Terrance McKenzie

Terrance McKenzie says the greatest challenge was learning the different writing styles and understanding the word usage and jargon, not of the foreign country, but for the agency.

When Terrance McKenzie enrolled in the MBA program at South Carolina State University in 2012, he had no idea he would be provided with an opportunity that would have a significant impact on achieving his life and career goals.

But that is what happened in September 2013.

McKenzie was one of three students from the United States selected to spend the fall 2013 semester on an internship with the Foreign Agricultural Services in Brussels, Belgium.

The MBA program require students to complete an internship with a company or agency in their program area to receive three-hour course credit. McKenzie is a second-year MBA student with a concentration in agribusiness.

Through networking at MANNRS and ARD conferences, he learned about the internship program with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and one of its many agencies, the Foreign Agricultural Services. So to satisfy his internship requirement, he applied.

A few weeks later, he received an email stating he was qualified and would be advancing to the competition stage to compete with some of the best master’s and Ph.D. students across the nation.

“When I received the acceptance email, I was speechless,” McKenzie said. “The realization that I had been accepted to be an agricultural intern with FAS at the U.S. Embassy Tri-Mission to Brussels in Belgium was one of the most exciting moments in my academic career. I began my journey to a place I never imagined; it was a new beginning and a new state of mind.”

The USDA, which was established in 1862, represents many different agencies, all working to promote agriculture production, expand markets and support international economic development, job opportunities, and housing, while enhancing food safety preventing foodborne illnesses.

The Foreign Agricultural Service is one of many agencies of the USDA and is responsible for collecting, analyzing and disseminating information/data on global supply and demand, trade trends and market opportunities. FAS also creates programs to develop markets, provides export services, carrying out food aid and market-related technical assistance while linking international organizations together.

McKenzie described his assignment in Brussels as being very challenging but rewarding. His assigned tasks included conducting research, updating and writing reports on 4-5 projects daily. He indicates his greatest challenge was learning different writing styles and understanding the word usage and jargon for the agency.

“My greatest accomplishments,” McKenzie said, was the completion of a Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) report and the creation of a user-friendly database of questions and answers concerning food safety, legislation, genetically modified organisms, etc. within the European Commission. Both are published on the FAS website.

“This experience took me out of my comfort zone, but allowed me to discover my many strengths and weaknesses,” McKenzie said. “I realized I was working at the U.S. Embassy in Europe with the two most powerful countries in the world working together to advance trade developments. I was in the heart of it all; learning firsthand how these systems work, the amount of time and dedication it takes to actually make all of this work.

“Being a part of this great achievement is an experience, a moment I will never forget. I look forward to ‘polishing my armor,’ working on my weaknesses, and advancing my strengths. To think all of this started at a small HBCU – South Carolina State University – one of the greatest in the nation. It is not where you attend school, but what you make of your attendance,” said McKenzie, who will receive his MBA in May 2014.

“We are very proud of Terrance and all of our MBA students,” says Dr. Barbara Adams, interim dean of the SCSU School of Business. All of our graduates are successfully employed.”

For more information on the program, contact Ellen Ricoma, MBA director, at 803-533-3777.



Lee Harter has been editor of The Times and Democrat since 1981

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