Finding ways to grow professionally and to stand out among peers can be challenging at a university with more than 52,000 students. To help bolster resumes and grow as young professionals, students pursue experiential learning and professional development opportunities outside the classroom, which can be expensive. For students in the UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS), expensive doesn’t mean impossible.
To combat students’ financial struggles, UF Senior Vice President for Agriculture and Natural Resources Scott Angle and CALS Dean Elaine Turner are committed to supporting experiential learning opportunities for CALS students through the VP Promise initiative, which provides financial assistance for undergraduate students. Through the VP Promise, the college assists in eliminating barriers for students who pursue immersive experiences in the areas of agriculture, life sciences and natural resources.
With support from the VP Promise, students have been able to attend notable leadership conferences, participate in impactful internships and present their research to prominent figures in their field at national and international conferences.
This past year, fifteen undergraduate students made the trek from Florida to Kansas City, Mo., for the Agriculture Future of America (AFA) Leaders Conference with support from the VP Promise. The four-day conference fosters the development of professional skills, relationships with fellow students and professional connections with leaders in the agriculture industry.
“The leadership skills I have learned and the relationships I cultivated made this conference one of the best I have attended,” said AFA participant and agricultural education and communication student Elanie Mason.
Attendees also participated in an opportunity fair to make connections with potential future employers for internships or full-time work.
During the spring 2022 semester, Austin Burton, a junior studying environmental science, completed a legislative internship with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS). Hosted by the UF Bob Graham Center, Burton was placed as a legislative affairs intern through the Tallahassee Internship Program. Through the Carl Loop Legislative Internship Scholarship, part of the VP Promise initiative, Burton was financially able to live and work in Tallahassee, gaining legislative experience in the heart of the state capital.
Milly Gandhi, another student who took advantage of the VP Promise, was able to present her research on 3-D printing and plant growth at the American Society for Gravitational and Space Research (ASGSR) in Houston, Tex. This conference provides students a forum to foster research, education and professional development in the fields of gravitational life and physical science research.
“My research opened the doors to more connections and more opportunities,” Gandhi said. She appreciated the time to connect with current researchers in space agriculture and share her own work with those working in the same field. “It was so nice to meet people who remembered me and were impacted by my research.”
The VP Promise has helped countless students achieve their educational goals. As Giving Day approaches, consider donating to the VP Promise initiative to help students develop as professionals in the classroom and beyond.
ABOUT THE UF/IFAS COLLEGE OF AGRICULTURAL AND LIFE SCIENCES
The College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) administers the degree programs of the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS). The mission of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences is to deliver unsurpassed educational programs that prepare students to address the world’s critical challenges related to agriculture, food systems, human wellbeing, natural resources and sustainable communities. The college has received more total (national and regional combined) USDA teaching awards than any other institution.