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Karman Chao is a native of Brooklyn, New York and currently a rising Senior at Fordham University. We recently interviewed her about her placement this summer at the United States Department of Agriculture – Rural Development (USDA-RD).

What are your main responsibilities at your position? What are some of your big projects?

I work with the Program Support Staff (PSS) department under the Rural Housing Services (RHS) agency in RD. However, my supervisors made sure I would have a valuable learning experience this summer by introducing me to their various colleagues throughout RHS. By doing so, I currently work with many people who have different responsibilities within RHS, and this allows me to gain a better and hands-on understanding of what RHS does.

My first assignment was to contact RHS’ state offices nationally to create an updated directory of the state offices for PSS. As the internship progressed, I was invited to sit in on meetings with PSS, or meetings with the Legislative and Public Affairs Staff (LAPAS), the Public Information Coordinator (PIC), and weekly Publications Advisory Committee meetings. Later on, I will be shadowing the RHS Administrator, which I am very excited about!

Some of my ongoing projects include completing annotated literature reviews on research pieces done on RHS programs, organizing and inputting financial invoices onto PSS’s annual budget spreadsheet, reviewing drafts of texts for informational publications on RHS programs, and helping the Section 502 Guaranteed Single Family Home Loan Program continue its mission of operating paperless by converting hard copies of lender agreement documents into electronic copies. More interpersonally, I am also working on a yearbook for the USDA, RD interns for this summer, and I was the MC for USDA’s 2015 Intern Welcome Reception.

How does this internship fit with your career goals?

Working with the Rural Housing Services in USDA-RD fits with my professional goals because I would like to continue helping others as a career. In RHS, there are multiple programs that help individuals, families, and communities in many ways to build facilities and help them pursue their goals. RHS provides opportunities that may not happen without their assistance, whether it is building a new home for an elderly person to help them live independently, assisting a family to build and own a new home through a loan guaranteed through the RHS, or giving local businesses the opportunity to repair, expand, and upgrade their premises.
Similarly, I hope I can positively impact people by providing them with resources and assistance they may need but do not have access to for whatever reason as a career. With this internship, I became familiar with a new way to help people. Through CAPAL, I am learning more about AAPI issues and how I can effectively tackle them. I am also provided opportunities to meet a plethora of people who have more experience than I do, and I can ask them for advice and their experiences with fields I am currently interested in pursuing.

What do you hope to achieve this summer through your scholarship/internship experience?

As a rising senior, I hope to develop personally and professionally through this internship before I begin the job hunting process. Personally, I hope to meet new people and make new friends for a memorable summer, as this is my first time away from New York City for so long. Being surrounded by so many motivated and passionate peers inspires me to continue towards my ultimate career goal.

Since the latter years of high school, I have been actively involved within the Asian American community locally. In the future, I hope to stay involved with the AAPI community as part of my career, and now that I am in the nation’s heart of politics, I can get a taste of what it may be like to serve people on a national level. I can also explore my options of what I would like to do in the future, since there are so many organizations and causes to work with, and people who I may speak with for advice and valuable insight. Through this experience, I hope to ultimately determine what I would like to do, and what issues and causes I am most passionate about.

What does public service mean to you?

To me, public service means being able to give back to a community that has helped me be who I am today. It is the act of helping people who may not have access to the goods and services they need, or even being aware of available resources. Public service can be volunteering and becoming a part of a community without asking for or expecting anything in return. Public service is knowing you helped make a positive difference in someone’s life.

What do you consider to be the most interesting thing about you?

I can eat durian and sushi all the time (separately, of course).

What are you most excited to do in Washington DC this summer?

I am most excited about exploring a new city this summer. The museums are all free in DC and I hope to take advantage of that! I hope to visit as many museums as I can. I also hope to see many of the attractions and see if I can find a great slice of pizza that is comparable to a slice from NYC.

Karman Chao is a proud native New Yorker and is a rising senior at Fordham University, studying political science, and communication and media studies. She is interested in politics, Asian American issues, and new media. When she is not busy with classes and studying, she volunteers as the program director of a Service Learning program with the Chinese-American Planning Council in Brooklyn, where she plans and hosts weekly workshops for a group of thirty local high schoolers and coordinates events for the participants throughout the school year. After beginning college, Karman has attended three East Coast Asian American Student Union conferences and enjoys learning about different issues affecting the AAPI community. In the future, Karman hopes to become directly involved in the AAPI community to provide assistance to those who need it, advance social justice for AAPIs, and raise awareness about issues affecting the community. She also hopes to become involved with politics to increase representation of AAPIs in politics, and possibly work at an advertising/marketing agency. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking and watching cooking shows, binging on Netflix, taking walks in green spaces, and solving puzzles.

Check back for our Scholar & Intern Highlights coming out every Tuesday and Thursday this summer!

Posted by Taylor Huang-Boutelle, an incoming Senior at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She is double majoring in World Literature and Feminist Studies, with a concentration in Law, Politics, and Social Change. Taylor is under the D.C. program for the Center for Asian Americans United for Self Empowerment (www.causeusa.org) and is currently one of the Summer Interns at the Conference on Asian Pacific American Leadership, where she is focusing on development and fundraising, and will be developing the blog content for this summer. Taylor is passionate about issues of representation, coalition between underserved communities, and creating spaces for strength and solidarity around injustices through community activism and public policy. taylor.boutelle [at] capal [dot] org