Sage Collins is a junior at Kansas State University. She is working on a major in agriculture economics, a secondary major in global food systems, a minor in leadership studies and a certificate in nonprofit leadership.
Sage is completing an internship this summer with the Kansas Soybean Association as part of the required credits for the nonprofit leadership certificate. Here, she reflects on the experience, and how it has combined her passions and academics to help her grow personally and professionally.
As a student interested in several different areas of study, I have been told many times to narrow down my passions, so I’m able to find a job after college. People told me there was no way to combine all my dreams and interests. Because of that thinking, I never imagined I would find a job that combines my passion for agriculture, nonprofit studies, and global food systems leadership, let alone an internship that would put me on my path to professional development. The summer of 2020 has been a very unexpected journey, but it has given me hope for my future career.
Prior to COVID-19, I had scoured all of K-State’s College of Agriculture emails and the Career Center’s online tool, Handshake, for an internship that I thought I would enjoy. I came across an on-campus interview opportunity with a large bacon manufacturing company that had plants all over the United States. Though it wasn’t my first pick, I submitted a resume and took an interview. I became thrilled at the possibility of working with this company for the simple fact that their interns were challenged to innovate.
The idea of innovation is something that I studied in many of my classes, whether it was solving wicked problems I learned about in my Global Food Systems Classes, innovation crucial to solving issues in the Ag industry, or innovation imperative for responsible leadership. Innovation was something needed in all areas I was interested in, and I was excited that I would get to apply it to real problems through this internship. As a result, it revived my hope to one day be able to practice all of my interests at one position.
Little did I know that a worldwide pandemic would throw all of those dreams in the trash. I ended up getting the internship with the bacon manufacturing company, but in May I was contacted and told that due to COVID-19, they could not sustain any student related jobs for the summer of 2020. So there I was, in May, a month before most internships would start, jobless. Luckily, I came across a posting for an internship with the Kansas Soybean Association. After doing some research, I realized that the Kansas Soybean Association was a nonprofit in the Ag industry, which meant I had found a needle in the haystack of a perfect internship. I interviewed for the position and ended up receiving the internship.
I am now halfway through the internship with the Kansas Soybean Association, and I could not be more grateful for the opportunity to be here. In spite of what others thought about how I may struggle to find an outlet for my combined passions, I have been able to work with all of them.
Regarding my passion for agriculture: I have not only learned more about the soybean industry, but also other commodities and how they play a part in politics when it comes to trade. As for my passion with global food systems, I have been tasked with managing a Facebook account with the intended audience of middle-aged women who are not directly connected to agriculture. It is my responsibility to interest them in agriculture as well as provide them with useful knowledge in their everyday lives. Most recently, I wrote an article comparing an agronomist to a medical doctor, to try and break down the components of what an agronomist does and make it easier for those outside of agriculture to understand. Also, I’ve participated in webinars and Zoom meetings with professionals from several different industries and backgrounds, discussing imperative problems and the steps needed to minimize negative impact. Lastly, my passion for nonprofit has come through when learning about how the Kansas Soybean Association operates as a nonprofit organization to further the soybean industry.
My internship has taught me…
- Never go into a meeting or conversation thinking that you know everything. There have been several times when I wanted to impress my boss or coworker by stating facts about whatever topic we were on, and ended up making a fool out of myself. I have found that it is better to enter a conversation wanting to learn from the other person rather than trying to push what you know on to them. The conversation itself will be much more present, and it will bring growth to both parties.
- When in a discussion, wait to be asked for your opinion. As much as you may want the other person to know what you think, wait until they ask you. This will allow you to actively listen and engage to what is being said. As an extrovert, I have always been outspoken, so training myself to be patient and wait to speak until it was my turn has been a huge learning curve, but in the end was an important step in growing as a person.
- There are so many complex parts that go into putting food in grocery stores. From the very beginning, there is the complicated decision of what type of crop a farmer should plant. Which then leads to the plant sprouting and the decision of whether insecticide, pesticide or herbicide would be beneficial. From there, the crop could be sold to a first processor. For soybeans, that means that a portion of the money spent on the soybeans goes to funding for research and development done for the soybean industry, known as the Checkoff.
- One of the biggest things I have learned about the agriculture industry is how down-to-earth farmers are, how well they care for their plants and animals, and how they want to provide a source of healthy food for consumers. When you ask a farmer how they know what they are producing is safe, more times than not they answer because they follow all regulations and that they wouldn’t eat it themselves or feed it to their kids if it wasn’t.
I have matured in terms of professional development. I have learned essential information for my career in agriculture. I experienced how a company functions as a nonprofit, made crucial connections, and lastly, I have grown as a person in ways I never thought I could through a summer internship.
This internship has opened my eyes to several potential career paths that combine my agriculture, nonprofit, and global food systems interests. Although my initial plans for 2020 were derailed by COVID-19, what I gained from the Kansas Soybean Association has far outweighed my setback.