Constructing A Difference

My experience for the first couple weeks at Carolina Farm Credit has been both an enlightening, and challenging time. My first week as an intern was conducted remotely. Although we are operating under unprecedented circumstances, the week proceeded relatively smoothly. The week comprised of computer based training modules, and general employee onboarding. During this time, I was able to connect with the new interns, as well as introduce myself to the CFC staff and management. I was also introduced to my mentor for the summer, Ellie, who would act as a guide through my time with CFC. The week concluded with preparation for the big day in office the following Monday.

My mentor and I excitedly delved into work Monday morning. I would describe the first week in office as illuminating. My role as a first week intern was basically to learn and absorb as much as possible. In office operations consisted of a general introduction to services offered at the branch, as well as basic information of each staff member’s responsibilities in office. I was able to practice processing applications for common lending services such as lot, equipment, and land loans. Through these loans, CFC is capable of financing both small and commercial farming ventures. CFC also offers specific loan services for young, novice farmers initiating their own farm projects. This service assists new farmers mitigate some of the start-up costs, as well access capital or vital equipment. I found the YBS (Young, Beginning, and Small) services to be most interesting, as I too aspire to have my own farming operations.

As the week progressed, I shadowed client phone calls and meetings held by my mentor. The most notable, and challenging, meeting of the week occurred with an existing client. The meeting began with common pleasantries of introduction, including name and hometown origins. I, a proud Chicagoan native, relished the chance to reveal my big city upbringing in the tiny rural town. But I was met with a disheartening "Well, I hope you stay down here so you don’t get shot." I respectfully countered the remark, but—unfortunately, I was immediately reminded of past experiences challenging implicit biases as one of the few, and more often only, black woman in predominately white corporate spaces.

As coined by Harvard University professor Chester M. Pierce in 1970, microaggressions can be defined as brief and common forms of verbal or behavioral discrimination that can be both intentional or unintentional, and are often difficult to pinpoint. For many Black and marginalized people, microaggressions are so routine that it would almost seem impractical, or even pointless to address them at all. I’d be dishonest to say I did not expect challenges servicing the specifically rural demographic that CFC accommodates, or navigating another uniform environment. I believe, however, it is the responsibility of all employees to disrupt the perpetuation of harmful and demoralizing behaviors. A 2020 piece from the New York Times notes, "The normalization of microaggressions is antithetical to a well-rounded society with equal opportunities for marginalized individuals." Regardless of position, we each have a responsibility to our profession, community, and selves to cultivate a healthy, positive work environment for all employees.

Although there were obstacles, my impression of Carolina Farm Credit is still positive and hopeful. Over the course of the summer I hope to connect to the community, the organization services, and most importantly acquire the skills to service and accommodate CFC client needs to the best of my ability.

On a deeper, more personal level, I would like to experience this internship fully, as myself. I hope to experience an organization that fosters and encourages an environment of cultural outreach, inclusivity, open communication, support & advocacy for all employees, current and prospective. I hope to take with me experiences and new perspective that will nurture my professional development, regardless of organization.