DOI: 10.1002/nse2.20126 ISSN:

Understanding the Impacts of Intensive Student Internships at a Campus Agricultural Project

JoHannah H. Biang, Shannon O. Brooks, Cecilia M. Herles, Abigail S. Borron, David C. Berle, Jennifer Jo Thompson
  • Insect Science
  • Plant Science
  • Soil Science
  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Education
  • Ecology


Campus agricultural projects (CAPs) are campus farms or gardens where students learn to grow food. With at least 286 CAPs at institutions of higher education across the United States, this study seeks to understand the impact that participation in intensive internships at CAPs has on students and how student experiences align with the missions of CAPs. We used mixed ethnographic methods to collect rich, longitudinal data with 23 students enrolled in semester‐long internships at one particular CAP over the course of three semesters. Drawing on thematic analysis, we identify themes that capture what students are learning and experiencing in these spaces. Results from this study demonstrate that students participating in these internships not only gain agricultural and horticultural skills from hands‐on learning, but also gain interpersonal skills (i.e., teamwork, communication) and practical skills (i.e., changing a tire). Over the course of the semester, we see students gain confidence from these skills, and develop self‐efficacy in their ability to face challenges and tackle new tasks in the future. Notably, students also develop a strong sense of community within these spaces. Finally, although students express a lingering disconnect between their work and its specific contribution to the community, we find that students can gain insights into service and community engagement in a service‐learning focused CAP.

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