Internships/Career Advice

Why is Agriculture Education Important?

By Sarah Ammirato

Why is Agricultural Education important?

To answer that question, let me tell you a little bit about my experience.

I went to Wamogo Regional High School in Litchfield, CT where I was enrolled in the Agriculture Education program. This program, and 8,630 others across the United States focus on teaching students about all aspects of agriculture, food, natural resources and leadership.

An Ag Ed experience is nothing like the traditional high school experience. One of my favorite memories was during peak maple syrup season. It was February and there was about a foot of snow on the ground. That did not stop our class from getting bundled up and heading out into the woods to collect sap and repair lines. We then boiled the sap into syrup, bottled it and enjoyed it over pancakes on the last day of class.

My senior year, we traveled to Yellowstone National Park in Montana/Wyoming over Spring Break. We hiked the Yellowstone Canyon, visited the famous Old Faithful geyser and saw wildlife at every turn. We were immersed in nature in its purest form. It was truly a life changing experience, and I cannot wait to go back there one day.

Moreover, my experience at Wamogo would not have been what it was without my advisors. They are the reason I chose to pursue Agriculture Education.

I decided to continue my agriculture education at the University of Connecticut where my major is Agriculture and Natural Resources. Through the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources, I have been given so many hands-on experiences both in and outside of class. Hands-on education remains a large part of the courses I have taken, from halter breaking an Angus heifer to touring local vegetable farms, there is no lack of agricultural experience here. As for leadership opportunities, I serve on the executive board for UConn Block and Bridle and as a College Ambassador, where I have been able to build my skills as a leader.

It is my dream to be a high school Ag teacher, so I can bring my students incredible experiences and give them an appreciation for the agriculture industry.

So back to the question, why is this so important?

To start, everyone relies on agriculture. Food, fiber and natural resources are things we need every day. Agriculture education programs not only teach students how to be farmers, but also train tomorrow’s scientists, nutritionists, teachers and so much more. A combination of classroom instruction and applied agriculture experiences outside of the classroom build the foundation for educated consumers and agriculturists.

Leadership is the final aspect of these programs, and the most universal. Public speaking, job interview techniques, professional skills and knowledge of parliamentary procedure. Students in agriculture education programs have the opportunity to serve as student leaders at the school, district, state and national level. High school students have the opportunity to attend leadership conferences, meet and converse with legislatures at the State Capitol, and achieve awards based on involvement.

So what does it look like in Connecticut? There are twenty high school programs, with about 3,350 students enrolled in agriculture education courses. The student to teacher ratio is one of the lowest in the country at 30:1 across the state. There are four post-secondary schools in the state that offer programs/certifications related to agriculture with undergraduate majors including all areas of agriculture except for education.

The opportunities within these programs, both secondary and post-secondary, are endless. Students who participate in agricultural education programs graduate with the skills necessary to become productive citizens who will succeed in postsecondary education or the workforce.

Why the Pre-Veterinary Track May Not Be for You

By Justyna Cieslik

Do you love animals and want to work with them on a daily basis? Do you  love Animal Planet and enjoy watching celebrity veterinarians do their jobs? Do you want to help animals and make sure they aren’t in pain? Even if you answered “yes” to all of these questions, that just means you sound like every animal-loving student out there. So how do you really know if you want to be a veterinarian? Well, here’s how I, a lifelong animal lover, learned that being a veterinarian may not be the job for me after all.

Like many students in high school with an interest in animals, I considered becoming a veterinarian. I loved working with animals and had a passion for the medical field. I initially thought that by combining my two passions, it only made sense to be a veterinarian. However, like many, I did not do the research and relied simply on Animal Planet to learn about the profession. As senior year hit in high school, I had to make a major decision (literally). What was I going to study at college? What colleges would help me towards my dream job? Who was going to provide better financial aid so that when I take out loans to veterinary school, so I will not have too much debt? All of these questions and their answers are the reason I came to UConn. UConn was going to help me towards my goal by providing good financial aid and having resources that allowed me to work hands-on with animals. I was, however, a little naive about the job itself and all the prerequisites, so I began college will a false sense of hope.

