Conservation in Wisconsin

Khue Tran, COL ’24, San Jose, CA

This summer, I had the opportunity to intern at the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Wisconsin through the Conference on Asian Pacific American Leadership (CAPAL) public service internship program. I came into the program with a goal of wanting to go into public service, but as an environmental science major with interests in urban planning, I did not know what that kind of work would look like for me. My placement at NRCS-WI and the programming through CAPAL showed me what environmental public service could look like and what I would need to do in my career path to get there.  

NRCS is a conservation agency under USDA that works with producers, landowners, and other partners to advise and design conservation solutions that fit their land and address their specific resource concerns. I had the opportunity to work in-person at the state and field offices in Madison, WI. 

At the state office, I worked with the State Outreach Coordinator to put together the quarterly equity report and learned about the many different outreach initiatives NRCS-WI puts on to strengthen their relationship with the local communities. With my interest in working in urban spaces, I connected with the newly formed urban agriculture team and got the chance to work with three urban conservationists on building up their resources and editing their fact sheet for the website. I got to visit multiple urban farms and community gardens in Milwaukee and see how the conservation planning process differs in an urban environment versus a more rural one. 

At the field office, I worked closely with one of the civil engineers to write irrigation water management plans, research information on watersheds, and put together documents for funding applications. I had many opportunities to go out to field days and site visits and see firsthand how NRCS works directly with landowners and facilitates conservation education for the general public. 

Because of the flexibility in my internship, I was able to facilitate communication between the two offices that was not as strong previously. Everyone I worked with was incredibly welcoming and supportive in answering my questions as someone new to conservation work, but also gave me the space to develop my own project and seek out the work that was most relevant to my career goals. 

Although my studies are not in soil or agriculture, it was great to learn about them and develop a better understanding of the agricultural industry and where our food comes from. Through CAPAL, my understanding of my AANHPI identity and the issues that impact our communities was strengthened. I am leaving the program more knowledgeable and passionate about working on these issues and more ready to build a career where I can do so, blending my backgrounds in environmental science and Asian American studies. 

This was a summer of exploration and so many valuable learning opportunities, and I am extremely grateful for the Career Services Summer Funding Grant for making it possible. 

This is part of a series of posts by recipients of the 2023 Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they spent their summer. You can read the entire series here

By Career Services
Career Services