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Kristen Johnson
Education: B.S. in Animal Science, Rutgers University, 2012 M.S. in Animals and Public Policy, Tufts University, 2016 Current Position: County ...
May 31, 2017

Education:

  • B.S. in Animal Science, Rutgers University, 2012
  • M.S. in Animals and Public Policy, Tufts University, 2016

Current Position:

County Executive Director, United States Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency (USDA-FSA)

What were you doing before entering the Masters in Animals and Public Policy (MAPP) program?

DVM student at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University

What aspects of MAPP led to your decision to join the program?

Change in career/plans.

In what ways do you use your Masters in Animals and Public Policy degree in your current position?

I utilize the public policy portion of my degree a lot more than the animals’ portion. I promote government programs that provide a financial safety net for New Jersey farmers. This requires me to have a working knowledge of various laws and regulations. Although there a few programs in the agency that aid livestock farmers, I do not delve much into animal policy. My hope is to eventually transfer into another agency of the USDA that enables me to utilize my knowledge of animal policy (I thoroughly enjoyed my internship experience with the USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service). I also appreciate the public speaking experience and skill that was provided to me during my MAPP education. I utilize these skills on a regular basis within my current position to speak and promote programs to individuals involved in and interested in agriculture.

Tell us about your MAPP project or preceptorship. In what ways did it help you form your career goals?

I did a three month intern/externship with the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). I worked under the Humane Handling Enforcement Coordinator in Washington D.C. to assess the efficacy of policies currently employed by FSIS regarding humane slaughter. This required me to analyze slaughter violations and policies from a variety of angles. During this process, I helped to determine that a better method of data collection was needed for food inspectors employed by the agency. I independently developed a mobile application to provide this service.

This experience enabled me to better understand the perspective of producers. I gained a working knowledge of how slaughter is conducted and how difficult it can be to ensure that the process is carried out humanely. The ability to understand the producer has helped me immensely in my current position. Although still a trainee, I have already begun to determine ways that I might be better able to make government programs work for the producer. My internship also enabled me to become skilled at data analysis, especially when it comes to analyzing public policy. Once my training is complete, I would like to use this skill to analyze policy in the Farm Service Agency in order to determine what programs work/do not work for farmers and what types of assistance would provide the most benefit to them. Additionally, I learned during my internship how to “sell” an idea (promoting my mobile application to IT and Senior Executives) and to explain data results to those who know little of my work. Although I have not yet utilized this skill in my current position, it will be useful when I need to explain and/or promote government programs and program policies to producers.

What did you enjoy most about participating in MAPP?

I enjoyed sharing both common and different interests with my classmates. In veterinary school, everyone was ultimately interested in one thing: becoming a veterinarian. There was little discussion and sharing of ideas and concepts. Once I entered the MAPP program I was able to appreciate the opinions and beliefs of devout meat eaters to vegans. It was wonderful to be able to mold new concepts and ideas. I made wonderful friends, learned a lot about something I am passionate about, and gained the skill of being able to promote my ideas to others and to be empathetic of others’ ideas. I would not trade my MAPP experience for the world.

Is there anything else you would like to share with prospective MAPP students?

Be open-minded, and do not be afraid of following a career path you never thought about before. It can be the best decision of your life… it certainly was for me!

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