As I met with my advisor at UConn, I came to the realization that the pre-vet track was much harder than I had ever expected. I knew being a vet was not a simple task, as they performed surgeries and were responsible for animals’ lives, but I was unaware of the realities of the preparation involved. When my advisor gave me a list of classes that I had to take in order to be considered for vet schools, and then the list of classes I had to take in order to graduate with a Bachelor’s of Science in Animal Science, I lost my breath. The amount of organic chemistry, the extra math classes, the extra English courses, and all the biology requirements were extremely overwhelming. I came from a high school where I was in the top 10%, so it was not as if I did not know how to work hard, but I felt completely unprepared. On top of all of these course requirements, vet schools also expect you to be engaged in extracurricular activities, and most definitely get you feet wet in the profession through internships or work. I could not comprehend how all of this could be possible in just four years.

Now, I’m not saying all of this to get students who want to be vets afraid of not succeeding. The reason I provide all this information is so that people realize that becoming a vet requires specific rigors, many of which you may not have considered. The work load starts early on and only goes up as you get closer to your goal.

A lot of people also do not realize how many jobs there are in the animal field. Many people think that the only animal-related job is a veterinarian. That is a complete misunderstanding; there are hundreds of career paths you can chose if you want to work with animals. SOME of these jobs include: pet grooming services, veterinary technician, zoo curator, animal trainer, animal behaviorist, animal nutritionist. You could also conduct research, become a professor, run your own farm, doggie daycare, dog kennels, and more.

Some of the things I hope you learn from this are:

  1. Be passionate about what you do.
  2. It’s ok to change your career path.
  3. You can always go to school again.
  4. There are MORE animal related jobs than you think.
  5. Being a vet is not for everyone.

Destined to Travel

by Isabela Blackwell

Cusco, Peru!

There are so many feelings that come along with having too many options; you might feel overwhelmed, excited, intimidated or most importantly, that you’ll choose the wrong destination. What if I told you that there was no such thing as a wrong choice? Whether you’re only comfortable traveling a few hours away or you want to go halfway across the world, UConn offers an abundance of travel experiences suitable for all students! Yes, this takes into account your financial worries, preferred duration of travel, foreign language preferences, and personal travel goals. The best part is, you don’t even have to be certain of your study abroad plans upon your arrival to UConn.

The Education Abroad team offers so many programs that you can learn more about here. I strongly encourage anyone to browse through the options, and attend an Education Abroad 101 session—if there is a will to travel, there’s a way! The opportunities range from UConn faculty-led semester long programs, to service learning trips that last only a few weeks. There are opportunities available for all majors, and course credits can be applied towards electives, minors, or General Education requirements. If thisis something that interests you, make sure to talk to your academic advisor to keep yourself on track for graduation. UConn also provides wonderful opportunities through community outreach that allow students to do alternative breaks and weekend service trips either locally or internationally.

Machu Picchu, Peru – photo taken by me!

Last year, I decided to go out on a limb and apply for a UConn MedLife community outreach trip. I had never been out of the country before, but I was looking for something exciting to deepen my college experience and broaden my horizons. I spent about two weeks of my winter break participating in mobile medical clinics in impoverished areas of Lima, Peru. Aside from the clinical experience, I was able to explore Lima, travel to Cusco, and visit one of the amazing wonders of the world—Machu Picchu! As an Allied Health student with a minor in Spanish, this trip suited me perfectly and left me desiring more excursions. Next semester, I will be participating in UConn’s Allied Health/Pre-Med abroad program in Granada, Spain, where I will spend six months taking Spanish classes and completing an internship shadowing physicians at the Hospital de la Inmaculada. I’m so excited to explore a new country, work on my language skills and do some much-needed soul searching.

Anyone considering taking advantage of these opportunities should check out these 5 scientifically proven health benefits of traveling abroad!

Changing Career Plans & Adding a Minor: Tracking the Ins and Outs

By: Tessa Marandola

High school is a stressful time, no matter how you spin it. Everything in your life is changing; you are growing up, potentially leaving home, maybe even starting the career of your choice. If you are someone who has decided on college, you now have one more thing to add to your to do list: choose your career. Choose your career?! At the age of 17-18?! Who do these people think you are?! But don’t worry, it does not have to be something you stick with forever. As someone who has changed her mind (again and again), it is definitely not impossible for you to change yours as well!

