Extension Internship Program concludes third year with record participation

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Conducting field research. Creating programs for kids. Helping plan and promote events.

These are just three areas in which interns contributed to the work of Oregon State University Extension Service this past summer. The Extension Internship Program, comprised of college students and recent high school graduates in Oregon and beyond, recently concluded its third year with interns embedded in county offices across the state.

The program has expanded significantly since it launched in 2020. There were 28 interns in 2022, compared with 13 in 2021 and 11 in the first year, when Extension programming was significantly altered by the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wiley Thompson, director of OSU Extension’s coastal region, came up with the idea of an Extension internship program in 2019. The goal, Thompson said, was to provide a meaningful service-learning experience for students, and they could learn more about OSU Extension and its land-grant mission.

“We couldn’t be more pleased with how the program is shaping up in this third year,” Thompson said. “For the first time we had interns in offices across all six Extension regions, showing interest and participation from all across our state. This program could not be successful without the support of our hardworking county faculty and staff and the local financial contributions. We owe them a debt of thanks.”

The interns, who are paid, work alongside Extension professionals. They contribute to Extension programming by sharing new perspectives and diverse ideas and energy. All of the interns have been from Oregon, and many have been current or future OSU students. The program has drawn students from out-of-state schools, including the University of Pennsylvania and Cornell University, who return to their hometowns for the summer.

The interns are required to write learning objectives to share with their supervisors that reflect areas where the students want to grow professionally, such as time management, community relations, organization and content knowledge. The interns are also offered opportunities to come together via Zoom meetings hosted by KJ Joseph, an instructor in the College of Agricultural Sciences who supports the program as a planner and organizer.

“The check-in meetings are a really important time for students to share their experience, connect about their work, build community, express challenges and hear some of the great programming happening across the state,” Joseph said. “I also believe it’s important to show the interns how much an impact they can make in OSU Extension now and in their future. They are the next in line to be Extension employees, stakeholders, volunteers and more and I’m excited to be part of that.”

Blogging their experiences

Since the program’s inception, every intern has shared their experiences through posts on the OSU Extension Internship Program blog.

Alyson Yates, a student in the OSU Agriculture and Natural Resources Program at Eastern Oregon University, was a two-time intern in the Extension office in Lake County, in 2021 and ’22. She grew up in Lakeview and served as an Extension 4-H state ambassador. A photographer, Yates’ focus both summers was both working with 4-H youths and building a database of high-quality photos.

“I am so grateful for the time I’ve spent working in Lake County, and I am confident that I will carry what I have learned into my future endeavors in Extension programming,” Yates wrote in her final blog post on Sept. 16.

Perla Gutierrez, who is from Tillamook and attends the University of Idaho, returned to her home county this past summer to work mainly with the Juntos Afeura program. Juntos Afuera is a summer camp experience that introduces Latino/a/x high school students to outdoor recreational activities and teaches them about Latin American cultures.

“This internship has been an amazing and challenging opportunity, working with students close to my age, learning how to create a fun environment for them but also remember what we want them to get out of the whole program,” Gutierrez wrote.

Keon Cohl Kiser, an OSU engineering student interned this summer in Wasco County. He was exposed to Extension through his participation in the 4-H robotics program created by Lu Seapy, 4-H STEM educator in Wasco County.

“I was immediately challenged in doing things I have had little to no experience participating in like teaching and structuring/creating a curriculum on a consistent basis,” Kiser wrote. “Out of this internship I was able to get what I initially wanted out of it: Developing professional and people skills, being challenged, getting to know new people and having tons of fun.”

Maggie Justice, who interned in Grant County and assisted with 4-H’s fair activities in 2020, blogged: “I think that many people today do not fully comprehend how much Extension offices contribute and help the community, because they truly do a lot that goes unnoticed. As I think about our livestock and static shows, I think that truly shapes what Extension strives for. That people from all walks of life can come together for the betterment of their community.”

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