K-State graduation year: May 2006
Degree: BS agribusiness, international option; BS animal science, business option
Other degree received: MS in agricultural economics, focus in international agricultural policy, University of Arkansas
Current employer: United States Agency for International Development (USAID)
Position: Agricultural development officer
How many times did you change your major during college?
Describe the process of choosing your major:
I started out in animal science (pre-vet option), but after seeing the diverse majors available to me at K-State, I decided to change my major. Next I moved to agricultural education for a semester; I soon realized that major wasn’t for me either.
Finally, after some research and just spending time in agricultural classes, I settled on international agribusiness. I decided on agribusiness at the end of my sophomore year. I had already completed many of the classes required for the animal science degree, so I decided to keep animal science and dual major.
What activities/organizations were you involved in while in college?
College of Agriculture Ambassadors
Alpha Zeta National Agriculture Honorary
Did you complete an internship or have related work experience prior to receiving your job?
Yes, my sophomore summer I was an extension intern in the Post Rock District Extension office; my junior summer I was a Kansas Farm Bureau fellow in Senator Pat Roberts office and Congressman Jerry Moran’s office; my senior summer I was a congressional intern for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.
During my graduate program, I was a research assistant. In addition, I spent a semester studying and researching in Ghent, Belgium.
Describe the process of finding your first job:
I graduated with my master’s degree from the University of Arkansas during the 2008 economic downturn. I applied for over 75 jobs and had more than 10 interviews. It took me 11 months to find a job; but I found my dream job, so the wait was worth it. Thankfully, I was able to keep working as a research assistant for my major professor in Arkansas during the 11 months of job searching.
The interview process is challenging. Make sure to research your employer and position well. Be prepared to come to the interview with dynamic examples of how you have previously employed your skill set. Specific, relevant examples will set you apart from the rest of the interview pool.
Briefly describe a typical day at your job:
A typical day at my job is hard to describe; your work can change on a daily basis. The majority of my time is spent working with other USAID staff to devise and implement agricultural development strategies in Eastern Africa. In a few months I will move to Kenya and will be helping implement the U.S. government’s agricultural development strategy for Kenya. This includes working with the Kenyan government, local and American contractors, and the local population.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
The thing I enjoy most about my job is the variety of the daily tasks. I work on projects ranging from rural youth to improved seed varieties and task forces created to accomplish a specific US government priority. We are consistently working with a wide group of both U.S. and international organizations and populations.
What are the most challenging aspects of your job?
One of the most challenging tasks of this job is called compassion fatigue. We are constantly working with people in disaster situations (i.e., Haitian earthquake in 2010), and sometimes the situation can seem hopeless. At this point it is important to remember that you are part of a large team of people working to achieve the goal. Your job is important even if it isn’t solving the problem immediately. If you are helping at least one person you are doing your job.
What advice would you give someone interested in your field?
Take responsible risks. By that I mean diversify yourself. When you have the choice of moving forward in your current situation or moving forward in a new situation, try out the new situation. Get out of your comfort zone and apply for scholarships to study abroad; apply to multiple graduate programs; apply for internships and summer programs that are in a completely new place or challenge your current way of thinking.
Working in this field requires acceptance of diversity and different ways of thinking. If you can demonstrate a diverse skill set and be accepting of many different viewpoints you will be successful in this field.