RUS Interns Blaze Path for Careers in Civil Service

Youth Tour Alumni Win Praise for Work With Agency

By Meghan Gourley

Jenn Straka decided she wasn’t going to just answer phones and fetch coffee while she was a summer intern at the U.S. Agriculture Department. By the time the college senior left the nation’s capital at summer’s end, she had worked her first official press conference.

Straka was one of three students selected from a pool of college students to intern at the USDA’s Rural Utilities Service.

For the past three years, the agency has requested college intern recommendations from NRECA. The association has drawn primarily from past Electric Cooperative Youth Tour participants.

“RUS has a need for summer interns and we have found a rich talent pool in our alumni,” said Dena G. Stoner, NRECA vice president of government relations. “This is a win-win for everyone because the students get real work experience, and it could lead to a rewarding career in public service.”

NRECA continues to receive stellar reports about the interns it refers to RUS, and the agency is asking for more. “This year we brought on three interns from NRECA,” said RUS Deputy Administrator Curtis Anderson. “They have been tremendous contributors to our programs. We hope that some of them will return in the future.”

RUS has an immediate need for fall interns and is soliciting resumes for spring 2007 interns as well.

The agency primarily seeks college juniors and seniors majoring or concentrating their studies in engineering, accounting, finance, environmental studies or information technology.

“USDA is huge and there are so many opportunities,” said Straka, an English and communications major at Western Michigan University. Initially assigned to the accounting office, she talked her way into the broadcasting area where she was able to set up cameras and sometimes operate them at various press conferences. After completing her senior year, Straka hopes to return to Washington for a full-time job.

Fellow intern Allison Wegleitner said her experience has been equally rewarding as an intern in the water and environmental programs group at RUS. As part of the internship, she completed a Geographic Information Systems training program and has been creating administrative records for electric generation projects proposed by co-ops.

Wegleitner hopes to return to her roots after graduating from Northern State University in Aberdeen, S.D., next year. “Rural America is my heart and soul,” she said. “I can see myself working for a state or local government office. I have so many interests.”

Randy Dwyer, director of grassroots advocacy for NRECA, is urging co-ops to put the word out to students in their communities. Interested applicants should submit their resumes directly to him at randy.dwyer@nreca.coop.