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Internship Program Provides Credentials for Job Search

By Kim Colavito Markesich

Originally published by Naturally@UConn on July 26, 2016

According to a 2012 survey of employers conducted by the Chronicle of Higher Education and American Public Media’s Marketplace, an internship is the single most important credential for recent college graduates in their job search.

The UConn Extension/4-H Internship Program was created to offer paid career-oriented summer internships to undergraduate students. Students take what they learn in the classroom and apply it in the field, while assisting extension educators with program delivery.

“We’ve focused on underclassmen as it is very difficult for them to secure summer internships in these specialized career fields,” says Paul Gagnon, the College’s career consultant with UConn Center for Career Development.

Students apply for the competitive internships, and if selected, they complete a learning agreement that includes an outline of the summer project objectives and expected outcomes. In addition, each student receives mid-summer and end-of-summer evaluations and must take a non-credit notation course that requires a summary paper. While students do not receive academic credit for the course, upon completion the internship is noted on their official transcript.

“Last summer I was an intern at the Windham County Extension Center,” says Holly Lewis, who recently completed her junior year in the Department of Allied Health Sciences. “I split my time between 4-H STEM workshops, the 4-H county fair, agriculture research and gardening. I planned team building and science-based activities that we used at day camps throughout eastern Connecticut.”

Lewis continues, “I researched the dry matter intake of dairy cows, beef and goats, and sampled pastures and recorded information on the management of thirteen farms. Assisting Joyce Meader [extension dairy/livestock educator], we produced data for the farmers to use in future feeding plans for their livestock. Once a week, I helped maintain and learn about caring for an extension garden in the Willimantic School District. I also assisted with the planning, advertisement and running of the fair.”

Erinn Hines

Erinn Hines with two 4-H members.

Says Erinn Hines, “During my time at the internship, I worked alongside my supervisor, Margaret Grillo [extension educator], to develop educational programs for New Haven/Middlesex County 4-H.” Hines is entering her senior year in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies. “I gathered curriculum for Discover 4-H, a monthly STEM activity email subscription. I also helped implement a healthy living program for the New Haven/Middlesex county 4-H Fair in August, encouraging families to incorporate more activity into their daily life. Aside from these projects, I worked with my supervisor throughout the summer to prepare for the fair. I’m looking forward to returning to the extension center this summer.”

“It’s been very helpful that Erinn is a former 4-H’er, because she was very familiar with the program,” says Grillo. “This summer we’re developing curriculum for a new science program for youth ages 7 to 12 called Discover Science through 4-H.”

The internships are funded through donations to the UConn Extension held by the UConn Foundation. For summer 2016, ninety students applied for twenty-six possible slots in a variety of extension programs throughout the state. After evaluation of applicants’ skills, interests and geographical issues, fourteen internships were awarded. Collaborating with Gagnon to facilitate the program are Michael O’Neill, associate dean and associate director for UConn Extension; Bonnie Burr, department head and assistant director of UConn Extension; and Marilyn Gould, administrative assistant.

“We’re really seeing a great interest from faculty, staff and students,” says O’Neill. “We receive requests from extension offices and, starting this year, we have accepted requests from outside companies looking for interns skilled and interested in the areas served by UConn Extension. We are reaching out to alumni and businesses to help increase funding and expand the program.”

John McDonald, a psychology major and urban studies minor, will graduate in December 2016. He interned during the summer and fall of 2015 with Laura Brown, extension educator in community and economic development at the Fairfield County Extension Center. “I conducted a literature review of greenways and multi-use trails in support of the Naugatuck River Greenway (NRG) economic impact analysis and reviewed literature on environmental observation in support of the First Impressions community exchange program. I attended meetings of the NRG steering committee and presented with Laura at the fall extension seminar.”

“This is another great way for us to support our students and give them a head start in their careers,” O’Neill notes. “We are also finding that as employers get to know our interns, they are discovering the benefits of working with the students.”

Internships for summer 2016 include:

Will Teas

Intern Will Teas

Nonpoint Education for Municipal Officials (NEMO) MS4 Stormwater Management Internship (Middlesex County Extension Center). William Teas, natural resources and the Environment major, is working with UConn’s Center for Land Use Education and Research (CLEAR) NEMO program team to develop resources for communities facing new stormwater management (“MS4”) regulations. The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (CT DEEP) has developed robust new regulations for Connecticut communities and institutions who manage a separate stormwater system, and CLEAR is developing workshops, websites and other materials to support communities in meeting those requirements.

Center for Land Use Education and Research and CT ECO Geospatial Internship (Middlesex County Extension Center). Luke Gersz, Natural Resources and the Environment major, is working with the UConn CLEAR geospatial team to advance the map catalog part of the CT ECO website. CT ECO is a partnership between UConn CLEAR and CT DEEP to make Connecticut’s natural resource geospatial information available.

Community Nutrition Programming Intern (Fairfield County Extension Center). Julia Cobuzzi, allied health sciences major, is working in community nutrition programming in Fairfield County and will have the opportunity to work with two federal nutrition programs,  the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) and SNAP-Ed (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education).

Emergency Preparedness Intern (UConn, Avery Point). Thomas Martella, cognitive science major in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, is working with a diverse group from UConn Extension and with town officials, and will gain experience in creating/editing videos, developing script and posting information on a website. This effort is required as Connecticut’s coastal communities face increasing risks due to storm and flood events, yet attitudes and actions toward emergency preparedness and evacuations are often lackadaisical.

