Ag Sciences Career Day, internship program lead to career success

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — As an undergraduate in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences, Casey Branstetter participated in a unique scholars program, an experience that she said was instrumental in launching her professional career.

The 2018 alumna, who grew up on a small dairy farm in Tyrone, is now a financial specialist for AgChoice Farm Credit, an agricultural cooperative that finances farms, land and rural properties in Pennsylvania. Branstetter participated in the cooperative's AgChoice Scholars program, an experiential learning opportunity for a small group of Penn State students.

Branstetter, a Schreyer Honors College graduate, majored in agribusiness management with minors in international agriculture and in entrepreneurship and innovation. She first learned about the AgChoice Scholars program at the college's annual Ag Sciences Career Day, which is an opportunity for students to explore internships and careers in the agricultural sciences. The event is set this year for 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Oct. 9 at the Bryce Jordan Center at University Park.

"I'm a huge advocate of Career Day," she said. "I always encourage students who are new to the University Park campus to attend because there are so many opportunities. Everything seems to fall into your lap if you make the most of your opportunities. Networking is really important, too."

Jennifer Wertz, human resources administrator at AgChoice, manages the scholars program and attends Ag Sciences Career Day every year because she believes it serves as a valuable tool for recruiting candidates for the scholars program, internships and careers.

"AgChoice Scholars is a unique experiential program that benefits both Penn State students and AgChoice," Wertz said. "It's our pleasure to work with Penn State students and help them gain professional experiences in finance and agriculture."

Open to eligible Penn State sophomores and juniors, AgChoice Scholars gain firsthand experience working with Pennsylvania's largest agricultural lender and the agricultural-lending industry. Students participate in a two-year program that includes educational seminars, a one-week externship, field trips to local agribusinesses and credit analysis projects.

AgChoice Scholars is designed to build future agricultural industry leaders while giving students an opportunity to network with their peers, AgChoice staff and other industry representatives.

Branstetter applied to the program as a junior and was one of six students who were accepted from a variety of majors.

Every spring, the scholars visit diverse agricultural enterprises, speak with farmers about their business-management practices and complete a case study. Case studies include a "SWOT" analysis — looking at the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats related to the business and ways to improve output. The students then formally present the case study to the AgChoice senior leadership team and talk about their recommendations for the owners.

Now several months into her new job as a financial specialist, Branstetter is settling into the workplace, thanks to the experiences she was afforded through the College of Agricultural Sciences and the AgChoice Scholars program.

She is among a number of students from the college who have parlayed an internship into a career. In fact, a recent survey of graduating seniors from College of Agricultural Sciences indicated that more than a third of students that had secured jobs prior to graduation had previously interned with their future employer.

AgChoice Scholars is one of the many experiential learning opportunities available to the college's students to help them develop skills and experiences outside of the classroom. Other opportunities include study abroad courses, undergraduate research, clubs and organizations, and internships and work experiences.

To learn more about internship and career services provided by the college, visit the Office for Undergraduate Education.

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Last Updated September 07, 2018