Many people coming into college believe that pre-professional tracks, such a pre-medical or pre-veterinary, are considered majors, but they are actually considered “paths” or “tracks” and can easily be changed throughout your college career! Tracks are just that, something you need to follow in order to reach a goal. In the case of pre-professional tracks, they are a set of coursework that needs to be completed throughout your undergraduate career in order to move on to your chosen post graduate program. If you decide to change your mind by either removing or adding a graduate program, all you do is either stop or start taking the new courses. Although it may be helpful to talk it through with an advisor, in the end it’s always your decision. Unlike a complete major change, tracks are not added to your transcript or anything, so there is no worry about that. It is a much calmer process than it seems to be, so if you are ever in a spot where something needs to be changed, do not fret!

My freshman year, I came into the college as an animal science major on the pre-veterinary track. I decided relatively quickly that I no longer wanted to be a veterinarian but wanted to pursue a graduate degree in animal science. Because I was not exactly sure about my future career, I decided to keep taking all of the same courses a pre-veterinary student would, just to be sure. After my sophomore year, I realized I did not want to work with animals anymore, but people instead! I am now a pre-medical animal science student (and hopefully will remain so until I graduate) and could not be happier. For me, the tracks had relatively similar coursework, which made things much easier as I switched around, but I found the switches to be extremely easy and not stressful at all and it could be the same for you.

Now onto minors. The university offers many minors and it is so easy to find one you are interested in. I am very interested in psychology so I started my psychology minor my second semester sophomore year, and it was a complete breeze! I met with my advisor to discuss minor requirements and enrolled in some psychology classes to start. My psychology minor requires 15 credits and because minors do not need to be declared until graduation, I am waiting until all of the courses are completed to put this on my transcript. Some of the minors’ coursework can also be used for general education requirements which makes them relatively easy to complete. If you do not realize until later in your academic career what you are interested in, a minor can still be added at any point. The earlier a minor is declared, however, the easier it is to finish on time.

Minors are great way to encompass many interests through coursework. Taking courses you are extremely interested in is helpful both for your happiness and for your resume. Minors demonstrate a well-rounded student more so than just fulfilling the general education requirements. A minor shows your drive to have a deeper understanding of a subject, which is helpful when applying for future jobs or graduate schools.

College is a whole new world and it can be tough for some people, but just know that your career choice is something you can always change. You are not required to stay with something you decided on in high school, so do not feel stuck! If you have any interests that are not directly related to your major, always keep a minor in mind. It is not as difficult to finish as a major but still allows you to take classes you are interested in. Most of all, have fun and just be happy with whatever you decide!

Being a Pre-Med in the College of Ag, Health & Natural Resources

By Kathleen Renna

Believe it or not, the amount of times I am sitting in a pre-med heavy course (organic chemistry, microbiology, you name it) and someone asks me why I have a CAHNR sticker on my laptop is more than I can count. People often assume that if you are considering a career in medicine, you are a PNB, MCB, or really any hard sciences major in CLAS. In reality, yes – those majors set you up for every course you need for medical school. So why on earth would I not just follow the pack?

I think this dilemma comes from a lack of understanding of two critical pieces of information. Firstly, CAHNR stands for the College of Agriculture, ​Health​, and Natural Resources. Allied health sciences (AHS) and its associated majors is a very real plan of study that prepares students for careers in various health professions, such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, or mental health counseling. You can find out more about these and other potential career options for AHS students on The Major Experience ​website​.

