Hi, Alli Studnick here. I am coming up on the two-month mark of my internship in the OSU Extension office in Benton County with Chrissy Lucas, Extension’s groundwater quality education program coordinator in the Willamette Valley. I can say is it has been a whirlwind since I started. We have sent out over a couple thousand postcards, I learned how to do a “mail merge,” planned and prepared for events, and I’ve taught kids and talked a lot about water.
The first week of my internship I was able to work at the Corvallis Farmers Market with the Extension small farms outreach coordinator in Benton County. We passed out N95 masks and talked to farmers about the importance of wildfire safety and respirators – since farming never stops – some workers might have to be out in the smoky conditions taking care of their crops and their evacuation plans if wildfires were to occur. I was moved and saddened by some of the stories we heard about how the smoke caused by the 2020 wildfires affected the Willamette Valley. But hearing how more prepared these farmers were was reassuring.
The mission of OSU Extension is that it hopes to engage the people of Oregon with research-based knowledge and education that strengthen communities and economies, sustain natural resources, and promote healthy families and individuals. I think that this internship goes hand-in-hand with the four themes of Extension: people, places, programs, and partnerships. In the last two months, I have been able to see how the groundwater quality education branch of Extension works with people of all ages. From playing with water balloons and teaching children about the water cycle to adults learning how to care for their septic and what type of toxins might be in their well water that can cause some major health issues. We have planned on attending 10 farmers’ markets up and down the I-5 corridor this summer to do nitrate screenings to help educate the Willamette Valley of potential nitrate in their drinking water. And finally, partnerships. Chrissy has so many different partnerships it sometimes is hard to keep up with!
At the beginning stages of the internship, I was very timid, shy, and not confident when it came to talking to people about wells or septic systems. I wouldn’t say I am a complete expert now or totally confident with what I am saying. But I feel like I have gotten better, and learned what to say, what information or hand-outs to give, or when to say, “Let me give you my supervisor’s number.” Chrissy and I have chatted a lot, and I have asked her about the challenging times she had in this career. I know I can’t be the best right off the bat like I would want to be. But I can surely learn from my mistakes and grow from there. I have learned that an Extension agent’s job isn’t always a walk in the park. It is a lot of emails, meetings, and phone calls. Not to mention all the program planning they have to do. I have learned that this job requires some hard work, is a very fast-paced job, and most days are never boring. But this job is very satisfying and every interaction you have with someone about something important like their health, makes me feel like I am making a difference.
I only have two more weeks left in my internship before I head back to school to begin my master’s program, but my placement area for the program is going to be groundwater quality education. I will be able to keep learning with Chrissy and working with the community well after my time in my Extension summer internship!