AEE Student's Statistical Service Internship Makes it All Add Up

Posted: February 24, 2011

Before interning with an agricultural statistics agency, Terri Woodling never saw herself as a "math person," but now she has a whole new appreciation for the calculations behind farming.
Terri Woodling

Terri Woodling

Minoring in Leadership Development and Equine Science, she has big plans after graduation that may include coming back to the university. "I want to travel out West after graduation to see the country and, after working a few years, come back to Penn State for [a graduate degree in] Ag and Extension Education," she said.

Growing up on a small farm with steers in Snyder County, Woodling was no stranger to agriculture, but she really never associated math and statistics with it. Still, the Penn State senior majoring in Agricultural Science accepted two internships with the National Agricultural Statistics Service in Harrisburg, Pa.

"I was their 2008 summer intern and also worked there during winter break," said the Beaver Springs, Pa., native. "Then after talking with the Statistics Service representative at the Agriculture Career Fair on campus, I was hired back for the 2010 summer intern position."

She took the position because the Statistics Service is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and she might want to work there in the future. "I was upfront with them that math and statistics were not my strong suit," she said. "But I told them that I was willing to try."

Woodling was the only intern in the office and a novice to statistical research, but she still was able to complete her tasks and gained an appreciation for the work and the math along the way.

"The first year I interned I helped analyze and complete the 2007 Farm Census by examining every form from every farm operation in Pennsylvania," she said. "During my second internship, I was the main contact for the monthly Agricultural Yield survey, and I also did a weekly crop progress report that took the weather and crop conditions from each county in Pennsylvania and compiled a news release."

Allowed to work directly with the office statisticians, support staff and enumerators, who work in the field with farmers, Woodling saw multiple sides of the agriculture industry.

"It was a broad internship -- I dealt with animal and flower statistics, crop production and even the number of hired laborers per farm," she said. "Like my major, the Statistics Service gave me the opportunity to learn a little about each aspect of the agricultural industry."

Woodling's extracurricular activities at Penn State also have exposed her to many sides of the agricultural industry; she is involved in the Penn State Dairy Science Club and Collegiate Farm Bureau, and she also is an Ag Advocate.

"The College of Agricultural Sciences is a warm and family oriented organization, which is why I like it so much. It reminds me of my hometown."