Working to protect American agriculture is no small task. On any given day the people at the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) work vigorously to protect livestock, fruits, vegetables and other commodities from pests and diseases. During the spring of 2011, I served as a legislative intern for APHIS’ Office of Legislative and Public Affairs (LPA). Working in LPA, I helped APHIS’ efforts to safeguard the health and viability of America’s agriculture and natural resources by ensuring effective communication with Congress, the States, industry and stakeholders.
As a legislative intern, my responsibilities included responding to congressional inquiries, tracking legislation and doing policy analysis of potential new legislation. Additionally, I was able to learn the process for a national news rollout as LPA and worked to inform interested parties of new biotechnology regulatory decisions. Working with program staff to respond to congressional inquires honed my communication and problem solving skills. My constant exposure to Capitol Hill required me to have a deep understanding of the political climate, the legislative process and to quickly analyze complex issues. I really enjoyed working in LPA because every day would bring a different issue, a different inquiry or a different project. During my time at APHIS, I got to work on a wide variety of issue ranging from plant pests, like the Asian Longhorn Beetle, to animal disease traceability. Thanks to the exposure and mentorship from the LPA staff, I was able to secure a job as a federal government affairs analyst at Western Growers, an agriculture trade association. My experience at APHIS taught me more than any class or book could have ever done. It allowed me to apply my skills learned in the classroom to real life.
I strongly encourage anyone interested in public policy, political science or communications to get an internship at the USDA. I obtained my internship through the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) National Internship Program (HNIP). HNIP has partnerships with several federal agencies, including the USDA, and places interns in various positions based on their interests and skills. In addition to HNIP, there are many programs out there for students to gain valuable, real life experience outside the classroom. I encourage everyone to look online and talk to their career centers to find internships.
For more information on USDA internships, scholarships, fellowships or recent graduate programs please click here.