Personally, I am a diagnostic genetic sciences (DGS) major. So, even if people have heard of AHS, they look at me as if I have ten heads when I throw ​that​ doozy of a major out there. DGS is a professional degree program in the AHS department that students apply into their sophomore year. The program sets students up for ​careers​ as lab technologists, genetic counselors, and clinical geneticists, the latter being the one I am pursuing and which requires a medical degree. I decided on clinical genetics because I have always been interested in the genetic basis of disease; however, I have found out over time that I could not spend my whole life working in a lab. I spent a lot of time searching for a career that would meet my needs and stumbled upon clinical genetics. After some careful thought of whether medical school was for me, I decided that it was worth a shot. I enjoy engaging with people and like the fact that this is one of the few professions where you never stop learning because there are always things being discovered, so becoming a physician seemed like the right choice for me. Therefore by choosing to be in CAHNR, I made a choice to take classes more tailored to my individual interests!

Ultimately, I chose DGS because clinical genetics is a specialty I am not likely to encounter in medical school. In fact, doctors don’t typically get involved with clinical genetics until potentially the third or fourth year of ​residency.​ For me, that seemed like a long time (eight or nine years from right now) to wait and see if I was actually content with my career choice. Instead, I chose to pick an undergraduate school that gave me the opportunity to study exactly what I was interested in instead of waiting ten years and spending copious amounts of money on medical school just to find out I didn’t make the right decision. Even though I am only a few weeks into my DGS major, I am really enjoying the concepts that I am learning and am very excited to see what I learn next.

The second critical piece of information that people don’t fully understand is the one that I consider the most important: you can be ANY major and still get into medical school as long as you complete the required coursework for the schools you are applying to. So yes, being a PNB or MCB major is great because you are taking all of the typically required classes and then some, and I commend anyone who chooses to do this because they enjoy this plan of study. However, sometimes I feel as though students choose these majors because they feel as though this is what medical schools want to see rather than taking courses that genuinely spark their interests.

Truth be told, medical schools want to see a diversity of majors and interests. If you are taking only science classes and participating in solely medically-oriented organizations, you are not showing the admissions committee a diversity of interests. And, for your own sake, doesn’t taking all science classes get a little overwhelming or, some would even go as far to say, boring? Some of the most interesting courses that I have taken, like Sociology of Gender and Anglophone Literature, are not directly related to human cells or tissues, but they are intimately connected with the human condition. They sparked my interest in contemporary topics like gender fluidity and race while also providing me with a background that I wholeheartedly believe will make me a better physician.

One of my good friends, who is also pre-med and in CAHNR, works with animals and shows cows in her free time because it is something she has enjoyed doing since she was 5 years old and in FFA. She makes sure that she is accomplishing all of her medical school requirements but also sets aside time for recreational activities that truly make her who she is! Now, I don’t show cows, but that doesn’t mean I only do science. I have always seen the value in volunteering so here at UConn I made it a point to participate in community service days for Special Olympics Connecticut and for a 4-H program at an elementary school in Rockville. These activities have taught me a lot about working with diverse groups of people and how to empathize more with those who don’t share the same background as me. I also work for the cafes here on campus and for a bakery back at home, so I have been able to learn how to communicate effectively with others, especially in high-stress situations. One of the clubs I am involved in on campus has even allowed me the opportunity to volunteer at a homeless shelter, which both humbled and educated me on privilege and what it means to different people. Because of this, I can truly say that some of my most formative experiences, the ones that make a good doctor into a great one, have not been through science-related activities.

Therefore, who’s to say that a student in CAHNR majoring in environmental studies or natural resources is not qualified for medical school, especially as we increasingly recognize the intimate connections between the environment and our health? You should absolutely focus on your academics with a goal in mind, but you should also explore other areas of interest throughout your coursework and extracurricular activities that will help to shape you as a whole person. College is about doing what is most enjoyable for ​you,​ so make the most of it!

Keys for a Successful Interview

Flickr CCAs springtime approaches, so do interviews for internships, jobs, and graduate schools.  Like other elements of job-searching such as resumes, cover letters, and applications there are fundamental techniques and components to a successful interview.  No matter how good you appear on paper, a successful interview is the last key to landing the position you desire and can make or break an employer’s decision to hire you.  So, what can you do to ace an interview? Here are some simple steps to make your interview a success.

