Johnson Collins, a small-town girl from Jasper, Georgia, never believed she would work in the nation’s capital.
But Collins spent 12 weeks this summer in the office of Sen. Johnny Isakson, serving as a University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Congressional Agricultural Fellow.
Since 1997, the Agricultural Fellows program has matched over 100 university students with congressional offices in Washington, D.C.
Collins, who transferred from Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College to study agribusiness at the UGA Tifton campus in fall 2017, was excited to be one of seven CAES students to serve as an Agricultural Fellow this summer.
She was the only person in Isakson’s D.C. office with a background in agriculture and was able to provide a unique perspective on issues while working with people of varying backgrounds to get things done. The experience left her with a new perspective on government and life in general.
“This opportunity helped me to narrow down my future career choices,” Collins said. “I have always been curious about working in D.C., but never thought there was a place for an agriculture major in the city.”
Many of her responsibilities this summer were preparing briefs, attending committee hearings, doing agricultural research, and writing and editing letters to constituents. Collins found that this experience substantially strengthened her communication skills. The fast-paced nature of D.C. helped her refine the way she writes and speaks in order to pack the most information in small, digestible briefs.
She was able to watch as history unfolded when Isakson sponsored legislation to help Georgia blueberry producers hurt by the 2017 freeze. She knew that it would impact many Georgia blueberry farmers and their families, and seeing that connection to south Georgia gave her purpose.
“It made me realize that no matter what career I choose in the future, I want to be able to help people in a meaningful way,” she said.
Collins’ major takeaway was the existing need for agricultural knowledge in the capital, and she wants to fill that role. Her experience taught her interpersonal and life skills that will be vital to both her professional and personal experiences.
For more information about the CAES Congressional Agricultural Fellowship, visit www.caes.uga.edu/students/experiential-learning/internships-jobs/congressional-ag-fellowship.html.