B-CU Internships Help Students RISE

Service Partners With Bethune-Cookman University On Internships Designed To Help Students RISE


By Ken Warren, Florida Ecological Services Office

Imagine growing up in Jacksonville, Fla., loving wildlife and caring deeply about the habitats they live in, and now being a college student at Bethune-Cookman University (B-CU), having the opportunity to build species profiles for 15 at-risk species as an intern with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  That’s the dream Cameron Johnson is living. 

Johnson is one of six B-CU students serving internships with the Service in conjunction with the university’s “Together We RISE” initiative.  He was among three of those students who recently visited the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge for an orientation and to cleanup an area near the refuge’s Manatee Observation Deck. 

Dr. Sarah Krejci, an Associate Professor of Biology and Integrated Environmental Science at B-CU, accompanied the students on their visit to the refuge. She also serves as Director of B-CU’s Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP).     

“QEP is a five-year initiative to improve student learning through actual hands on experiences, such as these internships connecting them with a community partner such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” said Krejci. “’Together We RISE’ is the theme for our QEP initiative.  RISE stands for ‘Reimagining Innovations and Student Experiential-Learning.” 

Lauren Albury is a senior at B-CU, majoring in Environmental Science. She said she jumped at the chance to do this internship because the mission of the Service has always inspired and intrigued her.  “When I heard about these internships, I saw it as my opportunity to get some great experience outside of my university, with a well-respected agency.”

Johnson, a sophomore majoring in biology, called his internship a “transformative experience.”  He said, “I’ve learned so much from experienced biologists.  I’m sure this is going to help me once I start my own career.”

RISEEach intern is partnered with a mentor and assigned a specific project. Santosh Lamichhane is also a sophomore.  He’s majoring in computer science at B-CU and is creating a database of at-risk plants and animals.  “I’ve been working closely with the Service’s technical team on this landscape recovery tool, where all of this data can be stored and accessed.  My long-term career goal is to become a software engineer, this project is like building software.”

Miles Meyer, is a Senior Biologist with the Service’s Florida Ecological Services Office.  He’s also in charge of the office’s Diversity Outreach Team and serves as the mentor for Albury. 

“The Service is getting great work from these students and since B-CU is an HBCU--a Historically Black College or University--our partnership allows us to connect with young people from underrepresented communities that we otherwise may not have been able to.  We’re working to create a more diverse pool of potential future employees,” said Meyer.

“And with this ongoing QEP initiative at B-CU, we’re positioned to reach several students every year for the next four or five years or so,” Meyer added.  “We’re getting great products that are helping us reach our conservation goals, while hopefully building relationships that will inspire some of these young people to work for the Service or maybe another conservation agency one day after they graduate.”