Amy Sents spent the summer as an intern in the White House Liaison Office at USDA; she is currently a junior at Kansas State University.
When mapping out my plans for this summer, Washington D.C. was about the furthest from my mind, that is until I read an e-mail in early May from one of the assistant deans at my school. I had just completed a preliminary application process for a scholarship and was told by the committee that I needed a strong government experience in order to remain competitive. Less than a week later I received the e-mail announcing summer internships with USDA in Washington, D.C. With my ag background and interest in future employment with the department, this was the perfect opportunity. About three weeks later I interviewed with the White House Liaison Office, unaware until that point that such an office even existed in USDA.
Needless to say, since my arrival in early June, I have learned a LOT about the department and government operations. My responsibilities within the office have included answering the phone, scheduling appointments, and filing, but have also broadened to include larger, more long-range projects. One of these projects is assisting my boss and fellow mid-westerner, John Berge, with creating a taskforce to overhaul the current Boards & Commissions system. I have gradually been updating and reorganizing our files on these 200+ committees so the administration can make more educated decisions regarding budget, membership, and direction for these groups. As part of this process I have also vetted over 300 candidates for appointment to these boards.
Another task that this office fulfills is to update President Obama on activities going on within the department in the form of a weekly White House report. I have had the privilege of helping compile this report on two occasions.
Most recently I worked with my co-worker, Sam Liebert, and the Secretary’s office to schedule an Intern Appreciation Forum last Friday. You can read about the event on my blog that was posted Monday. I helped arrange the photographer, catering, and schedule.
One of the greatest things I have gained from this internship is all the networking I have done within the department, specifically within the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS.) John has been terrific to work for, especially as he wanted to help make this the best experience possible and encouraged me to assist on a couple projects in APHIS. One of these was a legislative research assignment in which I looked at all 2009 enacted bills from state legislatures to find bills that related to APHIS. I then summarized these into a few pages that will be included in an August newsletter to employees. A second project I was tasked with was to read through the transcripts from two National Animal Identification System (NAIS) listening sessions and summarize the concerns and positions of all producer or commodity groups present. This is an issue that I personally am very interested in, so I was eager to learn more about the concerns and suggestions for implementing such a program.
My time here has not all been spent working in USDA headquarters, though. One afternoon I and about ten other interns toured the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) facility in Beltsville, Maryland. It was really neat to learn about all the research projects ARS scientists have conducted- and to see some in action!
Looking back on the past eight weeks, I have had nothing short of a phenomenal experience. I am forever grateful to everyone who made this experience possible and to the entire team here for being so inviting and helpful. I owe a special thank you to everyone in the White House Liaison Office- Janice, Sam, and John, for making every day a new and fun adventure. I encourage any other students or young adults to apply for an internship here. USDA is a HUGE department- you just might be surprised at the opportunities that await you! With that, thank you USDA for providing me with this incredible experience and for making this a place to which I might someday wish to return.
-Amy Sents, White House Liaison Office Intern
Junior, Animal Science & Industry/Bioscience, Kansas State University