Sustainable Food Systems Research Intern – Buy Local Initiatives and Marketing Approaches (Tolland County Extension Center). Anne Page, finance major in UConn’s School of Business, is conducting a literature review on public education strategies that promote buy local behavior in direct and institutional markets, forming a foundational piece of research for future iterations of UConn Extension’s CT 10% Campaign and the Live Local projects. The office is a shared work space, where there is exciting interaction with team members that work on FoodCorps, CT Food Justice VISTA Project and the CT 10% Campaign.

Invasive Plant internship (Storrs). Kelsey Brennan, individualized major in sustainable agriculture in the College, is assisting with the development, coordination and implementation of numerous invasive plant management activities in Connecticut, including prevention, early detection, rapid response, monitoring, control (including biological control of the invasive plants mile-a-minute weed and purple loosestrife) and disposal. The intern will primarily work with members of the Connecticut Invasive Plant Working Group (CIPWG) but will also gain experience in interacting with scientists and other educators in the field to learn about non-native invasives.

IPM at Bishop’s Orchards in Guilford

Through its offices located throughout Connecticut, UConn Extension connects the power of UConn research to local issues by creating practical, science-based answers to complex problems. Extension provides scientific knowledge and expertise to the public in areas such as: economic viability, business and industry, community development, agriculture and natural resources. This post, written by Mary Concklin explores how UConn Extension programs impact an agricultural business.

tomatoesIntegrated pest management (IPM) takes many forms at Bishop’s Orchards in Guilford. Dr. Jude Boucher, UConn Vegetable Production & IPM extension specialist, has been working with Bishop’s in season long vegetable IPM training aimed at increasing the production of high quality produce while avoiding unnecessary pesticide applications. Boucher has worked with Bishop’s field manager, Michaele Williams, scouting tomatoes on a weekly basis and teaching how to install preventative practices that help lower the incidence of disease and raise the yield and quality of their tomatoes. Preventative practices include plastic and living mulches for weed control, which also serve as a mechanical barrier for spores that might otherwise splash up from the soil. Timely irrigations through trickle lines under the plastic, trellis systems, plant pruning, and proper site selection help keep the plants healthy and growing, lift the plants off the ground, thin the leaf canopy and allow the leaves to dry quicker so that they are less prone to diseases problems. Fungicides can be used only when needed and applied when computer models call for an application or when a disease is actually found during weekly scouting. Insects on tomatoes, Brussel sprouts, onions and other crops are controlled with microbial insecticides that are not toxic to humans and spare natural enemies to help prevent future pest outbreaks. Working with Extension also helps Michaele learn to recognize pests and natural enemies and design management systems on a host of new crops that the farm is now growing, from squash blossoms to beets.

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NEWA weather station. Photo: Mary Concklin

Mary Concklin, UConn Fruit Production & IPM extension specialist, works with Bishop’s Orchards with fruit crop IPM. Bishop’s Orchard has been the site of in-field workshops conducted by Concklin for the fruit industry including blueberry pruning and apple tree grafting. Blueberry pruning is important for maintaining plant health, improving berry production, and reducing pest problems, while grafting is an important tool used to top work fruit trees to varieties that are more productive, more marketable or resistant to particular diseases. Through a USDA Specialty Crop grant, Concklin installed a solar powered weather station whose data feeds directly into the Network for Environment and Weather Applications (NEWA) at Cornell University. The data, run through pest models and accessible at www.newa.cornell.edu, is used by growers to help with pest management, irrigation and fruit thinning decisions. Concklin, in cooperation with Bishop’s Orchards and the USDA, has also been using pheromone traps to monitor for the presence of the new invasive insect pest, the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug. In addition she has monitored the bramble crops for the presence of the Spotted Wing Drosophila, another new invasive insect pest. Information garnered from these activities has been useful to the Bishop’s in determining management strategies.

Extension App Challenge

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The UConn Extension App Challenge is a contest to develop innovative apps that tie UConn’s research to real life. Students are invited to work with a UConn Extension faculty member to develop software applications for smartphones, tablets, or web browsers that create greater community access to UConn science, research, and information. Students developing the most innovative and effective apps

Student Prizes:

1st Place: $1500

2nd Place: $1000

3rd Place: $500

Winners of the UConn Challenge will also be entered into a regional Extension App Challenge with the possibility of additional cash prizes.

Contest Details:

The contest will be conducted in 3 Phases.

Phase 1 – Idea Submission (October – November 2014)

UConn faculty will submit app ideas for inclusion in the Challenge. The applications will be evaluated by a panel of judges for potential innovation, impact, and value to extension programming. The panel will then select the top 5 to 10 app ideas for students to work on. Students interested in joining the challenge can then choose which App they would like to help develop. To submit an idea go here.(link to idea submission page)

Phase II – App Development (November 2014 – April 2015)

Students will work closely with faculty to develop a working prototype of the App. Apps can be created on any platform or for any browser.

Phase III – App Presentation and Selection (May – June 2015)

Challenge Teams will submit a working prototype of the App and a brief 1-3 minute video demonstrating the App to the Judges for review. Judges will review the submission and select winners based on the evaluation criteria.

Eligibility:

All current, full-time UConn undergraduate and graduate students are able to participate.

For more information, contact extension@uconn.edu.