addition, I was able to reach out to several staff members and attorneys from the Animal Law Section of the Florida Bar that were willing to teach this course at our school.  In April of 2019 our voices were heard, and Animal Law has officially been added to the curriculum.

Of course, the most life changing experience that I have had was attending the Animal Law Conference in Chicago.  The amount of people that I met, both students and professionals, is far too numerous to list.  After that event, we were invited to attend a CLE in Oregon at Lewis and Clark Law School, where our E-Board members were welcome by the ALDF community and learned more than we could have hoped for.  I cannot wait to attend the Animal Law Conference this year in Oregon.

What are you most excited for in the upcoming academic year?

I am most excited for our chapter’s sanctuary trip as it allows all of our members and the greater community to give back and support lifesaving efforts.  Last year we partnered with the Animal Law Section of the Florida Bar to allow our members to network while they were volunteering.  This semester we are planning on going to Save the Chimps, Sugarloaf Mountain Rescue, Rooterville, Center for Great Apes, Kindred Spirits, Catty Shack Ranch, and the Endangered Animal Rescue Sanctuary.

What are your plans/goals for post-graduation?

I am not sure if I will be a prosecutor, a private attorney, or a lobbyist writing legislation.  I do know, however, that no matter what path my career takes, I will be advocating for animals wherever I go.  I will continue to support the field of Animal Law by providing any and all pro bono hours that I can, being active in our Florida Bar Animal Law Section, and educating students and the public on the intersectionality of Animal Law with all other areas of the law. Someday, I would love to be able to teach Animal Law.

I will also do all I can to mentor those who come after me both at FAMU and all Florida Universities.  As a chapter, we have decided to have a President-Elect position, as well as the other positions in our executive board so that the incoming officers are trained before we graduate.  In addition, I share a Facebook page with an alumnus that allows us to continually post information for all those interested.  I would be honored to be an advisor for FAMU’s Animal Legal Defense Fund Student Chapter and would be more than happy to speak and assist with whatever the chapter may need to keep in thriving.  My hope is that we will continue to be a successful and active chapter for many, many years to come.  Our chapter would not be where it is today if it were not for the amazing mentors, I have met throughout the Animal Law Community, especially through the Animal Legal Defense Fund, and I look forward to doing the same for the next generation.

What is one piece of advice that you’d like to pass on to other Animal Legal Defense Fund Student Chapter leaders?

My best advice is to be flexible and plan ahead.  We were able to triple the size of our chapter by looking at the new students’ schedules when we were planning events and make attendance easier for them.  The 1L year is so overwhelming, but if you take the time that to plan out your events so that everyone can feel included and have the opportunity to be involved, the results will be amazing, and attendance will improve. We hold both afternoon and evening events so that we could involve more students and provided details ahead of time so that everyone could plan ahead.  These times and dates are not always easy or convenient for me, the important thing is that it is convenient for the group.  If you get students involved in their 1L year, you will have loyal members for the span of their law school career and beyond.

Learn more about the other 2019 Advancement in Animal Law Scholarship winners.

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