HACU’s 31st Annual Conference as a USDA-HSI Student Scholar
A Reflection By Martha Sanchez
The Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) hosts an annual conference that shares information on the state of Hispanic higher education. Thanks to the student sponsorship from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), I had the privilege to attend HACU’s 31st Annual Conference in San Diego, California “Championing Hispanic Higher Education Success” during October 28-30, 2017. Through this conference, I learned that communication skills and professional development opportunities are essential for resume building and better interviewing.
This exciting three day conference was composed of different educational, leadership, and career enhancing workshops and informational sessions. I gained a great deal of knowledge about prospective graduate school programs and learned that internships and networking are crucial in developing as a young professional. In addition, we had an informational session targeted specifically towards budgeting and financing, in which through the financial literacy boot camp, I became aware of the importance that budgeting has in our future and enhanced my understanding on finance as a whole and encouraged me to start saving up.
At the conference, we had different panels and presentations where professionals spoke about internship, scholarship, and learning opportunities. In particular, there were a variety of representatives from the USDA, such as the Agricultural Marketing Service, Agricultural Research Service, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Foreign Agricultural Service, Forest Service, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Rural Development, among others.
There was an Exhibit Hall full of nationwide exhibitors that offered an abound of wide ranging opportunities along with universities coast to coast providing information about their graduate school programs. One of the most popular areas in the Exhibit Hall was the USDA, who were conveniently lined up in a row, where I realized that the USDA is such an important piece to our nation by touching so many aspects of everyday life. I also became aware that USDA was a premier sponsor of HACU’s 31st Annual Conference, as it was recognized during the Opening Plenary.
Throughout the conference, I had the privilege to network one on one with a variety of USDA representatives, where they all highly recommended being open to new opportunities and getting out of my comfort zone. They all stressed the idea of getting comfortable being uncomfortable and applying for as many internships as possible, seeking out opportunities, and further exploring new ones.
Overall, HACU’s 31st Annual Conference was much more than a conference about internships, scholarships, and graduate school programs; it was also a conference about Hispanic empowerment and achievement. In other words, being around so many ambitious and bright minded Hispanics from across the nation motivated me to do more in my community upon my return and also to lift others along the way. I felt empowered and inspired, especially seeing so many professional Hispanic women in high level leadership roles. It made me proud and confident that in the near future I too will hold one of those positions.
This learning experience will definitely be one of the highlights of my college years. It was life changing for me because I grew not only as a young professional, but also as a person. I am grateful for the student sponsorship by the USDA, for exposing me to this career enhancing and networking opportunity. In addition, it was a great honor to represent San Diego State University (SDSU) – Imperial Valley in the HACU Student Track. Now I can say with most certainty that USDA is more than just about farming and ranching. USDA helps feed not just the nation, but also the world and that is something I want to be part of, it makes me want to live by USDA’s motto to “do right and feed everyone!”