ANRP Interns Gain Insight on Policy and Selves while Spending Spring Semester in Austin, D.C.

Spring ANRP graphicnobox

By: Mollie Lastovica

A total of five ALEC current and former students have immersed themselves in the political culture of both our state and nation’s capitols by participating in the Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Internship Program.

An opportunity offered exclusively to students in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, ANRP allows for professional networking and policy education experiences for students during the summer and both long semesters. Students may also complete an ANRP internship the semester immediately following graduation.

“ANRP offers students the opportunity to apply what they’ve learned in class to a professional experience,” said Heather Wheeler, Texas A&M Director of Policy Internship Programs. “It gives students the chance to see how policy is developed, which will invariably be applicable in their future as policy impacts each facet of our lives. Additionally, through our program, students receive free housing, training before departure, resume building and networking opportunities while getting paid.”

Another unique feature of the ANRP program is the chance for students to experience not only national policy, but also work in Austin every other year when the state legislature meets.

“Austin is a unique opportunity since it is only offered during Legislative Session semesters,” Wheeler said. “Staffs in Austin are very small and our interns are trusted as full-time staffers handling projects such as reviewing, writing, summarizing and tracking legislation. As the session conducts two years’ worth of business, interns find themselves working long hours at a fast pace in work directly related to Texas.”

Two of the 12 Spring 2013 Austin interns are students in the ALEC Department.

Meredith Earwood is a junior agricultural leadership and development major from Sonora, Texas who is currently working in the office of State Representative Four Price. Her agricultural roots led Earwood to apply for the ANRP Internship Program.

“Growing up on a ranch in West Texas, water was definitely always a hot topic,” Earwood said. “I wanted to see, first-hand, the process that makes these important decisions for the entire state, especially for rural Texas and agriculture. I also wanted to apply because I believe agriculture needs a bigger voice in the legislature.”

Just over a month into her internship, Earwood already speaks highly of the experience and all that the ANRP Internship Program has to offer.

“It is an experience unmatched by any other internship. I am considered a full-time employee and I am treated as such,” Earwood said. “ANRP gives you the first-hand experience in legislature procedures. No matter what industry or business you go in, or even as a citizen of Texas, you will have changes in legislature that will affect your life or your business’s success. Getting a first-hand background on how the system works is invaluable.”

Junior agricultural leadership and development student Kaleb McLaurin is also working as an Austin intern for Texas A&M AgriLife. This unique position to serve Texas A&M AgriLife was made available to McLaurin while he was working as a student worker in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ Dean and Vice Chancellor’s office. He points out that he has had a longstanding interest in Texas history.

“I simply love Texas and Texas history,” McLaurin said. “There is nowhere else in the world that I would prefer to live. That being said, it only made sense for me to seek an internship in Austin so that I may gain a deeper knowledge of government mechanisms in Texas and how they directly impact me.”

McLaurin believes that his experience in Austin has already been worthwhile and rewarding and he is appreciative of the spontaneity in each new day.

“Thus far, the most rewarding aspect of this internship is recognizing the fundamental role I play in this unique process,” McLaurin said. “My time in Austin has been dedicated to projects that directly affect the Texas A&M AgriLife Agencies and I served as a representative of those agencies through my visits to each of the 181 legislative offices at the capitol. The realization that I am truly an integral part of this process and not just ‘the intern’ has proven to be rewarding.”

While Earwood and McLaurin continue to serve the State Legislature in Austin, three of their peers are working in similar roles as ANRP interns in Washington, D.C.

Shiloh Perry is a junior agricultural leadership and development major with a minor in sociology. She is currently serving as an intern for the National Association of the State Department of Agriculture.

“I am responsible for researching and studying agricultural policy,” Perry said. “I am also responsible for answering the phone and helping the NASDA staff with whatever they need.”

Perry has recognized the far-reaching impact of the Aggie network during her time in D.C. and believes that the ANRP Internship Program will be integral to decided what to do following her 2014 graduation.

“It has been rewarding to see how connected the Aggie family truly is,” Perry said. “I have already grown both personally and professionally from this experience. I wanted to gain the experience needed to have a future career in agricultural policy.”

Karoline Jordan is also working alongside Perry as an intern for NASDA. Jordan is a junior agricultural leadership and development student. Jordan reflects on having already gained a new level of independence and confidence to pursue a career following her graduation through this experience.

“I am proving to myself that I am independent and can accomplish anything if I put my mind to it,” Jordan said. “I am not only getting to make memories with other Aggies, but I am getting to prove to myself I can go out on my own for my future career.”

Her work has allowed her to see parallels between the NASDA office and other businesses and has also engaged her in a constant process of learning.

“I have learned a lot more about policy and policymaking that I initially intended,” Jordan said. “I have greatly enjoyed learning something new each and every day from one of the staffers.”

Ashley Dunkerley graduated in December 2012 with a degree in agricultural communications and journalism. She is currently working for Congressman Louie Gohmert. Dunkerley refers to the flexibility expected of interns when describing her daily activities.

“Interns on the hill wear many hats,” Dunkerley said. “This results in each day being very different. I feel as if I am constantly immersed in our Nation’s history. There is so much to do and see in D.C. that there is never a dull moment.”

Dunkerley and her fellow Aggie interns have been able to witness history while working in D.C. including attending the Presidential Inauguration in January.

“Approximately one million Americans gathered on the mall to watch the inauguration of the 44th President of the United States,” Dunkerley said. “It was a once in a lifetime experience to witness this substantial historic event.”

While she does not intend to pursue a career in politics, Dunkerley still believes that her ANRP internship experience will be valuable in her future.

“I am pursuing a career in public relations, so the experience of working for the American public is unparalleled,” Dunkerley said.

Having served as an ANRP intern herself, Wheeler knows how valuable the ANRP program is for students and she enjoys seeing them change and develop professionally throughout the course of their internships.

“Sometimes it is just the acquisition of stronger professional skills and other times it is a complete career shift,” Wheeler said. “Sometimes this change occurs just prior to departure, half-way through the internship, at the internship, or several years later. I can personally testify to that change as a former intern myself.”

She hopes that all of the ANRP interns make the most of their experiences and gain a desire for civic service from such.

“I hope they learn more about themselves and about policy,” Wheeler said. “I believe both of those things will serve our students well in their future endeavors. I also hope students learn how to connect civically with their community either through simple service opportunities or something larger.”

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