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Hands-on Experience Helps USDA 1890 National Scholar Secure Permanent Position

Posted by Carrie Knight, Public Affairs Specialist, Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement in Equity Initiatives
Jan 16, 2024
Lauren Hawkins

When Lauren Hawkins graduated from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University in Tallahassee, she had a job waiting for her. Thanks to her participation in the USDA 1890 National Scholars Program, she was hired right away as an agricultural engineer with USDA Natural Resources Conservation Science (NRCS).

Hawkins graduated in May 2023 with a degree in biological systems engineering and a concentration in natural resources conservation. “The USDA 1890 National Scholars Program gave me a lot of work experience right out of school,” she said. “Not everyone has that advantage.”

Hawkins first heard about the USDA 1890 National Scholars Program as a middle school student attending an AgDiscovery camp at University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Offered by USDA Animal and Plant Health inspection Service (APHIS), this program invites teenagers aged 12-17 to learn about careers in agriculture.

USDA 1890 scholars are awarded annual tuition, fees, books, and room and board for each academic year of their scholarship. They also have an opportunity to work with USDA each summer and, upon completion of their academic degree program, to work for USDA.

Hawkins participated in summer internships with the NRCS state office in Beltsville, Maryland, where she had the chance to see different USDA programs at work across her home state. Her responsibilities included designing a livestock pipeline, conducting an embankment erosion survey, and creating a book of state conservation practices and policies. She also shadowed engineers and technicians on site visits and construction meetings.

According to her supervisor J’Que C. Jones, national agricultural engineer with NRCS, Hawkins did well. “She took initiative on assignments, asked questions, and took constructive criticism well,” said Jones. “She was a pleasure to work with and has a bright future ahead of her.”

Hawkins appreciates how her internships prepared her for life after college. “It was a lot easier to return to school each fall,” she said. “I had real life experience, which made my studies less abstract and easier to grasp.”

USDA is currently accepting applications for the USDA 1890 National Scholars Program through March 1, 2024. For more information or to apply, visit the program website.

Category/Topic: Equity Initiatives