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Knowledge and Passion: A Student Intern's Perspective

Posted by Atiya Stewart, USDA 1890 National Scholar in Initiatives
Sep 13, 2016
National Scholar Atiya Stewart
National Scholar Atiya Stewart cultivated her passions through internships.

I’m not sure that there are many 1890 National Scholar interns who are “ambassadors” of their university and who are planning a career in farming. But then, I never considered myself an average student. My experience during my undergraduate years perhaps is not typical. Not only was I a USDA 1890 National Scholar, but I also served as the “queen” of my university all while maintaining a 3.5 cumulative grade point average.

Though I never envisioned myself at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, my undergraduate experience has taught me that it doesn’t matter where you attend school. What matters is how hard you work, getting an education and taking advantage of opportunities. The most important opportunities that I made sure I’d take advantage of as an undergraduate student were internships, which I believe are imperative for students to undertake prior to graduating.

The experience gained in the work place prior to graduating is valuable in that the student can either confirm or question whether he or she wants to pursue a career in a chosen field. For instance, during a previous internship, I gained a passion for food, especially the farm-to-table aspect. I learned through my internship, which was initially in food safety, that one day I wanted to farm and sell my products in local restaurants and grocery stores. This is not to say I didn’t enjoy the food safety projects, but I simply realized where my real interest lay. I gained that knowledge and passion because of the internship experience.

As an intern for the Agricultural Research Service’s (ARS) Office of Communications, I cultivated a passion for communication. On the first day of my internship, I was invited to participate in the World Cocoa Foundation Trade Fair. As a member of the Minorities of Agriculture Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS), I was already familiar with trade fairs because of the numerous conferences I attended.

This time I was on the other side. Though I could attend sessions and learn about the wonderful world of chocolate, my role was to talk about ARS research and to showcase its AgResearch online magazine.

I wondered at that moment during the fair if I could make a career in communications. It is only because of my internship experience that I am able to envision different career paths. Interning with ARS has taught me the importance of agricultural research and the extraordinary accomplishments of ARS scientists, and I know now that much of what I am interested in pursuing as a career is being done right here at the USDA-ARS.

I have made it my goal to make sure that other students take advantage of the opportunities provided to them. Who knows? I may be able to inspire other students to bring their talents to USDA-ARS.

Category/Topic: Initiatives