October 9, 2015 – Ensuring America’s nation’s food security is a job requirement for USDA Agricultural Specialists Arrisia Sims and Toria Cody, two Fort Valley State University alums who currently work for the Department of Homeland Security and help guard our nation’s airports and sea ports. Recently, the Wildcat graduates returned to campus to speak with undergraduate plant science biotechnology program students about their experiences with the DHS, and about potential careers paths within the department available for science majors.
The DHS visits were arranged by Romelda Simmons, FVSU’s director of Career and Alumni Services, to introduce students to alternative career paths.
According to Sims, agricultural specialists regulate commodities, prohibit illegal contraband from coming into the country that can cause pestilence and disease, and regulate items that come into the country (including food and plant items). The agency also works hand in hand with law enforcement to intercept drugs before they enter the country.
Sims started working for the agency in 2008, after graduating in 2006 with plant Science biotechnology major. She was a former student in the biotechnology program. The specialist applied for the program in 2006, underwent 12 months of training and began working for DHS a year later. Sims said that her job is always interesting. She has seen a number of strange cases, including finding several dead monkeys wrapped in plastic and shipped in boxes.
“One time, I found meat that was around a package of cocaine, heroin inside of fruit boxes and live birds,” Sims said. “I call it a surprise party, because you never know what you might get when inspecting cargo.”
Toria Cody, an agricultural specialist with the DHS, earned her bachelor’s degree in biology in 2006.
The alum wanted to enter into a pre-med program and start training to become a doctor. A job recruitment fair on FVSU’s campus changed the course of the student’s life forever when she learned about positions with the Department of Homeland Security. Cody applied. The agricultural specialist said that she learned that she received the job three weeks after she graduated from campus.
“I decided to take a year off, before I started working with the Department of Homeland security,” she received one year’s worth of training, and has worked with the organization since 2008. Her job not only involves examining cargo for potential violations, but also meeting Hollywood royalty and stars.
Cody plans to take a position with the Department of Homeland Security within the Arab Emirates in October. She will remain in the Middle East for two years, examining potentially dangerous cargo before it enters into the United States. Cody has this advice for students.
“I would say you could be any science-related major that applies for this job,” Cody said. “Don’t count us out, because a career with Homeland Security opens doors to many other jobs.”
Cody continued, “If you already have a plan set in stone, then follow it. But, if you’re like me and you’ve had a plan, but changed your mind, look into a career with Homeland Security. It won’t be too late to go back to school and continue with your plans.”
Cody says that after she finishes her career with Homeland Security. The graduate says she will return to medical school and pursue a career in nursing. Even while pursuing her nursing degree, the FVSU student says that she will continue to work in Homeland Security, because she enjoys her job.
For details, contact Dr. Sarwan Dhir, director of the Center for Biotechnology, at (478) 822-1057.