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Today’s youth work to become tomorrow’s leaders

Jennifer Janak Published on 11 September 2014

Hot summer days are no longer meant for a vacation from school. Instead, those three months prepare many dairy and agriculture students for a full-time career in their respective industries.

Taking what they have learned in the classroom and using it to strengthen their skill set and make connections is what these hard-working students say is most rewarding about an internship. Meet 10 students from across the U.S. who tell us about their experiences.

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  • This fall, Kenna Lewis will be a junior at California Polytechnic State University, studying agricultural communications. As the American Farm Bureau Association’s Communication Department intern, she was faced with a variety of responsibilities. Kenna was responsible for writing a feature story in Feed & Grain, composing Farm Bureau news releases and preparing the internal communications newsletter. Along with all the writing tasks, she also had the chance to sit in on meetings that took place throughout the summer.
  • Michaela Ash is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in general agriculture and communication studies, with a minor in sales at Western Kentucky University, where she has just began her final year of undergrad study. Having grown up in the dairy industry, it was no surprise that Michaela was the summer intern for the Red and White Dairy Cattle Association (RWDCA). Her primary responsibilities were to assist in the layout and creation of advertisements, as well as help in the planning of the RWDCA 50th convention, sale, banquet and show.
  • Not having grown up on a farm, Bryce Cullen of the University of Missouri was eager to pursue a farmhand internship with Hilmar's Dairy Farm Internship program. Throughout this internship, he has been able to do a little bit of everything – breeding, helping in the hospital pen, working in the milk barn to even sitting in on meetings with the farm’s nutritionist. He says the great thing about working with this company is that everyone is focused on educating you about their individual responsibilities on the farm.
  • A graduate student from Cal Poly pursuing a master’s in professional science dairy production technology, Nauman Hayat spent his summer as the operations management intern at Hilmar Cheese Company. In his role, Nauman spent time in each of the four company’s processing departments – milk receiving, lactose, cheese and protein. He was able to learn how each performs, study the systems and provide input for suggestions. The goal of the internship was to provide leaders for a management position and gain responsibility in operation.
  • Sara Kitchen grew up on a small, registered Holstein farm in Pennsylvania and is a senior at Penn State University majoring in animal sciences with a business and management focus. This summer, she was the marketing communications intern at Filament Marketing LLC in Madison, Wisconsin, and assisted on a number of strategic initiatives, for example organizing, planning and producing materials for the Mo Dairy campaign.
  • A recent graduate from Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute, Emily Henceroth participated in an internship through Select Sires Inc. to improve her skill set before returning to Ohio State University to complete her bachelor’s in livestock science. Emily’s responsibilities as the livestock technician intern included preparing and cleaning of the A.V. room before, during and after collection. She says she also helped feed and medicate the bulls, as well as basic maintenance of the barn areas.
  • In May, Ethan Giebel will graduate from the University of Wisconsin – Platteville with a degree in agricultural education. Throughout the summer, he was Accelerated Genetics’ marketing communications intern. In this role, Ethan was responsible for a variety of projects, in particular creating feature articles for the Genetic Trends publication, designing promotional materials, writing news releases and representing the company at various events throughout the summer.
  • From New Jersey, Heather Shinn is studying dairy science with a minor in animal and poultry sciences at Virginia Tech. Heather had the opportunity to be Purina’s dairy intern this past summer. She oversaw numerous feeding trials, conducted a market survey and created in-store displays, as well as field day displays. In addition, Emily created a spreadsheet for all the trial data and will be compiling a proof book upon completion of the trials, she says.
  • Growing up on a beef farm in southeast Minnesota, Jessica Boyum stepped out of her comfort zone to take a summer internship with the William H. Miner Institute as their farm management intern. A senior at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities studying animal science, she was able to learn about a broad spectrum of farm responsibilities that ultimately determines the success of the farm. Those areas included herd health, milking, crops, calves and feeding.
  • Graduating in December from the University of Wisconsin – Platteville, Kary Babb is participating in an extended dairy technical internship with Vita Plus, a unique partnership the company has with the college and one that extends over the period of two semesters and one summer.

    Her main project over the summer was to monitor blood calcium in prefresh and postfresh dairy cows, as well as collecting shrink data at the company’s facility and a magnesium oxide solubility study.

These students have provided Progressive Dairyman with their advice for students who are looking for future internship opportunities.