 

  1. Research
  • Research the employer or organization.  Know about the products, services, or culture of the organization.  This will provide background knowledge that can be used to show your understanding and display how you would fit into their work environment.
  • Research the position including qualifications and expectations. This will allow you to tailor your responses to showcase skills or experiences that make you a suitable candidate.
  • Research the type of interview. Knowing whether you are interviewing in a group, on the phone, or in a one-on-one setting can allow you to analyze how to communicate effectively in each setting.
  1. Preparation
  • The more prepared you are for an interview, the more confidently and clearly you can market yourself.  One simple way to begin the preparation process is to list out all the skills and qualifications that the employer is looking for.
  • Next, list out your experiences, activities, and skills that correlate to each of the qualifications the employer is looking for.
  • Begin to develop a list of commonly asked interview questions and other questions oriented toward the specific employer.  Develop a narrative or story for each question highlighting key points you want to address.
  • Make an appointment at the UConn Center for Career Development for a mock interview or practice a mock interview with a friend or family member.  Mock interviews are a great resource to practice a formal interview.  The Center for Career Development will even record your interview and provide personalized feedback.
  • Additionally, be sure to prepare a handful of questions for when your interview is over.

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My visit to the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine

Ambassador Kelly standing in front of the Universidad Mayor de San Marcos
Ambassador Kelly standing in front of the Universidad Mayor de San Marcos

Over winter break 2017, I visited La Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, faculty of Veterinary Medicine. After 7 years, I got to go back to my home country and visit some places I never got the chance to see before. One of my uncles that knew I was interested in Vet medicine took me to this university and gave me a little tour around.

This University is located in my home country Peru, in the capital of Lima, in the district of San Borja. San Marcos was founded on May 12, 1551, it was the first University founded in the Americas and considered the oldest university in America. The University Mayor de San Marcos has about 28,645 undergraduate students and 3,447 graduate students.

Kelly next to an Alpaca
Kelly next to an Alpaca

The faculty of Veterinary Medicine is one of the 20 faculties this University offers. Other well know faculties are the Faculty of Human Medicine, Faculty of Pharmacy and Biochemistry, Faculty of Dentistry, Faculty of Psychology, etc. In Peru, a faculty houses students interested in pursuing a specific field/degree, it’s like our colleges on campus where each one houses students interested in Liberal Arts or Sciences. A faculty is a bit more specific because only students who are interested in a particular field are in that faculty.

Walking around this University gave me the opportunity to see how staff, doctors and students interact with each other. They have veterinarians that work at the University and outside people can bring their pets to be seen which I thought was very interesting. There were also alpacas outside the University campus which I thought was very cool.

Alpacas walking around campus
Alpacas walking around campus

Overall, I had a great experience visiting there in the winter, the weather was great since it was summer back in Peru. I definitely recommend everyone who is interested in pre-professional programs such pre-med, pre-vet, pre-dental to visit Universities like this one whenever they have the chance or whenever they are on vacation in another country.

Source

 

My Summer Internship in D.C.

Alyssa attending a seminar on food policy at the Washington Post.
Alyssa attending a seminar on food policy at the Washington Post.

If you ever want to step out of your comfort zone, my suggestion is to go from working in a barn and an animal shelter for years, and then going to intern in the United States House of Representatives in Washington, D.C. for a summer. Last May, I left UConn and drove seven hours down to our nation’s capital to spend the next few months interning for Congressman Joe Courtney.

I heard about the opportunity to go to Washington during fall semester of my junior year. I wasn’t sure where I wanted my path to take me, but I had been considering a career in agriculture policy. When I learned that the American Society of Animal Science (ASAS) awards stipends to students interested in interning in government each year, I jumped at the opportunity. I had to apply and interview, but eventually I learned that I was one of a few students nationwide to receive one of those awards. From there, ASAS helped me find an office to intern in. I was interested in working for Congressman Courtney because he represents my home district, which is full of small family farms. Agriculture is an important sector in Eastern Connecticut, so when I learned I was chosen to intern in his office I was ecstatic.

Alyssa with Congressman Courtney on her last day of the internship.
Alyssa with Congressman Courtney on her last day of the internship.

