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Learning All Summer Long with WINS Interns at USDA

WINS students pose with Ed Avalos

Washington Internships for Native Students (WINS) interns with USDA Under Secretary Avalos at the closing ceremony at American University in Washington, DC.

This article was originally published on the USDA Blog.

With over 3 million students graduating college during the 2013-2014 school year, what sets you apart from your peers? The answer: internships.

Internships provide an immeasurable benefit to both the intern and to organizations like USDA. In addition to gaining valuable work experience, internships are a great way to network, apply classroom knowledge to real-life, on-the-job situations, and gain confidence.

This was the focus of my message to the Washington Internships for Native Students (WINS) interns at their closing ceremony on held on July 25 at American University in Washington, DC. 

This summer, students from 24 tribes, and 23 colleges and universities participated in the WINS program—offered through American University. Of these students, nine were hired by USDA. Here are some of the USDA projects that the students were involved in during the eight-week program:

  • Worked with the Africa and Middle East Region of the Cochran Fellowship Program and assisted  with duties to carry out training programs for agricultural exchange students;
  • Developed video scripts and blog posts for internal newsletters;
  • Researched how credit constraints affect new entrants into the farm sector;
  • Drafted and helped design a brochure detailing how USDA Nutrition and Community Facilities programs assist with mitigating diabetes throughout Indian Country;
  • Recommended ergonomic solutions for agency employees that allowed them to work in a much safer environment, while improving their productivity;
  • Customized a Biotechnology tutorial for a Tribal audience

Donelle Broskow, Director of Extended Studies at American University, explained how she felt after reviewing the student projects. “I was very impressed by the leadership exercised in their involvement with key issues that influence communities around the United States.  I think this is what makes the WINS program both impactful and unique. The experience can truly change students’ lives. .”

Interns at USDA highly valued their internship opportunity, too. Misty Cordeiro, a USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) WINS intern said, “I loved my internship and working with the USDA APHIS’ Legislative and Public Affairs office. It provided the opportunity to combine my skills in research and writing with my passion for filmmaking. More than anything, I appreciated learning more about the federal government, and how APHIS carries out its mission to protect the health and value of American Agriculture and natural resources.” Bryan Manycattle, an APHIS WINS intern supporting International Services said, “My time at USDA allowed for exposure to APHIS’ international activities, networking within the Agency, and an opportunity to scope out future career opportunities. I’ve developed a greater understanding of international trade regulations and of the coordination and interaction between the Federal Government and Indian Tribal Governments.”

I also mentioned in my message that USDA has a lot to gain from internships, too. With more Federal employees eligible to retire, we will increasingly depend on talented young people from diverse backgrounds to help fill those gaps, and position us to meet the challenges and demands we will face in the future.

Partnering with our colleagues at American University imparts our commitment to promote and create a diverse and inclusive workforce. We know a diverse workforce is a strong workforce. The more widely we cast our nets, the greater the likelihood of capturing the diverse perspective, experiences, and backgrounds that can foster new ideas and opportunities for USDA.