While classrooms offer important skills and opportunities, not all lessons fit within four walls. Real-world experiences can be more valuable to a student's education than hours spent in lecture halls.
The University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences’ Ratcliffe Scholars Program allows students to expand their education off-campus by offering $5,000 experiential learning scholarships. The program helps support students who want to participate in out-of-classroom experiences, including internships, study abroad programs, research opportunities or other experiential learning activities.
This year, four students were awarded this scholarship, and each student is using the scholarship to better their education in their own individual ways.
Kameron Landeen, an agriscience and environmental systems major at UGA, is planning on participating in the CAES Food Production, Culture and the Environment May session program in Spain.
“This scholarship is helping me build my experiences outside of a traditional classroom that will prepare me as a future 4-H agent,” Landeen said. “With a constantly evolving world, we need to learn how to see from a different point of view, and the Ratcliffe Scholarship is allowing me to do that by studying abroad and working with a community to benefit others.”
Justin Stevenson wants to use his studies in environmental economics and management to help build a greener and more sustainable food system. He will use his Ratcliffe Scholarship to spend a semester in Zurich, Switzerland, studying sustainability.
“My spring 2020 study abroad to Zurich, Switzerland, will allow me to specialize my passions through specialized environmental education and bring knowledge of green cities and infrastructures back to America for widespread adoption and development,” Stevenson said.
While his academic program has prepared him in a more general sense, he hopes his time in Switzerland will give him a specific goal to pursue.
Sarah Yount, a third-year entomology major, will use her scholarship to intern in Washington, D.C., during the spring semester.
“Participating in this program will allow me to get real-world experience at the Walter Reed Biosystematics Unit Lab and the Smithsonian Institute Museum of Natural History, both of which are organizations I hope to work for when I graduate from the University of Georgia,” Yount said. “Without this award, the entire opportunity would not be possible.”
While in D.C., Yount will dive into subjects such as DNA genetic testing of mosquitoes and identifying scorpions that are not only pests, but dangerous to our military. She hopes that this program will lead to a job with the Department of Defense or the Smithsonian Institution.
Justin Peterman, a horticulture major minoring in Spanish, originally wanted to focus his project around improving his Spanish, but found an opportunity to enhance both of his fields of study at a botanical garden in Chiapas, Mexico.
“As my interest in horticulture, and life for that matter, seem more and more to be pushing me towards Latin America, the Ratcliffe Scholarship has arisen as a very fortunate catalyst to helping me get started in this endeavor,” Peterman said. “The Ratcliffe Scholarship has provided me an opportunity — the chance to move into a new area to pursue fully an interest of mine.”
His project will focus on the “collection and upkeep of plant species within a biodiversity hot spot in an attempt to accurately represent the biodiversity of the region.” He plans on staying in Mexico after the 12-week program is over to continue volunteering in the garden.
For more information about experiential learning programs available through CAES, visit caes.uga.edu/students/experiential-learning.