Beyond the Classroom

The impact of undergraduate experiential learning after graduation

By Adriana Perez
BS Animal Science  |  Class of 2023


hen deciding where I wanted to go to college, I was impressed by Oregon State University’s priority for students to have hands-on experiential learning opportunities. As a student in the College of Agricultural Sciences, I took advantage of this priority and found that this kind of learning was vital to my own success as a student and now as a recent graduate.

My coursework as an Animal Science major was designed to broaden many avenues within the degree and hinted at the possibilities my field of study could offer me. In addition to this, my involvement around campus, especially within organizations housed under the college like Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences (MANRRS) and the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics & Native Americans in Science (SACNAS), only enhanced my skills and attributes that have led me to where I am today.

With these skills and exposure to companies within the agriculture industry, I searched for a way to gain more developmental experiences through internships. I knew I wanted to apply what I had learned during my time at OSU but also open myself up to even more possibilities with my degree. I applied for the Public Policy Internship with Merck Animal Health during my fall semester of my senior year. This internship took place over the summer of 2023 in Washington, D.C. The 12 weeks with the North America Policy Team opened up so many doors for me but also taught me transferable skills, strengthened my understanding of the animal health and agriculture industry, and ignited a passion for the world of policy.

In my time with Merck Animal Health, I conducted policy analysis on legislation that could affect company outputs and business. This required me to stay up to date with legislation and policy changes and hone in on other stakeholder positions. I was tasked with drafting policy briefings and memos summarizing these possible changes to directly inform company leadership. I gained a deeper understanding of the importance of thorough research and data collection in policy analysis. With the team’s guidance and feedback, I learned how to communicate more effectively and concisely through the lens of business relations. 

Throughout my experience as an intern, I was able to see the value of the experiential learning opportunities I had at OSU.

I also had the opportunity to learn more about the legislative processes that occurs on Capitol Hill by attending various congressional hearings like The Impact of Antimicrobial Resistance on Modern Medicine or the Pathways to Women’s Entrepreneurship. My time on the Hill also consisted of meetings with various Hill staffers working for Representatives or Senators to understand what their role was, how they came to work on Hill, and their future in public policy. In addition to this, I attended various networking events within the D.C. Agriculture Intern Network that enabled me to meet over 50 other students looking to pursue careers in agriculture. These events included attending various roundtable talks with higher-ups in companies such as the American Farm Bureau, CropLife America, and the National Dairy Council, to name a few. These roundtables offered me the platform to ask about their journey and what future professionals should be mindful of in entering this evolving industry.

As an intern, I was also able to attend various seminars where I learned valuable skills such as how to build trust in the industry and learn about the advances of scientific research that federal agencies are conducting to protect threatened species while minimizing impacts to farmers and their products. Moreover, I learned about various roles within the company by scheduling video or in person meetings with colleagues across the entire business. Their insight provided me with valuable information about the company and its operations to serve and protect the health of our animals. With each meeting, I gained more experience in navigating conversations with industry professionals but also the importance of establishing trustworthy relationships in every field.

Throughout my experience as an intern, I was able to see the value of the experiential learning opportunities I had at OSU. Those opportunities gave me the confidence to take an active role in important conversations and gave me the curiosity to continually ask questions to learn more. While classroom education is important, the hands-on experience of collaborating with others, forming communities around shared goals, and creating opportunities for new discovery is something I will take with me for the rest of my life.

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