Olivia Coffey always had an interest for international trade and foreign policy. However, the opportunity to gain experience in the field proved challenging until she heard about an internship at the Clayton Yeutter Institute of International Trade and Finance.
“International trade and foreign policy were always subjects where I would just read an article if it was about that. When I saw a newsletter article about the Yeutter Institute’s internship, I saw it as an opportunity to learn more about the specifics of those fields and how they work,” explained the Lincoln, Nebraska native.
She contacted the leader of the newly founded institute, Jill O’Donnell, director of the Yeutter Institute. As the founding director of the institute, O’Donnell looked for students like Coffey to carry out the mission of the organization to connect academic disciplines related to law, business and agriculture and prepare students for leadership roles in international trade and finance, support interdisciplinary research and increase public understanding of these issues.
“Clayton Yeutter was known for his foresight. He was challenging students to be ‘broad, creative and global’ in their thinking back in the 1980s. In building the Yeutter Institute to fulfill Clayton’s vision for students, it’s important to work with the students the institute serves,” said O’Donnell.
Coffey, as well as Bret Klabunde and Emily Loftis became the first-ever Yeutter Institute honors interns. Throughout their internship, the three spent a primary amount of their time assisting O’Donnell in research efforts the institute needed. This included tasks such as keeping current and relevant information on the institute’s webpage and researching the effects of the recent Nebraska flooding on the state’s infrastructure.
“Jill needed research on specific topics for speeches she was giving, among other projects. We watched quite a few congressional hearings, which was interesting because it’s not something I thought I would ever be doing. You hear a lot about what they do, but it is cool to see how everything actually goes down, what their processes are, how they talk, how the actual ins of government work,” said Klabunde, a senior economics and finance major form Fort Calhoun, Nebraska.
As a component of their internship, the students spent time working on a capstone research project on a specific topic within the field of international trade and finance to present in a panel discussion at the end of the semester. With assistance from O’Donnell, Coffey found a topic to research which resonated with her. Her project entailed the potential increase in Nebraska beef exports to Indonesia.
“I am an international business major and I love traveling, learning and interacting with different cultures. The capstone project was a chance for me to focus on one specific country and opportunities and growth within the country itself. I learned a lot about Indonesia and their government structure and economy,” said Coffey.
O’Donnell served as a source of support whenever any of the students needed assistance. She tied her wealth of experience into their internships, giving them opportunities to learn more about the field through their work.
“Jill introduced us to the world of international trade. You can see from the news that international trade is timely and it changes frequently so having Jill to talk about that stuff with us helped me gain a greater depth and breadth of knowledge on the area and made me feel like a more knowledgeable citizen in general,” said Loftis, a junior economics major from Kansas City, Missouri.
Through their capstone research projects, O’Donnell believes the interns reflected a strong understanding for international trade and its relevance in today’s world. She noted their work done in their internships laid a strong base for the future of the Institute.
“Olivia, Bret and Emily have all made foundational contributions to the Yeutter Institute in its early stages. They have worked well as a team to help develop the Institute’s plans for student engagement and social media. They have navigated enormous amounts of trade policy news coverage, research and commentary at a time of fast-moving developments on several fronts,” said O’Donnell.
After completing the internship, Coffey’s views on international trade expanded farther than they were mere months ago. Now with a wider perspective, she sees how relative trade is in all matters of life.
“I used to think trade only affected some people, and that it was a more international affair, but if I’m in the United States it didn’t matter as much. Now I realize it affects our lives so much in the economy of Nebraska and each state,” said Coffey. “During my final research project I learned just how important Nebraska beef exports are for the economy, as well as how important all of our other exports are. These are everyday farmers from Nebraska that affect the state’s economy, along with the national economy, and there is so much potential for change and growth. Everything that everyone does matters in the scope of things.”
To learn more about the Yeutter Institute and their internships, visit: https://yeutter-institute.unl.edu/