Students in the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences have a hands-on opportunity to impact agricultural policies at the state, federal and global levels with internships through the Agricultural and Natural Resources Policy, ANRP, program.
“Whether interning in Austin, Washington, D.C., or Rome, Italy, this is a chance for students to gain the type of real-world work experience that many employers are looking for today,” said James Palacios ’17, program coordinator for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences ANRP program, Bryan-College Station. “In addition to being a resume-booster, our students have once-in-a-lifetime experiences and significant personal growth as part of their internship.”
Palacios speaks from personal experience as he once served as an intern. He said his experience in Washington changed the trajectory of his career path and led to lifelong friendships.
Applications and opportunities
ANRP applications are now open for the fall semester programs in Washington and abroad with the Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO, of the United Nations. Given that the legislature in Austin convenes only during odd-numbered years, 2025 will be the next opportunity for internships with the Texas Legislature.
Depending on the location and type of internship, students can earn academic credit, be provided housing, receive salaries and be eligible for scholarships to help with living expenses. Domestic interns earn a salary from their hosting office while international interns have access to scholarship funds to help with the costs. The program benefits aim to minimize costs so interns can focus and get the most out of their experience.
Palacios said the program welcomes students from all majors. “It’s open to every student because government policies impact everybody.”
Since the creation of the program in the early-1990s, roughly 1,200 Texas A&M students have participated in internships with ANRP.
The unique internship program allows every student to explore an area of agricultural policy that they are passionate about with hosting offices in Washington on Capitol Hill or in an agency/organization off the Hill, such as National Farmers Union, Global Cold Chain Alliance and National Cattleman’s Beef Association. Students can even intern in foreign locations in partnership with the FAO.
From touring the White House to experiencing the beauty of the Trevi Fountain, the ANRP internship program not only opens doors to opportunities, but also expands horizons, helping students in mapping out a trajectory for their future to make a positive impact in policy.
International agriculture internships abroad
Historically, the international internships have been based in Rome, but in recent years ANRP has expanded its reach for students to intern in other places including Accra, Ghana, and Brussels, Belgium.
The diversity within the FAO accommodates interns without foreign language skills, so a lack of proficiency in a second language shouldn’t discourage applicants from the opportunity, Palacios said. He emphasized that interns simply need to be open to collaborating with different cultures and embracing new perspectives.
Beyond the enriching experience of immersing oneself in a new culture and savoring the moments of being abroad, interns can contribute to shaping policies as part of a collective effort to discover future agricultural solutions for a growing population.
“The FAO program is predominantly focused on sustainability and feeding a growing world, as well as addressing food shortage issues in developing countries and during times of crisis,” Palacios said.
The FAO actively addresses the U.N. goal of agricultural sustainability, establishing a direct link to global agriculture.
“ANRP has been very fortunate to maintain a strong partnership with the FAO, furthering our shared commitment to these important issues,” he said.
After program acceptance: The next steps for success
After being accepted into the program, interns can find their specific passion, whether that is cattle, wheat, cotton, sustainability or food supply chain efficiency. Regardless of the student’s major, ANRP offers an array of opportunities for interns to explore agricultural policy and create their own path for an impactful professional experience.
“Once you’re accepted into our program, you’ll meet with our program staff one-on-one to identify what your interests are and what it is that you care about,” Palacios said. “For example, are you interested in beef cattle production? Are you interested in the health and safety aspect of our food system? Are you interested in nutrition?”
He said he and Stephanie Webb ’07, director of the policy internship program, have conversations to truly identify a student’s interest, enabling them to match the student with the perfect hosting office. Beyond their hosting office, students engage with and build connections with fellow interns in their cohort, typically consisting of five to 15 other enthusiastic Aggies. The collaborative environment provides a holistic understanding of the potential future of agricultural policy.
“The process itself, on top of the internship experience, is really a great personal and professional growth opportunity that we’re really proud we can offer,” he said.
A life-changing semester
In 2016, Palacios interned for now-retired U.S. Rep. Rubén Hinojosa from Pharr, his hometown. A decade before, Webb did the same internship. Their shared passion for the internship program led them both back to roles in ANRP to help other students experience the same valuable opportunity they enjoyed.
“I was positive I wanted to work and live in D.C.,” Palacios said. “The ANRP internship program helped me to realize I wanted a career attached to agricultural policy, but I wanted that career to be closer to home and in a different capacity.”
Palacios said the program is a rare chance to “test drive” a field or position they may be considering for their future careers. Interns experience unique networking opportunities while also seeing the bigger agricultural picture.
He believes students discovering what they don’t want to do is just as crucial as finding out what they do want to do.
“One of the biggest things I tell students is that if you are unsure what your future looks like, or if you are just remotely interested in government or policy — even if you don’t think there’s a direct correlation to your interests — there is always some connection in the policy sector,” Palacios said. “The program has a place for everyone to learn and grow, which is why I encourage every student to take advantage of ANRP.”
Cohorts meet in advance of starting their internships to get to know each other and to build a foundation of support and friendships that often last a lifetime. In Washington, there is also group housing provided for interns. Two past interns not only credit the program for positively changing their career trajectory, but their personal lives as well. Lauren ’11 and Justin ’10 Futch met as Washington interns and are now married with a son.
A legacy of high-quality internship experiences
The ANRP internship program is highly esteemed in all locations, especially in Washington, where hosting offices eagerly look forward to adding Aggie interns to their policy teams. After their internships, students are often offered full-time positions with their hosting offices, a testament to the program’s ability to prepare students with the skills, knowledge and professionalism to thrive.
“One of the most common things we hear again and again from both alumni who work with our interns and our staff from our hosting offices are compliments about the impressive quality and high caliber of our students,” Palacios said.
Several dozen former interns now live and work in Washington, crediting ANRP with a jump start in policy careers. Many hosting offices have former interns who have evolved into industry experts eager to mentor the next generation of agricultural policy change-makers.
“Our reputation is incredibly well known in Washington,” Palcios said. “If you ask any Texas congressional office, they will tell you they know one of our interns or they have hosted an intern. The reputation of our program is one that has been developed over time, and we care significantly about that.”
However, he explained that a significant portion of the established success can be attributed to the exceptional students enrolled in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences who take the initiative to apply for the program.
Through an ANRP internship, Aggies gain invaluable connections and tools that empower them to emerge as leaders in their careers and global agriculture. With their internships, students become standouts among young professionals and join the ANRP alumni network of more than 1,200 Aggies impacting policy.
“Students enrolled in the ANRP program have experiences that set the stage for them to become the leaders of tomorrow, whether that is in agricultural and life sciences policy or whatever their chosen field post-graduation.”