The Indisputable Value of Internships
By Caula Beyl, Dean, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources

Experiential learning is a key part of CASNR’s strategy for producing ready-for-the-workplace graduates, and placing students in internships is one of the most effective of the approaches we use. The tremendous value that internships provide is often difficult to quantify, but the positive impact on the student of finishing one successfully can be profound. 

For many of our students, this is the first real exposure to the professional workplace. Through the experience, they gain a deeper understanding of what the employer expects.  Many employers have indicated that those entering the workforce lack the soft skills such as communicating effectively, working in teams, dealing with ambiguity, and really understanding (and confirming) expectations. This can be particularly challenging for college students because the workplace is often multigenerational and culturally diverse.

Internships also reaffirm the value and applicability of what they have learned in the classroom, and, at the same time, they provide an opportunity for continued learning. Not everything can be learned from a textbook and some learning must be experienced to be acquired fully!

Internships can also lead to lucrative job offers.  Students who have a strong work ethic and perform very well during their internships often experience the added value of developing a strong network of professionals who can help them find employment. Josh Ligon, University Recruiting Program Lead for Cargill’s Global HR Operations, indicated that there has been about a 60-65 percent conversion of internship and co-op students into full-time positions. For one CASNR student who completed an internship with Monsanto in Hawaii, the internship turned into a job offer at graduation. I’ve seen this same pattern with many other students doing internships with the poultry, food, and agribusiness industries, as well.

We can always use help in connecting our students to these valuable experiences so if you know of internship opportunities and students interested in pursuing them, please help us get them together. Internships provide opportunities for maturation, continued education, and professional job prospects. But most importantly, students learn that they may not be the center of the world, but they can be a productive part of it!

Please share leads on internships with Craig Pickett, cpicket3@utk.edu, coordinator of student life and diversity, in the Dean’s Office. Craig can advertise them and distribute the opportunities in the CASNR newsletter that goes to our students.


Lincoln County wins National Wildlife Judging Contest
By Dan Owen, 4-H Youth Development, UT Extension Lincoln County

The Lincoln County 4-H Wildlife Team, consisting of Bethany Avilla, Evan Buck, and Maren Thompson, won the 2015 National Wildlife Habitat Educational Program Invitational held August 2-5 at the Alabama 4-H Center in Columbiana, Alabama.

Evan Buck was the second high Individual; Bethany Avilla was the fourth High Individual, and Maren Thompson was the seventh High Individual. The Lincoln County team was coached by Jennifer Hale and was accompanied on the trip by volunteer Karen Avilla and Agent Dan Owen.
 
The Wildlife Habitat Education Program (WHEP) teaches students about wildlife habitat management and how to be good stewards of the land. The states represented at the contest were Tennessee, Idaho, Texas, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Indiana, Arkansas, Alabama, North Carolina, Kansas, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi.
 
On the first day of the event, the participants and coaches were given a tour of Bolivar Creek Farm. This farm was selected for the Alabama TREASURE Forest Award because of their wise management of the land, ponds, and forests. The students got to see firsthand how hundreds of acres of privately owned land can be managed to attract and sustain wildlife. The hosts, the Strong family, treated everyone to lunch at their early 1800s log cabin.
 
Then the entourage of students and coaches went to a 500-acre long leaf pine stand that was planted to help in rejuvenating the long leaf pine forests in Alabama. Students learned the value of this pine to wildlife and how to beneficially manage these forest sites.
 
The following day of competition, the students judged a wildlife area near the host site of the Alabama 4-H Center. They completed a wildlife habitat evaluation, wildlife identification challenge, and as a team prepared an extensive written wildlife management plan based on a given scenario for the site. During the final portion of the contest each student gave oral reasons to the national committee of judges based on their team’s specific management plan.
 
While the students competed, the coaches and chaperones were given a tour of the Chilton Research and Extension Center where extensive work is being done by Auburn University on peach varieties, along with research on blackberries, kiwi, grapes, and persimmons. The other stops on the tour were Durbin Farms, where lunch was served, and Petals from the Past, where the coaches learned about heirloom plants and antique roses.
 
The Lincoln County wildlife team would like to thank Extension specialist Craig Harper for conducting a wildlife judging program that prepares our teams to be so competitive at the national competition.