This year marks my last year as an undergraduate at the University of Georgia! As a senior, I thought that I had a complete understanding of the organizations and community service offered at UGA, but during my last two semesters I’ve been exposed to an entirely new sector of public service and outreach. Only months before graduation, I’ve made amazing friends and worked on projects with Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant thanks to the Public Service and Outreach Student Scholars program.
The Public Service and Outreach Student Scholars program offers undergraduates at UGA an opportunity to learn about how different units focus on improving economical, developmental or educational challenges in Georgia. Through visits with faculty and staff at the various units such as the Carl Vinson Institute of Government and Archway Partnership, students are able to gain an in-depth understanding of UGA’s land- and sea-grant missions. My favorite part about this program is that it draws in students from a wide variety of disciplines. Due to the diversity of the student scholar cohort, I’ve been able to learn more about community outreach and effective leadership from everyone’s unique experiences.
In the Fall semester, our entire PSO cohort took a tour of the Marine Education Center and Aquarium on Skidaway Island. I had been paired with this unit for my spring internship, so it was great to visit the facility and learn about their research, education, and outreach. We toured the aquarium, learned about the oyster hatchery and participated in the oyster restoration project by bagging recycled oyster shells. We visited the classrooms that are used to teach school groups about marine plants and animals, and we all had a blast using microscopes to look at sea crabs and sea grapes! Throughout the tours, I realized the role that the unit plays in educating the community about coastal habitats and conducting research and outreach to help protect both wildlife and human populations from pollution, urbanization, natural disasters or other threats. I learned Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant fulfills a large need in the community, and that public service and outreach has a much wider scope than I previously realized.
The program requires a semester-long internship in the spring, and I was ecstatic to be paired with Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant! It’s been an incredible journey through which I’ve grown both professionally and personally. I’ve really enjoyed meeting the faculty in the Athens location and collaborating on different projects. From the moment I started my internship, I felt like a part of the team. Even as a new intern, my opinions were highly valued, and I was able to assume a leadership role in our projects. I’m currently working with another PSO Scholar, and it’s been very exciting to work together on increasing the unit’s social media platform and to start a project that will showcase seafood consumption habits of students at UGA. I will be extending my internship into the summer so that I can continue to help organize the annual research symposium that will highlight current research projects across the state that are funded by Georgia Sea Grant. Joining the Public Service and Outreach Student Scholars program and interning with Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant has been one of the best experiences I’ve had at UGA! I’ve been able to explore a new discipline and realize the responsibility I have as a citizen in my community.