Undergraduate students in the UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) participate in all kinds of “beyond the classroom” experiences during their time in college. In fact, it’s a hallmark of a CALS education. According to a recent National Survey of Student Engagement, 79 percent of CALS students complete an internship or field experience and 64 percent complete a mentored research project.
Summer is a particularly busy time for such experiences, with students taking on a variety of internships, jobs and volunteer experiences related to their areas of study. Below are highlighted two CALS students who are spending the summer interning at the university’s Arlington Agricultural Research Station.
“These internships provide valuable learning experiences and skills for CALS students. It’s when their classroom lessons are applied to real world situations,” says Arlington’s assistant superintendent Jeff Breuer, who helps oversee the station’s interns.
Theresa Shurn: From Milwaukee to the pasture
Theresa Shurn calls the cattle “my boys,” and when she walks into the pasture, they curiously approach. Observing this casual interaction, you wouldn’t guess that Shurn, a senior majoring in animal sciences, is from the city of Milwaukee.
With a dream of becoming a veterinarian, specifically a big cat specialist at a zoo, Shurn knew her path at an early age. After an older brother attended UW-Madison, she decided to follow in his footsteps.
Now approaching her fifth year at the UW-Madison, Theresa is embracing the chance to learn outside of the classroom with an internship at the university’s Arlington Agricultural Research Station.
With guidance from postdoctoral researcher Christine Nieman and animal sciences professor Dan Schaefer, Shurn helps manage the cattle involved in a multi-year beef cattle grazing study conducted at the station.
The cattle are on a four-day rotation through a grid of eight pastures planted with a variety of tasty crops—Sudan grass, alfalfa, corn—for her 200 “boys.” Shurn helps manage the rotation by taking down and putting up fences, checking the water supply, testing the nutritional value of the crops during grazing, and working to maintain the overall care of the animals.
Troy Valle: Opportunities outside of the classroom spark new interests
Troy Valle works with equipment that varies from a standard one-gallon milk jug filled with antifreeze to a large, sophisticated instrument mounted on a metal pillar. Yet Valle, a junior majoring in microbiology and entomology, maneuvers around the objects and collects data like a pro.
Valle, who grew up in Germantown, is interning at the Arlington Agricultural Research Station, working on an insect monitoring project that sends him into the fields to gather data from three types of insect traps—a black light trap to monitor moths (done in conjunction with other research stations), a pheromone trap for western bean cutworm and an aphid trap.
Valle’s path from Germantown to the fields at Arlington began in microbiology. As a young student at UW-Madison, he participated in Undergraduate Research Scholars (URS), a program designed to enhance the academic experience of first- and second-year undergraduate students by enabling them to earn credit for participating in research with faculty and staff. Through the URS program, Valle ended up working on insect genetics and insect population genomics, which sparked an interest in entomology. He began taking entomology classes, and then opted to double major.
This summer’s internship represents yet another valuable experience, one that will help Valle decide the next steps along his promising academic and career path.