Experiential Learning with UF/IFAS Extension

It’s not often a child is heard saying, “When I grow up, I want to be an Extension agent!” For Elanie Mason, that career choice became a new focus, thanks to her transformative experience with the UF/IFAS Extension internship program. 

The UF/IFAS Extension internship program is a collaborative effort between the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) and UF/IFAS Extension. This experiential learning opportunity offers a paid summer internship to university students interested in agriculture, natural resources or community development. Each student, like Mason, is placed in one of 67 county UF/IFAS Extension offices throughout Florida.

Elanie Mason standing in front of UF/IFAS Extension Clay County sign
Elanie Mason in front of the UF/IFAS Extension Clay County office

Mason, a current graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in agricultural education and communication, spent her last summer as an undergraduate student completing an internship with UF/IFAS Extension Clay County. Diving headfirst into the world of Family and Consumer Sciences, Mason quickly learned no two days are the same with a career in Extension. 

Throughout her internship, Mason’s focus moved from organizing summer camps to promote healthy eating habits for children, to spearheading career readiness programs for underprivileged teenagers. Mason understood a good Extension agent knows how to balance practical learning and fun.

“The best part was being able to take the teenagers to Goodwill, and we were able to help them pick out professional dress outfits,” Mason said. “Seeing their faces light up when they tied a tie for the first time or they put on a pair of slacks and a sports coat was really, really impactful for me.” 

However, it was her involvement in another project that truly ignited her passion. She was tasked with creating a unique internship project: creating a hybrid training course for county Extension directors. She is continuing this work in her graduate studies, collecting and developing videos for a four-module Canvas course county directors can take facilitate effective learning for Extension agents. 

“I’m a firm believer that there’s education in everything that we do, and so being able to learn, not necessarily the basic abilities, but the abilities to be an effective educator, I think will play a vital role in my career as an Extension agent,” Mason said. 

The UF/IFAS Extension internship program is one opportunity undergraduate students in CALS can take advantage of through the VP Promise initiative, which offers financial support to students engaging in experiential learning within agriculture, natural resources and related sciences. CALS is dedicated to fostering student development and success, encouraging students to expand their horizons through participation in study abroad programs, leadership roles, scholarly conferences, and other enriching experiences. 

Extension is a partnership between state, federal and county governments to provide scientific knowledge and expertise to the public. The University of Florida, together with Florida A&M University, administers the Florida Cooperative Extension Service.



Posted: February 14, 2024

Category: UF/IFAS Teaching
Tags: Agriculture Education, Extension, Internship, UF/IFAS Extension Internship, VP Promise

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