For Kourtney Graves, a political science major at Jackson State University in Mississippi, her U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) summer internship has inspired insight into future career options.
Graves was one of 64 students across the U.S. selected for a 10-week Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) internship.
“I was invited to work in Washington D.C. at USDA with all living and traveling expenses paid,” said Graves. “I was specifically hired to work in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights (OASCR) under the leadership of Dr. Penny Brown Reynolds.”
OASCR provides overall leadership, coordination and direction for USDA’s civil rights programs, including matters related to program delivery, compliance and equal employment opportunity.
Through their internship experience, TMCF interns improve their understanding of how USDA programs and services help the American public while strengthening their communication skills and gaining insight into future career opportunities with USDA. They often build lifelong friendships and connections.
“The Thurgood Marshall Internship Program gives students an opportunity to apply their educational and professional development experiences during their internship, explore if USDA is a good match and obtain valuable experience that can lead to a fulltime career upon graduation,” said Travis Johnson, USDA liaison with the Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement.
“The opportunity to serve as an intern at USDA has had a significant impact on my professional development and increased the respect I have for United States agencies,” said Graves. “I have learned so much about the functions of not only USDA, but other federal agencies as well.”
She said her colleagues welcomed her with open arms and taught her everything she needed to know to be successful.
“Dr. Brown Reynolds and my supervisor Lauren Garba have both served as invaluable mentors, and I have been inspired so much,” said Graves. “I was able to witness incredible leadership skills. It would be amazing if I could work at this agency in a different capacity to expand my knowledge and network throughout the USDA!”
She shared some tips for future USDA intern applicants:
- Be confident in your abilities.
- Network with those around you.
- Take pride in how you carry yourself.
- Always show up to a task and give it your all.
The Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement (OPPE) oversees the TMCF Internship Program and other opportunities to increase workforce diversity of USDA agencies and offices through scholarships and internships for minority students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, 1890 land-grant colleges, and Hispanic-Serving Institutions. Sign up for OPPE news to learn about future TMCF Internship Program and other student opportunities.