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‘The Best Decision’

With experience earning an undergraduate degree in animal science, working with students in the Department of Molecular and Structural Biochemistry, and teaching others how to garden, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences alumna Tiayonna Liska has a versatile skill set that she’s putting to use as a young entrepreneur.

From an early age, Liska envisioned herself working with animals. Her interest in the animal science field led her to participate in her local FFA chapter, and earning a full athletic scholarship from NC State for track and cross country cemented her decision to be part of NC State and CALS.

Like so many students who choose a degree in animal science, Liska thought vet school would be a logical next step. However, she soon realized it wasn’t for her. 

“Junior year is when I had my big realization,” Liska said. “I realized I probably couldn’t take anymore school and decided that vet school was not going to be in my future.” She began reassessing her options when an opportunity opened up for her to work in the Department of Animal Sciences undergraduate office. 

“I knew I wanted to help students who ended up being like me,” Liska said, thinking they want to go to vet school but later realizing they might not enjoy it.

“You may find out that when you get experience, it’s not what you thought it was,” she added. “I made it my purpose to make sure I would help students find a plan B.”

Since her undergraduate work-study days, Liska has moved on to help both undergraduate and graduate students in the Department of Molecular and Structural Biochemistry. Part of her role is planning events for students, helping them devise schedules and providing general guidance.  

“My advice to all of my students is to seriously explore everything,” she said. “Don’t narrow your options down.” She encourages students to have a plan A but to be OK with plan B.

“Don’t write off any options. If something sparks your interest even the littlest bit, what’s the worst thing that could happen? You go down that path and you have that experience and you find out it’s not for you.”

Because of her close work with students, Liska realized she wanted to continue helping others through teaching. She decided to get her certification in agriculture education and extension. Now she’s working toward her master’s degree in the same field.

“I took a few horticulture classes to fulfill some of my required electives. It was the best thing ever,” Liska said. She found out that she really enjoyed gardening and growing plants. This summer, using all of her education and experiences, Liska made the bold decision to start her own small business. 

Currently, Liska consults with folks to help them build and install garden beds. “I coach them on how to get their plants to grow and thrive and which nutrients are needed in the soil.”

Liska, who’s also a new mom, plans to offer a virtual course in November that will be geared toward spring gardening. Setting foot on a new path, she said, “was the best decision. I get to teach others about things I’m passionate about.”