SC State experiences land alumna on desired career path

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Owens USDAIn less than two weeks, Ashley Owens ‘07, business marketing  and ‘10,  MBA,  agribusiness, will begin the path to a long-awaited career with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).  Owens will receive training as a contract specialist for the U.S. Forest Service, while a participant in the intensive two-year Federal Career Intern Program.

The journey to her desired employment with the agency began with steps she first took while a student at SC State University. According to the Orangeburg native, the educational opportunities the University afforded to her and the employment skills she gained while working for the school’s 1890 Research & Extension Program served as valuable training tools, which helped her land the position.

“I definitely feel blessed to have this opportunity,” exclaimed Owens. “When I learned about USDA, I was determined to do everything possible to position myself as an ideal candidate for a career with USDA. I relentlessly looked for and became involved in opportunities on and off campus that would allow me to acquire the skills, knowledge and abilities necessary to perform at optimal level on any job that I secured.”

Owens was introduced to USDA her freshmen year, when she obtained a student assistant position with 1890 Research, a position she would ultimately hold for six years. Though, initially, she primarily performed clerical duties for the office, the 25-year-old professes the job piqued her interest, particularly USDA’s involvement with the University.


“By working for 1890, I was able to learn about the historical and significant connection between land-grant universities, like SC State, and the USDA,” claimed Owens, referring to USDA’s commitment to providing funding to the nation’s land-grant universities in support of research and programs designed to improve quality of life.

As she matured, 1890 Research administrators and staff increased her level of job responsibilities, allowing her to often handle procurement services under supervision.

“My work experience at 1890 was helpful. I gained knowledge of procurement and administrative procedures, and I picked up customer relation skills. [I believe] that really helped sell me [during job interviews],” asserted Owens.

What also gave her an edge, claims Owens, was the MBA degree she earned. To Owens, the curriculum at SC State makes it a top-notch graduate program.

“There is no doubt in my mind that the MBA program helped me because we had so many highly analytical courses, and the teachers are exceptional,” said Owens.

The former University Scholar and six-year member of the Dean’s List further notes other experiences that helped develop her career profile. Last summer, she held a USDA internship with the Economic Research Service (ERS) in Washington, D.C. At ERS, Owens joined a research project on dairy products and contributed to published literature reviews. Owens was also a member of the business fraternity, Alpha Kappa Psi, and the association for agricultural sciences professionals, Minorities in Agriculture Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS).

It was through MANRRS that Owens was able to secure a position with the USDA. In March of this year, Owens and additional SC State students attended an annual MANRRS conference in Orlando, Fla. With a gleaming smile, confidence and resume in hand, Owens careened from one interview to another. One of the on-site interviews was with the head of acquisitions and management for the Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest region, who, at the conclusion of the interview, asked Owens to do a second interview over the phone. Four weeks after the second interview, employers offered Owens the job. She will begin employment with the U.S. Forest Service on July 6 at the Wenatchee, Wash. regional office.

“We are extremely delighted for Ashley, and wish her the best as she pursues a career with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Forest Service,” said 1890 Research Administrator Dr. Louis Whitesides ‘94. “Ashley exemplifies the caliber of future leaders, which SC State produces through its exceptional academic programs, career development opportunities and civic engagements,” he continued.

The 1890 Research & Extension Program employs and accepts volunteers of university students who study an array of disciplines such as chemistry, business, English and education. The selected individuals work positions that range from research assistants to camp counselors to program assistants.

For student employment or volunteer opportunities with 1890 Research, contact (803) 536-8971 or 1890 Extension at (803) 536-8460.