Alyssa Condon is a senior and expects to graduate in May 2018.
When I came to UConn as an animal science major, I never imagined that working on Capitol Hill was even a possibility for me. It took me a long time during my career as an undergraduate to understand the importance of the ties between agriculture and policymakers, but once I learned about that connection, I knew it was something that I was interested in being a part of.
Before college, I had never worked with livestock at all. I first started working with the dairy cows on campus in the annual Dairy Show hosted by UConn Dairy Club. I fell in love with the animals and quickly became as involved as possible with the cows on campus. I now am vice president of Dairy Club and work and live at the Kellogg Dairy Center. I’ve been able to tour farms all over the northeast and even in Canada, and it was through these experiences that I found a passion for agriculture policy. I was amazed at how each farm ran differently but each was so affected by agriculture policy. It also astounded me that most of those policies were created by people in power who had never even stepped foot on a farm. I quickly became fascinated by the idea of bridging the gap between farmers and policymakers.
In the fall of 2016, I received an email from the Department of Animal Science about a potential internship opportunity in Washington D.C. The American Society of Animal Science provides scholarships each year to agriculture students interested in working in a policy-related field. In addition to financial assistance, they provide support for the students in finding a potential office to work in. With the help of my advisor, Professor Zinn, I applied for this scholarship and was selected to receive it. The ASAS helped me get hired as an intern in Congressman Joe Courtney’s office in D.C. for the summer of 2017.
During my internship, I learned a lot about how the legislative process works and how constituent concerns and preferences are turned into policy. I spent most of my days answering phone calls and talking to constituents, as well as writing letters about legislation to those in the community interested in certain topics. In addition to that, I was able to attend meetings and hearings regarding agriculture legislation and the upcoming Farm Bill. I gained a lot of experience in written communication while learning as much about agricultural legislation as possible. Living and working in Washington, D.C., also helped me become comfortable in new situations and meet a lot of new people. I’m more comfortable networking, which is a skill I will need in my future field. I also learned that working in an office, although very different than my past experiences working in a barn and dog kennel, might be a good fit for me after all.
This fall, I’ve been able to work on an independent study with Professor Zinn, interpreting recent research in the Department of Animal Science for the public to understand. Even as an undergrad in a science field, relating university research to the real world can be difficult. The objective of my independent study is to help people not in the field understand what we’re doing as a department to further the field of animal science. This independent study is helping me refine my agricultural communication skills for my future career. For the duration of my senior year, I’ll be focusing on figuring out what exactly I want to do after graduation. I will be applying to graduate school for a degree in agriculture law and policy, but I may take a gap year to gain more experience before going back to school. My true goal is to work in extension or for a non-profit or governmental organization to connect the public and policymakers to agricultural producers. I hope to help people understand where and how their food is produced and provide education on common misconceptions. By bridging the gap between producers, consumers and policymakers, I hope to help farmers continue to feed our growing population and to help policymakers support these efforts through legislation.
By Alyssa Condon