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The Influence of Internships

AFE’s Visits with Students and Faculty at Michigan State University

Just a few short weeks ago, AFE Staff, alongside the Vic & Margaret Ball Committee, had the opportunity to visit Michigan State University (MSU) to review internship applications, select students, and spend some time with faculty and students who directly benefit from the Endowment’s programs.

Every year, the Vic & Margaret Ball Committee meets in March and October to evaluate applications and select students for its prestigious internship program. The program awards three-, four-, or six-month internships to students pursuing a career in commercial production/growing.  On top of the paid internship, students receive a scholarship of up to $6,000 upon completion. This program grants a full-circle experience of both hands-on practice and financial aid to empower students in their educations and futures in floral.

This October, the Ball Internship Committee went to MSU to talk about the internship program and network with the community. MSU has an extensive Department of Horticulture offering undergraduate degrees, graduate degrees, and certificate programs, making it an ideal place to connect with academics within our industry.

When introducing the Vic & Margaret Ball Internship Program, Dr. Joshua Craver, Assistant Professor at Colorado State University and member of the Ball Internship Committee, shared how he had been a Ball intern during his undergraduate program at Mississippi State University and noted, “It’s an opportunity of a lifetime for students to be able to go away from their home university or college, to put their classroom knowledge to use and to see firsthand how what they are learning is used in the real world.”

All great opportunities come with some challenges and growth, especially those that push you out of your comfort zone. During the Committee’s visit to students in Dr. Roberto Lopez’s horticulture class, they addressed challenges that students can sometimes encounter when seeking to do an away-from-school/home internship.  Not to worry – AFE helps address these barriers by working with students every step of the way from start to completion. The Endowment also reviews the students’ reports at the end of each internship placement to ensure the experiences are impactful and adjusts the program to meet any current needs.

However, it’s not only the students who benefit from this opportunity. Faculty are also offered a travel reimbursement to visit their students during their internship.  “It’s always great to visit our students when they are performing their internships and meet with the internship team and growers. It allows us to develop relationships that lead to research collaborations,” says Lopez.

This program fully takes into account each student’s career interests and finds a host employer that matches their goals. Additionally, the Endowment helps with expenses through a travel advance and assists with finding affordable housing for the duration of the internship. In fact, many of the hosts AFE works with have housing available for interns.

What goes well with internships and education? Ice cream, of course! Before ending the day with a campus tour, students and faculty were treated to a stop at the famous Dairy Store, where everyone had even more time to network and strengthen our floral family.

In addition to visiting MSU, the Committee also visited Van Atta’s Greenhouse & Flower Shop and Christians Greenhouses, where they learned about their unique growing operations, products, and businesses. Seeing our industry in action and thriving which inspires all of the work that the Endowment does. Check out all of the photos below!

On the final day, the Committee met and selected the next budding young professionals to receive our internships. Be sure to tune into AFE’s communications and social media not only to meet the new cohort but to join them on their internship journeys as we share videos of each intern at their placement.

Special thanks to Dr. Lopez, the faculty, and students at MSU! We can’t wait to see what you accomplish next.

For more information about the Vic & Margaret Ball Internship program or other student opportunities, including scholarships, career development, the Young Professionals Council, and more, visit www.endowment.org/students. The next deadline for internships is March 1st.

Check out more photos from our trip below!