CEFS Agroecology Scholars Program in Research and Extension (ASPIRE)

Learn about sustainable agriculture and community food systems from a broad systems perspective, while receiving close mentorship and access to hands-on, cutting edge research and professional development training. Join us for a 10-week individualized summer research and extension experience, including a week-long tour of diverse agroecosystems across North Carolina. Participants receive a $4,000 stipend, apartment-style housing on the NC State campus, and the opportunity to present their research at a scientific meeting after the program. No previous research or extension experiences necessary.
Application Form
Application deadline is February 19, 2021
We accept applications until midnight.

Global climate change, food security challenges, and environmental concerns are complex food system challenges that require innovative and interdisciplinary approaches to agricultural research and education. The CEFS Agroecology Scholars Program in Research and Extension (ASPIRE) prepares undergraduates with the technical skills to meet these challenges of the future, as well as an understanding of the impacts of agriculture on the environment and communities.

Internship Dates: May 24-July 30, 2021

Program Components

The ASPIRE program will provide participants with diverse research, education, extension and professional development opportunities focused on sustainable agriculture and food systems.
Students will work with their faculty and graduate student mentors on research for 3.5 days each week, and will meet as a group 1.5 days/week to participate in professional skills development and agriculture career path exploration and extension training.

Activities are organized into five main program elements that include:

  • Introductory tour of NC agriculture: “Diverse Communities and Agriculture across NC.” A 4-day tour across various agroecosystems and communities throughout NC. This tour is important for students to understand the unique agricultural challenges facing diverse producers and communities across NC and the role of cooperative extension.
    This tour is tentatively scheduled to happen in person, due to COVID concerns and precautions we will re-assess closer to the date and determine if a virtual option is needed.
  • Faculty-mentored research training: Each student will be matched with a sustainable agriculture research project and NC State faculty research mentor. In addition, each student will be paired with a graduate student mentor who is conducting similar research.
  • Extension training: All students will participate in integrated education and agricultural extension related group activities on a biweekly basis.
  • Professional skills development and agriculture career exploration: All students will participate in a diversity of weekly professional development activities, as well as meetings with local businesses and non-profits that support sustainable agriculture and food systems work. These professional development activities include: discussions on the research process, scientific communication, leadership training, diversity, equity and inclusion competencies, understanding agriculture career pathways, and networking opportunities
  • Research Presentation Opportunity: Students will have the additional opportunity to present their research at a national conference following the ASPIRE program to further professional network and career opportunities. A $1,000 stipend to cover conference registration costs, travel, and hotel will be provided to each student.
    Travel arrangements will have to comply with the most current recommendations from NC State University and CDC

Background of CEFS

CEFS envisions a future of vibrant farms, resilient ecosystems, strong communities, healthy people, and thriving local economies. CEFS is one of the nation’s most important centers for research, extension, and education in sustainable agriculture and community-based food systems. It is recognized as a national and international leader in the local foods movement, and celebrated for its work in building consensus around policies, programs and actions that facilitate a vibrant local food economy.

CEFS was born from the shared conviction that a land-grant-university-based research, education, and extension program focused on organic and sustainable agriculture could have a significant and essential impact in North Carolina.

This internship program is supported by: 1) The Research and Extension Experiences for Undergraduates program, [grant no. 2020-67037-30673], from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, and 2) The Native American Agriculture Fund.