Man and a woman stand in front of a large bus, with a camera man in the foreground, filming them
Filming Dan Allard and Carolyn Emery with the SHRed Mobile, parked outside the Kinesiology Complex. Scott Cruickshank, University of Calgary

April 12, 2024

From researcher to ranch hand: Alum gets into the thick of it for Giving Day

In Giving Day video series, Dan Allard brings humour to the serious business of supporting UCalgary initiatives

This isn’t Dan Allard’s first rodeo. Having ridden horses and pitched in at cattle brandings, he’s familiar with the rural scene. All part of his upbringing in Red Deer.

But a fresh challenge has been presented — and quickly accepted.

Grinning, Allard, BComm'09, drops to his hands and knees. With a camera crew capturing the action, he crawls through dirt and you-know-what into a livestock chute for a cow’s-eye view of vaccination day at W.A. Ranches, UCalgary’s 19,000-acre cow-calf operation.

For the affable alum, who is the face of UCalgary’s Giving Day videos, the stunt is no big deal. Hamming it up on all fours in a mucky barn? Just part of a gig in which he merrily encounters unfamiliar settings while shining a light on university initiatives keen for support.

“I love putting myself in uncomfortable situations. I just love having new experiences,” says Allard. “Someone asked, ‘Would you even consider going in the chute?’ I was like, ‘Absolutely. That would be hilarious — let’s get in.’ Stuff like that, I live for. That’s so much fun for me.”

A two-person crew films a man riding a horse outdoors on a cattle ranch

The film crew captures b-roll of Dan riding a horse around UCalgary's W.A. Ranches.

Scott Cruickshank, University of Calgary

Playful approach to deliver important message

In the lighthearted segments, Allard always wants — and always fails — to help, which reinforces the message. That despite being unable to provide hands-on assistance, our hero discovers that he — like everyone else — can make a difference by making a gift on Giving Day.

The annual fundraising blitz is on now until April 18, and again offers donors the chance to have double their impact, with eligible gifts matched up to $2,500, while matching funds last. 

In creating the videos, Allard has been a remarkably good sport. Last year, he strapped on goalie pads and got peppered by the Dinos women’s hockey team.

“I eat that stuff up,” he says, chuckling.

Allard also got to interact with Ratik Kapoor, BSc (Eng)’23, at the Schulich School of Engineering, and Dr. Pierre Billon, PhD, at the Arnie Charbonneau Cancer Institute.

“I never thought I’d be editing the genomes of cancer cells in a Petri dish — that’s so wild,” says Allard. “The others’ willingness to show me around and passionately tell me their stories has probably been the best part of the experience.”

This time around, he visited Dr. Ed Pajor, PhD, director of W.A. Ranches, a base for veterinary medicine student training and a range of multidisciplinary initiatives, such as wildlife and biological sciences research. Allard got to hear about expansion plans for a permanent structure for research, education and community outreach activities that will elevate the ranch as a true centre of excellence.

Dan also met Dr. Marcus Samuel, PhD, director of the Biological Sciences Greenhouse on the top floor of the Science A building. In addition to accommodating research about crops such as canola, the greenhouse generates fresh produce for the student food bank.

Then — with the Faculty of Kinesiology’s Dr. Carolyn Emery, PhD, MSc’99, chair of the Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre, and Dr. Jonathan Smirl, PhD, associate professor and principal investigator for the Cerebrovascular Concussion Lab — Allard boarded the SHRed Mobile, a recreational vehicle customized to facilitate concussion research and injury-prevention education. The program reaches Indigenous and rural communities, so all kids can benefit from it.

Three people in lab coats work with plants in a greenhouse as a camera person films

Dan tries his hand at planting vegetables with Marcus Samuel, centre, and graduate student Ginny Li.

Scott Cruickshank, University of Calgary

Videos give donors behind-the-scenes look at UCalgary initiatives 

That kind of community impact resonates with donors, and gift matching during Giving Day makes it the perfect time to donate. Since its 2017 launch, Giving Day has raised more than $10 million.

Samuel applauds the crowdfunding approach. “If you’re looking at thousands of people donating $100 or $10, I think that’s the way to go,” he says. “You essentially publicize what we do here, then people contribute in their own way. All you need to do is make a little bit of a donation, then we can do the job better.”

No matter your passion, odds are there’s a way to advance it through Giving Day. UCalgary is home to a wide range of impactful initiatives — research, student awards, experiential learning and more — and the video series is an opportunity to highlight some unexpected ones.

“After every shoot, I tell people how ridiculous my day was — like, ‘Did you know UCalgary has a ranch?’ Same thing with the greenhouse and the concussion bus,” says Allard. “It’s letting people know that when you give money, these are the programs it’s going to. The university has so much more to offer than you might realize.”

Producing video features, even only one minute in length, requires patience. There are multiple takes, on-the-fly revisions, lighting and continuity concerns, intros and exits — and no scripts.

Allard’s presence helped. Charismatic co-owner of the Cold Garden microbrewery, he’s never afraid to get his mitts muddy.

“Some of the things we had him do? That type of attitude goes a long way in terms of making it a fun experience,” says Pajor. “It’s wonderful that he’s also an alum and he’s engaged. That’s very positive.

“He’s a great messenger for Giving Day.”

Dan visits the Faculty of Science Greenhouse

Dan visits the SHRed Mobile

Dan visits W.A. Ranches

UCalgary Giving Day is April 18. Whether you support research, student awards or another one of UCalgary’s innovative funds, your gift will help change lives and shape the future. Eligible gifts made from April 4-18 will be matched, up to $2,500 per gift, per fund — but only while matching funds last, so be sure to give early! Make your gift today at

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