MTSU intern 'set bar pretty high' volunteering in state agriculture position

Dec 08, 2021 at 09:00 am by WGNS

Audience members listen to a Master of Science in Professional Science presentation Thursday, Dec. 2 (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Fermentation science graduate student Cathy Rubin left quite an impression with state agriculture officials — including MTSU alumnus and Commissioner Charles Hatcher, Deputy Commissioner Tom Womack and others — during a three-month internship.

An internship proposal Rubin helped design for the Tennessee Department of Agriculture Consumer and Industry Services division will be submitted to the Tennessee Department of Human Resources for future opportunities.

“Cathy did set the bar pretty high,” said Danny Sutton, consumer protection director for the division and an MTSU alumnus. “Commissioner Hatcher and Deputy Commissioner Womack were both present for her (Nov. 17) presentation and said this was a great effort on an internship. (They) were very impressed with how it was managed and the follow-through by Cathy was spot-on and excellent.”

Rubin recently joined nine others for an MTSU Master of Science in Professional Science internship presentation Dec. 2 in the Science Building. All but one will graduate Saturday, Dec. 11, in Murphy Center, earning master’s degrees in fermentation, health care informatics, engineering management, biostatistics, biotechnology and actuarial science. All completed internships this fall.

MSPS is a groundbreaking two-year master's degree program that combines curricula in business and STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — to produce in-demand, working graduates, many of whom land with the companies they interned with for one or more semesters.

Also known nationally as Professional Science Master's, or PSM, the MTSU degrees equip students for successful careers in business, nonprofit, government or the academic world.

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Rubin’s route to finish line

A Philippines native, Rubin, 47, a self-proclaimed foodie, volunteered for the internship and was “able to use and see how the knowledge I learned from the classroom was applied in daily life,” in summarizing her experience. “Director Danny Sutton and his team made sure I had a well-rounded experience by exposing me to the different sections of the Consumer and Industry Services division.”

“She was an exceptional intern and quickly fit in to the mode of operation here,” Sutton said. “No one goes to school to become a regulator. Most find their way through life and job experience. She is one of the very few that once she saw the big picture, it was clear, and she had some very specific talents that would make her a great addition to our team.”

The exposure Rubin gained to the division’s responsibilities was eye-opening.

“My supervisor, Patricia Szappanos-Hart, coordinated with various staff to shadow them during field inspections, ranging from grocery stores, dairy farms, produce farms, plant nursery and even a hemp farm,” she said. “I also toured the various laboratories that were part of the division. I realized that this division touches all of the Tennesseans in their daily lives in more ways than one to ensure consumer safety and we are not even aware of it.”

Professor and Fermentation Science Director Tony Johnston said “the internship program Cathy developed will directly impact an untold number of students in the future and is an exclamation point on her MSPS degree. … She’s an excellent student who quickly became a mentor and surrogate mother to many of the other MSPS fermentation science students.”

Rubin’s post-graduation plans include “taking a much-needed break,” she said. “I will work on a few projects and will look at other options after the holidays.”

Leaving MTSU imprint at internships

Fermentation students Braley Gentry, who will graduate next May, and Jane Wilson, both from Murfreesboro, interned at Delcato Family Wines in California and Hap & Harry’s Brewing Company in Nashville, Tennessee, respectively. Denmark, Tennessee, native and Antioch, Tennessee, resident Cecilia Nelson (PathGroup Labs) and Chiazam Odoh (Info Cycle) of Eha-alumona, Nigeria, pursued health care informatics degrees. Baghdad, Iraq, native and Murfreesboro resident Haider Alsaman’s engineering management internship was with Amazon.

Biostatistics’ Dreama Coats of Knoxville, Tennessee, interned at the Tennessee Department of Health, while Thomas Woodward (biotechnology) of Murfreesboro interned with Volunteer Botanicals. Actuarial science majors Brennan Langenbach of Franklin, Tennessee, and David A. Scheinberg, a Signal Mountain, Tennessee, native now living in Nashville, interned with Fortitude Re and MTSU, respectively.


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