How will the skills you have gained help you in future endeavors?

Lewis: The best part was learning how to get the message across, working with real deadlines and moving quickly. All those skills will help me in future careers to adapt a style to the working environment.

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Ash: Learning about more in-depth details and history of the association will further my understanding within the dairy and show industry.

Cullen: This internship has given me the opportunity to make mistakes, which I feel is a valuable experience and something I can learn from and further expand my knowledge of the dairy industry.

Hayat: I’ve gained teamwork skills working within the different departments and have realized the importance of synergy between departments for a company to continue moving forward.

Kitchen: Project management, efficient communication between co-workers and adapting to the office dynamic are key skills I have developed throughout my internship and continue to use in my professional career.

Henceroth: I have learned many skills that will be valuable in the future, including new livestock-handling skills that my co-workers exhibited.

Giebel: Skills gained in the marketing and communications realm can be applied in any future career. Agriculture is a relatively small industry, and the connections you make through an internship at an agricultural company are extremely valuable for a future career in the industry.

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Shinn: By going on farms by myself, I have learned to really break out of my comfort zone, and I’ve gotten a first-hand look at what every salesman has to do on a daily basis.

Boyum: I plan to keep working on a farm into the future, so learning how to move cows, administer shots and drive equipment is all extremely helpful.

Babb: Throughout the summer, I rode along with different nutritionists, and it was nice to see how everyone does things differently and still comes to similar results. That helped me prepare for my future career as a nutritionist.

Why do you think it is important to find an internship in the dairy or agricultural industry?

Lewis: There are a million reasons to do an internship. For me, it’s being able to understand the different tasks and wake up knowing what you have to do every day and enjoying it.

Ash: An internship gives you some of the experience needed in the workforce and shows a potential employer you are willing to put in the extra elbow grease to raise yourself above other potential employees.

Cullen: Aside from the networking that becomes available, it’s also a time where employers are forgiving of mistakes and use those moments to teach you.

Hayat: An internship forces you to do practical work and gain experiences you cannot get in a classroom. It’s a preview of real life, and you have the chance to make improvements to your skill set by facing challenges and learning from those experiences.

Kitchen: Internships are all about learning. You recognize your capabilities, your strengths and weaknesses, and also realize what motivates and inspires you to do your very best work.

Henceroth: I think it is very important for students to participate in internships because it eases them into the line of work that they are pursuing and gives them the chance to really decide if they want to continue down that path or find another goal to work toward.

Giebel: Having an internship, or multiple internships, on your resume will show future employers you are a motivated individual who took the initiative to seek out learning opportunities outside of school.

Shinn: The life skills you gain and the connections you make are the two biggest reasons I would encourage everyone to do an internship in your college career.

Boyum: Taking part in an internship is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your career. Most internships are short term, giving you the chance to realize if the responsibilities and tasks are something you want to pursue in a full-time career.

Babb: It helps you get experience in the industry. From my experience, working with Vita Plus has opened many doors and given me a lot of opportunities to learn and better myself.

What advice would you suggest for students thinking about doing an internship this coming summer?

Lewis: Don’t limit yourself. Be open-minded to a far-away location or less popular business because oftentimes those situations will provide you with an individualized experience.

Ash: A lot of internship applications are due in the fall, so be proactive and don’t procrastinate.

Cullen: Make sure, as you begin interviewing with different companies, that their expectations are the same as yours.

Hayat: Position yourself to get an internship. Always have a developed resume, current LinkedIn account and attend as many career fairs as possible.

Kitchen: Don’t be afraid to move away from home and step outside of your comfort zone; my decision to accept the internship and make the move will always be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Henceroth: It is important for students to keep their options open and to apply to a wide range of internships, doing many things, because students are constantly finding new interests that suit them.

Giebel: Set some personal expectations for what you would like out of a summer internship program. Don’t settle for just any internship.

Shinn: Don’t be afraid to ask questions. There are plenty of ways to find internships; you just can’t be shy about it.

Boyum: Even if the internship application is due tomorrow, do your best to fill out that application and find those letters of recommendation and send it off. You cannot succeed in getting an internship if you do not try.

Babb: Prepare yourself as much as you can and remember these employers were once in your shoes; they understand. PD

Jennifer Janak is a recent graduate of the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities and a Progressive Dairyman editorial intern.

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