Ag Program Provides Hands-on Experience, Credit, Pay for Students

May 4th, 2005

Ryan Elgin herds a calf and its mother from a pasture to be tagged. Angela Beaman conducts hydroponic research on basil. Tiffany Obrecht learns the science of writing and conducting a survey. Adrienne Brant responds to an emergency birth on the Iowa State University horse farm.

Ryan Elgin, a graduating senior in animal science from Adair, worked with cattle on an Iowa State research farm as part of the Science with Practice program this semester.These Iowa State undergraduate students are earning credits while they get paid for a hands-on experience. This semester 15 students in the College of Agriculture participated in a pilot program called Science with Practice. The program is similar to an internship with defined learning objectives. Students work and learn while they earn college credits and receive a paycheck.

"This is an opportunity for both students and faculty," said David Acker, associate dean of academic and global programs in the College of Agriculture. "This is an experiential learning opportunity for students to pursue their study interests and it also benefits faculty because students participate in projects."

Beaman, a senior in horticulture and women's studies, said the program was a turning point in her scholastic career. The opportunity allowed her to pursue research that she hopes will improve food production in developing nations.

"This has opened the door for me to move into graduate school. If I hadn't had this opportunity it would have taken years to get to this point," Beaman said.

Mike Retallick, academic adviser, and Chuck Steiner, lecturer in the agricultural education and studies department, coordinated the program. Retallick said the program gives students the opportunity to work in the college's research laboratories, greenhouses, offices and research farms. Faculty and staff benefit because they have an employee who is willing to learn and delve into projects.

"Both the students and their mentors have been enthusiastic about the program," Retallick said. "We plan to continue the program next fall and hope it develops into a larger, ongoing experiential learning program for students in the college."

Elgin, a graduating senior in animal science, knows he'll always be involved in the cattle industry. He said the program provided him the opportunity to pursue his passion.

"It's been an excellent opportunity for me," Elgin said. "I get to do what I'm interested in, get credit for it and get paid for my time."

The idea was initiated by Mark Honeyman, Iowa State professor of animal science, who is a member of the Iowa State University Agricultural Endowment Board, which funded the program in partnership with the College of Agriculture.

Honeyman said the program also provides an opportunity to help students with tuition costs.

"Students are given more responsibility in a project which helps them learn, while they earn credits, get paid and gain practical experience," Honeyman said.

Contacts: 

Mike Retallick, Agricultural Education and Studies, (515) 294-4810, msr@iastate.edu
David Acker, College of Agriculture, (515) 294-6614, dacker@iastate.edu
Mark Honeyman, Research and Demonstration Farms, (515) 294-4621, honeyman@iastate.edu
Barb McBreen, Agriculture Communications, (515) 294-0707, barbmc@iastate.edu