By Maria Buzzelli.
Sarah Proto, a senior majoring in agricultural and resource economics, was drawn to a few career paths after transferring to UConn. She quickly realized that the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ARE) program offered exactly what she was looking for. Proto is a multifaceted student who has a passion for food systems and agriculture. She has interned with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) and is an active member of UConn Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), where she advocates for zero-waste initiatives. She is ready to enter the job market in May 2021 and is confident that she will find her ideal career path after graduation.
What attracted you to the UConn College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources?
I had just transferred to UConn and felt lost about which school I wanted to be in. Around the same time, I started my job at Whole Foods Market, and knew I had an interest in the environment, particularly in agriculture. My previous college had a heavy emphasis on environmental protection and being green, which I think also sparked my interest in transferring into this particular school.
Why did you choose your particular major?
I was originally an international business major, and the economics side of that was something I enjoyed learning about. The ARE program has allowed me to study economics, policy, food systems and countless other topics. The flexibility of classes I could take was perfect, as it took a lot of time to realize that agriculture is the field I’m most interested in within the major.
Which one of your UConn activities, internships or jobs was the most memorable? Why?
I am just wrapping up my six months of being an intern at the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP). Having real work experience as an undergraduate has been extremely valuable, and two of my colleagues graduated with a master’s degree in ARE. Getting a feel for a potential career in the future and being able to network has given me confidence and knowledge and makes me excited to start my career.
Name two other experiences that have enriched your studies.
I was an intern at UConn PIRG in the zero-waste campaign, and learned a lot about how to lead a team and become comfortable talking with other students. Learning about activism and how to improve the community has given me experience that I can take into the classroom as I learn about environmental justice and food insecurity. I also took part in the Emotionally Intelligent Leadership (EIL) certificate program this semester, where I got to learn about my leadership style and how to be conscious of the people around me and working in a team setting. We took many assessments about our work styles and how we respond to conflict, which I will use in the new work experiences I’ll be in once I graduate.
What has been the biggest challenge in your UConn career?
My first semester at Storrs was difficult, and I felt like I had made a mistake transferring. Being new and not knowing anyone is scary, but when I started taking ARE classes I gained more confidence. Being in classes with people who care about the same things you do is very empowering.
When do you expect to graduate? What then?
I expect to graduate in May 2021. After that, I hope to start a career in agriculture. The job market is tough, especially in the pandemic, but I am going to apply everywhere and keep networking. I feel very prepared by UConn to be successful in interviews and job searching in general. I know eventually I’ll find a career I’m passionate about.
Has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your studies or research?
I have always been a commuter, so doing work at home online is very comfortable to me. I am incredibly privileged to say that being at home has actually cut out a lot of the stress of commuting, allowing me to focus more time on my studies. However, I do miss interacting with professors in person. I have had very influential professors, and interacting online just isn’t the same as being in class with them.
Is there anything else you would like us to know about you?
I started out as an international business major at my previous school and actually transferred into UConn with the plan to be a music major. I’ve been playing the flute for twelve years now, but I ultimately came to the decision that I didn’t want to make it a career. I changed my major about four times before finally deciding on ARE!