Working for the Best Kept Secret

By Aaron Plotke

UConn Extension Intern

Aaron Plotke, Linda Castro, Stacey Stearns and Rineicha Otero with Lever and Smith at the UConn Extension Centennial Dinner

With summer quickly approaching, I was still unsure what I was going to do for the next three months. Understanding the importance of gaining real world experience in my field of study, I applied to a number of nutrition related internships throughout the semester. I was hoping to find that “perfect fit.” Alas almost all of the programs either had chosen their summer interns or were deemed too impractical for me to commit to (i.e. traveling to DC). I was in a tight spot… But the last week of school changed that for me; I received an email regarding a “Paid Summer Internship” with the UConn Extension Department. I always knew Extension existed but wasn’t really aware of its significance. I did some research, decided to apply, and within a few weeks was asked to join their team. Still with limited knowledge of what Extension did or was, I committed to the summer internship.

As I learned more about what is considered the “state’s best-kept secret,” I was amazed at what I found. Extension is compromised of a vast network of outreach programming across every state in the U.S. including our own state of Connecticut. With the passing of the Smith-Lever Act in the early 1900’s, each state’s “Land Grant Universities” were tasked to run their own Extension programs. Then, as now, the objective is to empower communities with the knowledge and expertise of major research universities in the areas of food, health and sustainability. UConn is Connecticut’s Land Grant University with an Extension program that has over 282 active initiatives. Strong local ties have been established with communities across the state, with every county having a dedicated Extension office.

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