The Arizona Cooperative Extension is offering student externships in community sustainability during the summer, with projects including community gardening and a farmers market.
University of Arizona students accepted into the program will work directly with extension station agents on sustainability projects in counties around the state.
"Our program was created with the idea of providing opportunities for University of Arizona students who are really interested in sustainability to get out of the University environment and work with our extension agents around the state," says Mark Apel, extension agent with the UA's Cooperative Extension in Cochise County.
In its third year, the externship program is seeking up to 11 students for eight projects in seven counties. Students need sophomore standing or above, and though the externship is paid, housing is not provided, so a connection to a rural community is preferred.
"All of our project managers in the different counties around the state who have proposed projects this year are actively recruiting," Apel says.
This year's externships include working as an assistant manager at a farmers' market in Globe, research on sustainable pest control solutions in Maricopa County, nutrient management in livestock manure in Pinal County, community gardening in Navajo County and research work at the Tucson Village Farm on North Campbell Avenue. The projects are a mix of both ongoing and new.
"We're calling them externs because they're working a little bit longer than a typical internship, and they're getting paid," Apel says. "We liken the definition of externships with a relationship to extension. They're giving back to the community or providing some sort of community service in their projects."
In the program's first two years, students from a variety of majors have participated in externships. Several have been in the UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, but last year a master's student in public health worked on a community farm project in Safford.
"They get a better sense of what sustainability means in terms of a particular project. It really helps them to get ready for the job market, to understand sustainability and get some real-world working experience," Apel says. "The other aspect they come away with is a better understanding of what cooperative extension is and how it relates to the university.
"Cooperative extension is a very important outreach arm of the University in all of the counties around the state. Our job as part of our land-grant mandate is to take the knowledge and research-based information from the university out into the community, and externs become an active part of that."
The UA Green Fund supports the program.