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Program Gives Students A Chance To See What Extension Work Is Like

Ed Hunter (352) 392-1773 x 278

Christine Waddill (352) 392-1761
Lynne Michaels (352) 378-7541

GAINESVILLE — Officials with the Florida Cooperative Extension Service are looking for students to work this summer in the University of Florida’s Extension Intern Program.

The program, designed both to give students exposure to the extension service and to provide extension offices with much-needed help, is open to students statewide. Most students are assigned to extension offices in each of Florida’s 67 counties around the state and earn $400 per week for the six-week program.

“We have a large pool of students who go through UF’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences but are not exposed to the extension portion of the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences’ mission,” said Christine Waddill, IFAS dean of extension. “Students generally go to classes and have a research experience but don’t have an extension experience.”

Lynne Michaels, a senior food and resource economics major, was looking for just such an experience last year when she heard about the program from a friend who works in UF’s Putnam County extension office. Michaels said she was already considering an extension career, but the experience she had in the intern program helped her make up her mind.

“I was halfway through my second semester and thought it was quite interesting how extension operated,” Michaels said. “It was really neat how informal teaching methods were used.

“I had already pretty much decided to go into extension when the internship came up. I jumped on it and that made me 100 percent sure,” she said.

Michaels spent six weeks last summer working with the 4-H program in Putnam County. She said she did just about everything from answering phones, to attending meetings, to writing and mailing newsletters.

“It was awesome,” Michaels said. “I had a really good time, maybe because it was my own county. It is a great learning experience for anybody interested in extension at all.”

Michaels will soon complete her undergraduate work, and is looking for a position in the extension program. She then plans to pursue a master’s degree in extension thru UF.

The ability to get students interested in extension work, or as in Michaels’ case confirm their interest in extension work, is one of the goals of the program, said Dale McPherson, who coordinates the intern program in Gainesville.

“The program broadens the horizons of students, and as we see it, gets the appetites of potential employees whetted by their local extension program,” McPherson said.

While the program is open to all students, Waddill said special efforts are made to recruit minority applicants. “It is very hard attract diverse pools of candidates for positions in extension,” she said.

She said the program is marketed to minority students at UF and statewide who have at least a 3.0 grade point average. But while organizers make a special effort to reach minority students, Waddill said it isn’t restricted to minorities.

“Of the 16 students who participated in the program last summer, half of them were minorities, either black or Hispanic,” Waddill said. “We awarded internships to students who were good performers.”

McPherson said the program tries to match participants with their interests, depending on which extension offices are willing to host interns. Another goal is to place students in their home counties, as the program does not provide any support for living expenses.

Students in the Gainesville area can find out more about the program by visiting the Cooperative Extension Service booth at the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences Career Day Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Reitz Union on the UF campus. Students in other areas of the state can write the Extension Service at P.O. BOX 110210, Gainesville, FL 32611, or call (352) 392-1761. Applications will be accepted through the end of April.