Internships for Undergraduate Students with Disabilities

Return to search results | New search

Title of Abstract: Internships for Undergraduate Students with Disabilities

Name of Author: Richard Mankin
Author Company or Institution: USDA-ARS-Center for Med., Agric., Vet. Entomology
PULSE Fellow: No
Applicable Courses: Agricultural Sciences, Biophysics, Ecology and Environmental Biology, Organismal Biology
Course Levels: Upper Division Course(s)
Approaches: Assessment, Research
Keywords: interdisciplinarity assessment research agriculture mentorship

Goals and intended outcomes of the project or effort, in the context of the Vision and Change report and recommendations: Enhance research experiences of undergraduate biology students with disabilities by providing internships at an agricultural research laboratory. In the last three years, we have focused more on internships in the broader context of the students' educational institutions and our local resources. In interactions with the interns’ educational institutions, we have coordinated research projects of interns with their instructors and facilitated incorporation of the research into their coursework. Subsequent presentations by the interns to classmates were expected to be of benefit to the class and to the instructors. Also, we have encouraged interns to interact with other researchers and technical staff at the Center and nearby institutions, including the University of Florida and the Florida Division of Plant Industry.

Describe the methods and strategies that you are using: Design multidisciplinary research projects that can be completed during a summer. The projects include components of pest management, biology, electronic and acoustic technology, and computer programming. Coordinate efforts with instructors and advisors at the students' educational institutions. Provide opportunities for additional interaction of students with other researchers in multiple institutions in the local area (University of Florida, Florida Division of Plant Industry). Wherever possible, make opportunities for the students to explore areas of interest where they have particular skills or strengths. Include field trips to nearby farms and agribusinesses. Assess results.

Describe the evaluation methods that you used (or intended to use) to determine whether the project or effort achieved the desired goals and outcomes: Discussions with interns, staff, and researchers. Adaptations of survey tools discussed in Vision and Change Final Report

Impacts of project or effort on students, fellow faculty, department or institution. If no time to have an impact, anticipated impacts: Students were enthusiastic at the enhanced opportunities to interact with peers and other researchers in carrying out their projects, as well as to obtain feedback from farmers. Many of the technical and scientific staff responded with helpful suggestions and opened their labs to further interactions and learning experiences for the interns. Feedback was provided in seminars where the interns presented their work. Assessments enabled identification of problem areas.

Describe any unexpected challenges you encountered and your methods for dealing with them: The intense level of activity caused additional stress for some of the staff not used to working with young persons. Contact with these staff was reduced whenever possible, and the impact was lessened by the short, 8-week duration of the internships. In addition, each student has different interests and needs, and each research project has different dead-ends and barriers to overcome. Aspects of several projects failed. Fear, caution, or unfamiliarity often presents high barriers to interactions with persons who have apparent disabilities. Seminars where students presented information and brainstorming sessions helped overcome some of these challenges.

Describe your completed dissemination activities and your plans for continuing dissemination: Journal articles by the interns have been published, seminars have been presented, and researchers have been recruited as mentors for next year.

Acknowledgements: Funding from the Citrus Research and Development Foundation, and support and helpful comments from many local staff and researchers.