Gernaat one of seven MSU students interning in Extension offices

By Melynda Harrison, MSU News Service
   This summer seven students from Montana State University’s College of Agriculture are interning in Extension offices across the state. The students are part of a program facilitated by MSU Extension, which placed eight interns in county Extension offices.
   “The purpose of the MSU Extension Internship Program is to provide practical, experiential learning opportunities in counties, and on campus, to support student success,” said Extension internship coordinator, Phyllis Dennee.
   MSU Extension is a statewide educational outreach network that applies unbiased, research-based university resources to practical needs identified by the people of Montana in their home communities.
   “The internships also provide opportunities for MSU students to engage in educational programming with potential to make a positive difference in people’s lives,” Dennee added.
   As part of the intern experience, interns are required to assess needs in their prospective counties and then develop and implement a program to address a certain need.   As an intern for Yellowstone County Extension, Jerrica Lind, a senior in Ag education from Ulm, chose to develop and teach a two day program to help mothers and their 12 to 16-year-old daughters establish a strong relationship through communication and trust-building activities.
   Lind hopes to go into Extension as a career and wanted her internship to pertain to her future employment.
   “I wanted to get a realistic view of what Extension is,” Lind said. “We take great classes, but actually getting to work in an Extension office directly with the agents has assured me that Extension is exactly what I want to be doing.”
   Erin Gernaat and Kelsey Gibbs are interns in the Dawson County Extension office. Gernaat, from Conrad is a CHS graduate and the daughter of Darryl and Julie Gernaat, and Gibbs, from Glendive, are both seniors in animal science.
   Gernaat and Gibbs are managing a community garden in Glendive and growing crops to sell at the local farmers market.
   “We want to encourage people to buy local and know where their food comes from,” said Gernaat.
   Gibbs added, “Instead of hauling livestock or crops far away, farmers and producers can sell it here in their own community.”
   Gernaat, who is working on concentrations in livestock management and Ag relations, applied for the internship in part because it fulfilled the requirements of both of her concentrations.
   “I had to work with sustainable agriculture, and this internship had a lot of projects related to that,” she said. “There is a big variety of things to work with; we aren’t doing the same thing every day.”
   Gibbs, who is also working toward a concentration in livestock management, wanted to stay close to home so she could help out on her family’s ranch.
   “I wanted to work with people in my own community,” Gibbs said. “I now have more knowledge of agriculture as a whole; I’ve mostly worked with livestock, so this was a good opportunity to learn about crops.”
   All the interns had to apply to the program.
   “The process was similar to the one we use to recruit Extension agents,” said Dennee.
   Students were interviewed, their references were checked and they gave a presentation about what they could contribute to a specific county office. The Extension state and county office personnel chose students they felt would be the best match.
   Some of the internships were paid and some were for university credit. The interns signed a learning agreement with the local agents they worked with and were evaluated at the end of the internship.
   According to Dennee, applications for the eight positions came not just from MSU, but from other colleges and universities.
   Other MSU interns and their Extension offices: Dylan Klasna, Richland County; Michelle Passmore, Lewis and Clark County; Nikki Bailey, Judith Basin County; Christina McRae, Rosebud/Treasure Counties.