Young Alum of the Month: Amber Herman

Amber Herman
Title and Company: 
Assistant Director at United States Department of Agriculture Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships
Davenport, Iowa
Major and Graduation Date: 
Public Service and Administration in Agriculture, Secondary Major in International Agriculture, December 2006
Major Job/Position Responsibilities: 

Every day, I get to bring together passionate non-profit organization directors, faith and community leaders and federal career and political folks to solve the challenges facing the most vulnerable people in our nation and around the world. Our office is dedicated to listening to the concerns of communities and connected them with the government's vast resources. I am the liaison between the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, other federal agencies that have faith-based and community offices, and USDA Agencies such as the Forest Service, Food and Nutrition Service, Foreign Agriculture Service, Rural Development and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (CREES). This requires building relationships, sharing information and collaborating by participating in conference calls and meetings.

What you like most about your job/position: 

Community leaders are used to being ignored by government and my job is to welcome them in and listen. When the phone rings, I have no idea what to expect. For example, it may be a pastor trying to find out how to get running water to his community in the Mississippi Delta or a large corporation offering their resources to help feed hungry folks across the United States. I am always learning something new about faith traditions and how their religious belief drives them to want to solve hunger and poverty.

What advice would you give to current students: 
  1. Learn a second language before you graduate from college.
  2. STUDY ABROAD (in a developing country) before or during your junior year.
  3. If you can afford it, consider an internship in Washington, DC before you graduate! (Our office is ALWAYS looking for interns.)
  4. Seriously consider federal government employment at the United States Department of Agriculture. Whatever your skill set, there is a place for you here.
  5. Even though you have graduated from school make sure to never stop learning. Read the newspaper and books, go to lectures, travel and take a class in something you never had a chance to study!


Favorite ISU classes:

Sociology 464: Community Action and Leadership. Dr. Stephen Aigner's course reframed the way I view community development. Rooted in theory but practical in application, this course influenced my ethics and affirmed my career interests in community development. I apply these course concepts everyday in my work at the Department of Agriculture and in my personal interactions with the broader DC community.

Sociology 411: Social Change in Developing Countries. Dr. Robert Mazur's course articulated the linkages between micro and macro-level social phenomena that impacts development. I helped redesign the class project, critically reflected on the role of institutions on development and how advocacy campaigns in the United States can influence change across the globe. This course was instrumental in helping me think through the research project I conducted in Uganda, Africa.

Political Science 363: Media and Politics. Dr. Dirk Deam's unconventional course, taught in the Socratic Method, requires students to write and verbally defend concise and thoughtful arguments. The course humbled me to admit my mistakes, reinvigorated my drive to produce exceptional work, and left me unafraid of difficult debates. This course has greatly impacted how I read the newspaper, evaluate news and engage in dialogue with colleagues.

Agronomy 114: Dr. Russell Mullen's course was a whole new experience for me, an Iowa "urban" student. This foundation course in agronomy was incredibly challenging and required lots of long hours in the lab studying with the graduate student tutors. I appreciated the professor's dedication to the students, the hands-on training and the difficult debates regarding biofuels, addressing hunger and genetically modified crops. This course inspired me to be an active gardener!