Interning in a big city was a culture shock. I lived in Maryland and had a 45 minute commute on the subway each morning and evening. I knew nobody, but quickly became friends with other interns who were in the same position as me. However, the biggest change for me was working in an office instead of outdoors, but I found myself really enjoying it. Each day, I spent a lot of time answering phones and speaking with constituents. They would often call in to express their support or opposition for issues that were currently being debated in Congress. Additionally, I helped the legislative staff do research for letters that would be sent out to constituents, as well as for upcoming legislation. Since the staff knew I was focusing on agriculture, many of the topics I researched for them involved Continue reading

Junior Year as Told by a Premed Student

My reaction after watching a birth for the first time! I want to be a neonatal doctor, so getting to see a birth was very exciting.
My reaction after watching a birth for the first time! I want to be a neonatal doctor, so getting to see a birth was very exciting.

Junior year is notoriously very difficult, regardless of major or pre-professional program, there is a lot at stake. Students are tasked with gearing up for their last two years of college by planning classes, making sure to meet all requirements, and thinking about what their next step will be. Whether you plan on attending graduate school, entering the workforce, or taking time off, there is a lot to consider and it can be extremely overwhelming. I am an Allied Health Sciences major, beginning my junior year, and I plan on attending medical school following graduation. I do not plan on taking a gap year before going to medical school, so a lot is happening this year, and it’s happening very fast. I have spent a lot of time preparing for this year, and now I am working on how to manage classes, study for the MCAT, and find ways to improve my application to be the most competitive.

First, the MCAT. I plan on taking it in early 2018, and to do this, and do well, I have a lot of studying. It is important to think about your own study habits and how comfortable you are with the material when preparing for an exam of this magnitude. You must find what will work for you to be successful, because everyone learns and takes tests differently. Personally, I have found it helpful to enroll in an MCAT prep course through Kaplan. This course includes guided online sessions for three hours each week, study books, and personalized assignments that are geared to help you in areas you need improvement. This is just one of the many ways people go about preparing for the MCAT. Find what will work for you and make you successful. Additionally, make studying a priority along with all of your other classes!

A second thing that can be stressful about applying to medical school is the application itself. While this is many months away, it does not hurt to think about what you can do now to improve your application, makings yourself a more competitive applicant. What types of things are you involved in? Do you have any volunteer or clinical work in a hospital? These are a couple of questions you can ask yourself, and if you find that you are missing something, try to search for opportunities to fill the gap. For example, this past summer I traveled to Spain where I was able to shadow doctors in a hospital for a month. This was great exposure to the medical field, and I learned a lot about Continue reading

My First Professional Conference

Mindy on the Tampa conference center steps overlooking the water
Mindy on the Tampa conference center steps overlooking the water

I have always had a love for the environment and the water, so naturally, when choosing my major I picked one that incorporated all of my interests – Natural Resources. Coming into this field I really did not have a specific path I wanted take and was open to guidance. I joined clubs and started research to try and see which environmental aspects caught my interest. However, it wasn’t until my research lab sent out an email about the American Fisheries Society annual meeting that I found the perfect opportunity to explore my field. Whether it was attending multiple symposiums or networking with some of the most influential and intelligent fisheries managers, policy makers, and biologists the possibilities were endless.

The schedule of events for the annual meeting, along with the August 2017 fisheries magazine
The schedule of events for the annual meeting, along with the August 2017 fisheries magazine

Professional meetings are a perfect time to gain skills and knowledge that you would not be able to experience back at home. I spent most of my time attending some of the 74 symposiums, all of which had different foci. Some of these topics included fish health management, biochemical tropic markers, lionfish, large oil spills, and more! Since my university research and experience span from freshwater fish to saltwater fish and everything in between I made sure to go to a diverse array of seminars. I was very overwhelmed at first because there was so much to chose from, however, seminar after seminar I realized which field I was more interested in than others. My personal favorite being Swirling, Jumping, Burping and Farting: Pre-Spawning Aggregation Behaviors of Bonefish (Albula vulpes) by Andy J. Danylchuk. The intriguing title led many to his meeting room and his pre-spawning aggregation findings were incredible. I also attended a very valuable talk on the future of the nation’s fisheries and aquatic resources. During this seminar I received Continue reading