NextGen program places UOG students in internships toward federal careers
From helping with animal surgeries in a veterinary clinic to training an A.I. program to monitor changes in coral reefs, 18 undergraduate students at the University of Guam have been rolling up their sleeves and getting on-the-job experience in the fields of agriculture, natural resource management, and various others fields through the NextGen program launched in June.
The NextGen program — a U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food & Agriculture-funded initiative — is working to develop the next generation of diverse food and agriculture professionals. The program has invested $10 million in the UOG College of Natural & Applied Sciences — in UOG’s second largest grant ever — to prepare students at UOG, Guam Community College, and Northern Marianas College with the necessary coursework and job experience to be competitive for careers in the federal sector, in particular.
Students begin the program by meeting with the NextGen career counselor to discuss their interests and goals. From there, the counselor connects them to internship and research opportunities with local agencies, non-governmental organizations, or research faculty.
So far, the student interns have gained experience in veterinary services, invasive species management, coral reef monitoring, marine research, ecosystem restoration, and agroforestry and have completed internships at the War in the Pacific National Historical Park, the Guam Department of Agriculture, the Guam Native Plant Society, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, UOG’s Center for Island Sustainability, and UOG's Western Pacific Tropical Research Center.
Candice Estrada, who is studying biomedical science in UOG's B.S. in Biology Program, interned with the Guam Animals in Need shelter working alongside veterinary technicians to prepare dogs and cats for spaying and neutering operations. She learned how to administer pain medication, implant microchips, and ensure a sterile environment for the surgeries.
“I now have a deeper understanding of the resilience required in a clinical setting focused on animal health, which has alleviated any concerns I had about my future career as a veterinarian,” she said.
Don David, an agriculture major, participated in an internship with the Conservation Society
of Pohnpei on his home island of Pohnpei. He engaged with farmers to learn about the
impact an invasive plant known as Koster’s Curse was having on their crops. He then
gained hands-on experience eradicating the plant on more than 20 sakau farms.
“I can't wait to return to Pohnpei and assist my neighborhood or anyone else who wishes to eradicate this plant since invasive species are something that interests me,” he said.
Claire Marzan and Eliza Manglona, biology majors, interned with the War in the Pacific National Historic Park learning
to use ArcGIS software to map data within a marine area.
“The internship has been very refreshing to me. I am used to studying land plants and animals and actually being in the water and seeing the different species in real life is astonishing," Marzan said.
Antoni Badowski, a biology major, interned at the UOG Marine Lab identifying corals in images to provide data for a new artificial intelligence program that will increase automation in image analysis of coral reef changes.
“This internship has deepened my interest in marine biology and has led me to consider graduate school. I am planning to pursue a master’s degree in biology at the University of Guam," he said.
Ricardo Mendoza, an agriculture major, interned with the UOG Center for Island Sustainability learning how to care for, plant, and transplant native plant species and the challenges involved.
"This internship has inspired me in ways I cannot describe," he said. "I see the vision of the prosperity of the island and its sustainability. I look to my future career of agriculture here on Guam, and I can honestly say I see myself working and helping CIS and its mission to promote and protect the sustainability of the island."
The interns will ultimately gain practice in communication and presentation skills by sharing the results of their experiences at a semi-annual student symposium. Over the course of the program, which will continue for the five-year term of the grant, students will continue being placed in valuable work experiences, gaining exposure to a variety of local careers, and learning professional skills that will serve them well post-graduation.
Students interested in gaining internship in the fields of food, agriculture, natural resources, or human sciences through the NextGen program can contact Dr. Rachel Jolley at email@example.com.