Internship influences agriculture career path for Minnesota native

IMG_5154“It had never crossed my mind that I’d potentially be working in the agriculture industry,” says Rob Pezan, a Saint John’s University senior, who is finishing up an internship at the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute. “Getting this experience in this industry has been incredible for me, and I hope it will become a future career.”

Pezan, originally from Plymouth, Minnesota, will leave Saint John’s with a degree in global business and Hispanic studies. He knew that an internship was critical to getting the hands-on experience he wanted.

“I learned more in the first week with the Institute than I ever did in the classroom. It was really cool to see how everything I was working on was intertwined with what I was learning,” he reflects.

Pezan furthered the Institute’s work on the agriculture processing value chain. “I’ve been trying to figure out what the steps are from the farmers to the consumers. What can add value along the way?”

“The Institute’s work is made better by us understanding the environment in which our clients work, and that is what the value chain is all about,” explains Jen Wagner-Lahr, the Institute’s chief programming officer and Pezan’s supervisor. “This internship experience introduces a young person to an industry full of opportunities.”

“I didn’t know much about the agriculture industry until I started, and I learned that I enjoy working in it a lot,” Pezan explains. “The biggest thing that excites me about the agriculture industry is that I can see the impact of the work I do.”

His work at the Institute was not Pezan’s first experience working with entrepreneurs and small businesses. He has been an active participant and leader in the College of St. Benedict’s/St. John’s University Enactus club. Enactus stands for Entrepreneurs in Action, and the organization is focused on helping students develop leadership, teamwork and communication skills. In one project Pezan co-led, Enactus helped Hispanic women who have recently moved to the US run a business selling piñatas. Based on assistance and guidance from the college students, the women improved the business and many were able to transition to other long-term jobs. In addition, Enactus recently placed in the top 16 out of 500 in the country at the US National Exposition in St. Louis, Missouri.

Pezan is graduating from St. John’s on Sunday, May 10, and is seeking a career in the agricultural industry. He hopes to possibly have the opportunity to travel and experience agriculture around the world.