A woman with brown hair and a smile, Kelsi Opat, Ph.D., wearing a yellow sweater.
Kelsi Opat, Ph.D., instructional assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communications. (Photo courtesy of Kelsi Opat)

Within the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, students learn a transformative part of their education can happen outside of the classroom due to the vast industry network and strong partnerships established over the years.

Enrolled students can find a wealth of educational opportunity at their fingertips in the steady supply of internships offered through these networks and partnerships.

For example, students within the Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communications can earn real-world, hands-on experience before graduation through the department’s popular internship program with the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, HLSR.

A vision of expansion for the internship program

Shepherding the undergraduate and graduate students through this process is Kelsi Opat, Ph.D., instructional assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communications. Opat, who joined the department this year, follows in the footsteps of Deb Dunsford, Ph.D., senior lecturer emeritus, who ran the program for many years.

Three women and one man pose at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. They are all part of the internships program and wear press badges
Intership program participants at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, Nate Jackson, Randi Williams, Morgan Marburger and Mallory Halbardier. (Photo courtesy of Mallory Halbardier)

“As a land-grant university, Texas A&M is committed to contributing to Texas communities, which was very attractive to me; I’m grateful to give back to my home state,” Opat said of joining the department. “I am excited to be part of a university with exceptional students and a powerful sense of community.

“As a kid in the Houston suburbs, the HLSR was my primary exposure to agriculture,” she said. “My favorite exhibit was always the one with eggs incubating, waiting for chickens to hatch. I now know that is part of AgVentures, which has internship opportunities.”

Opat said having the opportunity to work with the organization now as a faculty member feels like a full-circle moment.

What students can expect from an internship

Internships are offered in the areas of writing, social media, sponsorship and working with the AgVenture and Fun on the Farm exhibits.

Back stage at the Houston Rodeo, a young woman who is part of the Texas A&M internships program interviews a professional cowboy.
Mallory Halbardier interviewing a professional cowboy as part of her writing internship. (Photo courtesy of Mallory Halbardier)

Opat said all the internships are paid opportunities and include other perks such as hotel accommodations, food vouchers and access to shows and concerts.

The application process, length of internship and duties vary between programs, as do the courses required for each internship.

“Since some internships require a course enrollment, it is crucial students reach out to me as soon as possible and submit their applications,” said Opat. “I was lucky to inherit a wonderful established internship program from Dr. Deb, and I want even more students to be able to take advantage of this incredible opportunity to network and gain real-world experience.”   

She said internships that require a course enrollment will need to be added prior to the add/drop deadline in January so students need to apply as soon as possible. Opat said she can be reached at [email protected] with any questions as well as to submit applications.

Internship offers one-of-a-kind experience

Texas A&M student Madison Crick holds a microphone in front of a Rodeo Houston backdrop as a participant in the internships program available to students.
Madison Crick credits the internship program with improving her writing and people skills. (Photo courtesy of Madison Crick)

“It was such an amazing experience, I am so glad I did it,” said past writing intern Madison Crick ‘25. “I was able to get hands-on journalism experience that you wouldn’t be able to get from a class.”

Crick grew up showing goats at the show, so she said she felt at home at HLSR and was thrilled to be able to do a writing internship and experience the rodeo side of the event as well, which she said she knew nothing about.

“I feel like it made me not only a better journalist, but a better writer in general,” Crick said. “Everyone can use better writing skills; they are a necessity in any corporate setting.”

Crick said the experience interviewing people on the spot and getting a newsworthy quote was invaluable. She also said it helped her get over her fear of having to go up and talk to strangers, which is something that will benefit her for the rest of her life.

“I would encourage anyone, no matter what your background, to apply,” Crick said. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and you will get to see and do so many things you never have before. Even if someone is just slightly interested, I would encourage them to apply. It was so much fun.”

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