Taylor Harms of Lincolnville apparently has yet to meet a learning opportunity she doesn’t like.
One would think the 2012 Marion High School graduate had enough on her plate, majoring in family studies and human services at Kansas State University, with animal sciences and industry and leadership studies as minor concentrations.
Still, this spring Harms couldn’t pass on the opportunity to be an intern for Kansas Department of Agriculture Secretary Jackie McClaskey.
She had to apply and interview for the Governor’s Office Internship Program, but she went into it with an advantage — McClaskey had already talked with her about becoming an intern.
“I’ve had opportunities to work with her on projects before through Kansas Livestock Association and FFA,” Harms said.
She started working part-time for McClaskey in January, juggling her schedule to fit around her 15-credit course schedule. Once the semester was over, Harms went full time for the summer.
The internship worked because KDA moved the majority of its operations to Manhattan last year, so Harms didn’t have to commute between Manhattan and Topeka.
Harms’ parents, Mark and Kim, operate Harms Plainview Ranch, a cattle seed stock operation south of Lincolnville, so Harms knew beef industry issues well, she said. The learning curve for everything else has been steep.
“There are so many different facets of ag — crops, water conservation, livestock — and they all interconnect,” Harms said. “You can get in your own little niche, and I kind of forgot that there are so many parts of it.”
Harms works for McClaskey and the KDA leadership team, spending much of her time researching policy issues. She also accompanies McClaskey to various events, and such trips are “a lot of fun” because of their prior acquaintance, Harms said.
However, what Harms didn’t know was that McClaskey apparently doesn’t care to celebrate her birthday at work.
“The whole office knew it,” Harms said. “I brought in a doughnut and a card. It was kind of funny.”
Harms said she has no idea from one day to the next what project she may be working on.
She has friends who are communications and marketing interns with KDA, and sharing experiences with them provides more diversity for learning, particularly relative to processes in Topeka.
“I didn’t know a whole lot about politics and the legislature,” Harms said. “It’s been really good for me.”
The influence of her parents is evident throughout her education and experience, Harms said.
“They’ve always been my biggest role models,” she said. “From the time I was little I was surrounded by Kansas Livestock Association and Cattlemen’s Beef Association activities. The apple did not fall too far from the tree.”
Once the internship is complete, Harms will put some of her learning to use as a member of the inaugural class of the Snyder Leadership Legacy Fellows program, which will focus on football coach Bill Snyder’s 16 goals for success. She said she plans to attend graduate school, possibly in agriculture communications.