Part of a special series highlighting College of Liberal Arts students and their summer internships with CSU Extension
By Cari Whittenburg
The CSU Summer Extension Internship program gives students the opportunity to take their research and expertise into the field to help communities across Colorado. For Communication Studies graduate students Riana Slyter, Meredith Laurel, and Cari Whittenburg, this meant flexing their communication training to make a lasting impact through food and culture, educational curriculum, and establishing connections at the State Fair.
Cookbooks and Culture
Two words can sum up Riana Slyter’s Extension internship—cookbooks and culture. Slyter applied to the CSU Extension internship program as a method of self-discovery and to broaden her understanding of her culture.
“My biggest motivation was to connect with my culture, and food is a wonderful way to do that. I wanted to learn more about Mediterranean cuisine and where the food comes from as a way to better understand my history and grandparents,” Slyter says.
The goal of the project was to see if certain foods could be grown in Colorado and to produce a cookbook that Extension can share with farmers and community members,” Slyter explains. “I was looking at Arabic-speaking communities, and I chose to focus on Lebanese cuisine as it… influences the foods in the Levant region [the Eastern Mediterranean region in Western Asia]. After researching and finding that the foods and the spices can grow in Colorado, I talked to people who might want to make that possible – from food producers to the restaurants and grocery stores that need it. From there, I worked with Arabic-speaking professors at CSU to translate my work for the Fall Forum event.”
Through the internship, Slyter tangibly used her communication studies knowledge to make lasting connections with and bring resources to communities across Colorado with Lebanese restaurants, Middle Eastern shops, and Arabic-speaking professors at CSU, learning more about Middle Eastern language and culture.
“There are many people in Colorado who are Middle Eastern or Arab, and finding ways to incorporate those foods … would broaden our community by uplifting the diverse cultures of Colorado!” Slyter says.
For a Communication Studies graduate student, researching agronomy and food was a new and challenging experience. “I think community-engaged work is important,” Slyter says, “and it will definitely be a part of the work I do in the future, particularly in academia where there can be a bridge between theory and practice with my teaching and my work with the Center for Public Deliberation which partners with organizations in Northern Colorado to improve public problem solving.”
Growing New Leaders through 4-H
Meredith Laurel spent her CSU Extension summer internship with the Arapahoe County 4-H team creating, implementing, and evaluating youth educational programing focusing on outdoor, environmental, and natural resource education. 4-H is a youth development organization dedicated to providing youth with annual leadership opportunities through hands-on projects in the areas of health, science, agriculture, and citizenship. Laurel’s internship helped facilitate these learning opportunities.
“This internship has provided me with hands-on learning opportunities focusing on communication skills, teamwork, successful work habits, critical thinking and problem solving, professional resiliency and adaptability, and developing partnerships with community organizations and leaders,” Laurel explains. “Overall, the internship has been an excellent opportunity for me to learn transferable skills… and curriculum development, delivery, and evaluation.”
The extension internship program gave Laurel the ability to use her experience in the classroom and the academy to create meaningful learning opportunities to enhance the lives and education of Colorado youth.
“I want to continue to be an educator within Colorado, and this internship has inspired me… to learn more about program planning, outreach, and youth serving organizations. In fact, I plan to continue volunteering and assisting with Arapahoe County 4-H for the foreseeable future,” Laurel says, “Because of them [4-H], we are able to support students learning and growing as leaders, community members, and critical thinkers throughout the summer and school year. From art camps to STEM programs, the students are gaining tools that will help them for the rest of their lives.”
“This internship has provided me with hands-on learning opportunities focusing on communication skills, teamwork, successful work habits, critical thinking and problem solving, professional resiliency and adaptability, and developing partnerships with community organizations and leaders.” — Meredith Laurel
A Skillful Presence at the State Fair
Like Laurel’s experience, Cari Whittenburg spent her summer creating short educational demonstrations to build awareness of the wide variety of CSU Extension resources for Coloradans and to help expand CSU’s presence at the Colorado State Fair.
“Before entering graduate school, I spent a great deal of time working at an organization that focused strictly on community engagement and enrichment, and I found myself missing it,” Whittenburg says. “So, when I got the opportunity to work for the Office of Engagement and Extension, I immediately applied to the internship program. Not only did I get to move out of my office and into the community, but I also gained valuable skills that bridge my academic work with practical outcomes.”
Whittenburg worked with the Extension team to support CSU’s land-grant mission by connecting State Fair attendees to the University and various engaged research and learning opportunities across the state. With this expanded engagement, she helped measure learning connections and overall impact on awareness and understanding of all that CSU offers in communities across Colorado and all its campuses. All in all, with the help of the CSU Summer Extension Internship program the Office of Engagement and Extension was able to connect with over 2,000 attendees, increase awareness of CSU and CSU Extension resources that are available to community members across Colorado, and reconnect with CSU alumni.
The CSU Summer Extension Internship program offered the perfect opportunities for Slyter, Laurel, and Whittenburg to exercise the skills they are obtaining through their graduate liberal arts education to connect with and co-create with communities across Colorado.
Internships: The Practical and Applied Side of the Liberal Arts
The CSU Summer Extension Internship program gives students the opportunity to take their research and expertise into the field to help communities across Colorado in the areas of Natural Resources and Sustainability, Food and Agriculture, Youth Development, Economic and Community Development, Health and Well-Being, and Emergency Planning and Resources.
In summer 2022, the College of Liberal Arts had 18 students participate in an Extension internship.