For more than 20 years, the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) has encouraged students to explore an important, yet often overlooked, side of Georgia’s leading industry. Since its creation in 1997, the Congressional Agricultural Fellowship has offered 123 students a firsthand look into the world of agricultural policy by placing them in legislative offices located in the nation’s capital. Each summer, a handful of CAES students move to Delta Hall in Washington, D.C., to represent the college and serve as agricultural liaisons in Georgia’s congressional offices.
Regardless of when these students served as Ag Fellows, there is a universal agreement among them: The experience is instrumental to personal and professional growth.
From attending agricultural committee hearings and preparing briefings to conducting research and meeting with constituents, the summer is packed with opportunities for CAES students to act on their passion for agricultural policy.
Where are they now?
Former fellow Malik Grace now works for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service as a statistician in Denver, Colorado. When asked what he gained most from the Congressional Agricultural Fellowship he praised the experiential learning experience it provided.
“Having the opportunity to apply my knowledge and skills obtained in the classroom to real world scenarios in the agribusiness sector was such an amazing opportunity,” said Grace, who graduated in 2018 with bachelor’s degree in agribusiness and agricultural and applied economics.
Matthew Pace, another former fellow, now works at AgFirst Farm Credit Bank in Lexington, South Carolina. The Congressional Agricultural Fellowship was a “hallmark of my experience as a University of Georgia student” while he studied agricultural and applied economics.
“Not only did the program allow me to experience firsthand how our legislative process impacts the day-to-day life of an American agricultural producer, but further, it set me up for success upon graduation and helped jumpstart my career in agricultural finance. Through its commitment to bolstering the voice of the agricultural community in policy making at a federal level, the ag fellowship program is a tremendous asset to the state of Georgia and I’m immensely grateful to have had the opportunity to participate,” said Pace, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree from CAES in 2016 before earning a master’s degree in public administration from UGA’s School of Public and International Affairs.
Introducing this year's Ag Fellows
The most recent group of fellows includes Ivy English, Abby Lauterbach, Clay Parker and Brooke Raniere. They finished their fellowships this August and shared similar sentiments about their time on Capitol Hill.
Lauterbach, a junior agricultural and applied economics major, said, “The program allowed me to grow a tremendous amount both professionally and personally,” but that “most of all, it solidified my passion for agriculture.
A senior agribusiness major, Parker recognized the honor of being chosen as a fellow and described the program as “a treasure chest full of opportunities" where he furthered his passion for agricultural policy, the legislative process and public service.
Raniere, a junior environmental economics and management major, said that the life-changing experience allowed her to develop industry knowledge and better prepare for a future in law, policy and government.
And English, who graduated in May with a bachelor’s degree in agribusiness, described the growth that took place in her life this summer. “The fellowship better prepared me for law school, and it immensely expanded my opportunities for the future,” she said.
Considering the lessons that each of these students has learned along the way, there is no doubt that the Congressional Agricultural Fellowship will continue to cultivate generations of agricultural leaders from Ag Hill to Capitol Hill.
For more information about the Congressional Agricultural Fellowship, visit caes.uga.edu/students/experiential-learning.