If you’re inclined to be cynical about government, have a chat with James Lindgren ’15 (Marshalltown, Iowa), who just spent the summer working for the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. He has only good things to say about the experience.
In high school, Lindgren presented a paper at the World Food Prize symposium in Des Moines, which brings together leaders working to improve the quality and availability of food throughout the world. When Lindgren heard former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack speak there, he says, “I knew then this is something I’ll care about for the rest of my life.”
“[James] made himself invaluable...as he worked closely with senior staff to prepare schedules, write briefings, and [assist] the Secretary.”
—Sally Cluthe, director of Scheduling and Advance, Office of U.S. Secretary of Agriculture
That symposium led Lindgren to an internship with an NGO in Bangladesh, where he helped evaluate the success of a climate change and food security initiative. Although he lived in Dhaka, Lindgren spent significant time interviewing farmers, occasionally in their native Bangla, which he picked up on the job.
These experiences, in turn, led to Lindgren’s internship last summer at the USDA, in the office of Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack. There he reported to Director of Scheduling and Advance Sally Cluthe, who encouraged him to pursue the projects he found most interesting. Lindgren was soon immersed in issues of climate change, food access, and agricultural policy.
“James was a true leader and a tremendous asset to USDA,” says Cluthe. “He made himself invaluable as he prepared schedules, wrote briefings, and [assisted] the Secretary both within the USDA and at places such as the White House and CNN. James distinguished himself with his initiative, hard work, and dedication to critical issues related to climate change and global food security.”
The geology major often rode back from events with Vilsack, which gave him “valuable opportunities to discuss policy and programs,” says Lindgren, who is still a bit awed at his access to a cabinet head. “My workweek averaged 55 hours,” he says, “but I loved every minute.”
Putting his knowledge and recent experience to good use, Lindgren co-chaired the Call to Action student committee at the college’s recent International Roundtable focused on the globalization of food.
He’s equally excited about hydrology, his particular geologic interest. “I see my future at the intersection of water and food,” he says, “where hard science meets social policy.”