Penn State agribusiness major lands White House internship

Kelly Jedrzejewski
November 01, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Tony Rice, a senior in agribusiness management in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences, was one of a select group of students who was given the opportunity to develop leadership skills and gain experience in the public-service sector as an intern at the White House and in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

Tony Rice

Tony Rice, a senior in agribusiness management in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences, was an intern at the White House and in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.  

IMAGE: Courtesy Tony Rice

Rice, who is minoring in international agriculture and political science, grew up on a dairy farm in Mount Pleasant Mills. He explained that he always has had an interest in helping farmers through agricultural policy development.

In the summer of 2017, Rice interned with the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau under Kristina Watson, director of federal government affairs. Watson is a former White House intern, and it was through her that Rice learned about the program.

Watson noted that because of Rice's work ethic, his commitment to serving and helping others, and his interest in government affairs, she thought he would be a good fit for the White House Internship Program.

"During our intern trip to Washington, D.C., I shared with Tony some of my own experiences working as an intern at the White House," she said. "My colleagues and I were impressed with his drive, commitment to hard work, and excellent work output throughout his internship at the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau."

Rice was selected to be one of about 90 interns working in various parts of the White House. During the spring, Rice was a cabinet affairs intern. His job included some policy research and helping staff members with policy coordination and integration across executive departments. He also helped set up for "white-glove events" hosted at the White House.

"There were times I'd just stop and think, I can't believe I'm really here," he said.

After completing his spring internship, Rice received a recommendation for a summer position as the agricultural affairs and commodity policy intern with the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, an executive office of the president. The office seeks trade agreements with other countries, advises the president, and helps coordinate U.S. trade policy. Rice worked on several projects that included studying agricultural trade issues and looking at a variety of technical barriers to trade.

"Right now, it's a really interesting time in agricultural trade," he said. "A lot of my work included data analysis looking at the economic impact certain trade barriers have had on American agriculture."

Rice credits his agribusiness classes at Penn State as the foundation for skills such as forecasting and data analysis that he needed for both internships.

"It's quite a learning curve, but my previous experiences both in the classroom and in other internships made it easier to keep up," he said.

Rice is interested in pursuing a career in agricultural policy, so these internships have given him invaluable insight into the work involved and have strengthened his knowledge of trade systems in the United States.

For students who also are interested in the realm of policy development, Rice said having a strong network is key.

"Early in my academic career, I didn't take advantage of many of the connections I made with professors, academic advisers or internship coordinators," he said. "I've really seen the impact having a broad network can have. If I hadn't connected with Kristina Watson, I might not have applied for my initial White House internship. You never know where these connections could lead you."

Back at the University Park campus, Rice has been a member of both the Ag Student Council and the Penn State LEAD Society. He currently serves as the president of the Collegiate Farm Bureau branch at the University.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated November 01, 2018