Perspectives Online

Good Connections. A Philip Morris internship introduces student Lindsay Wescott to Extension programs and the people who make them. By Terri Leith

Philip Morris intern Lindsay Wescott (above) studied tobacco diseases, taught young 4-H'ers plant identification and created a tourism directory for Brunswick County Extension Director Martha Warner (below).
(Photo by Daniel Kim)
Excursions to eastern North Carolina farms to study tobacco-farming issues. Travels to western North Carolina to learn about alternative agricultural enterprises. Tours of agritourism sites in Illinois and Indiana. A trip to the 4-H Congress in Raleigh to help with Fashion Revue. That's all just part of how Lindsay Wescott spent her summer 2004.

Thanks to an internship sponsored in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences by Philip Morris USA, Wescott spent the summer before her NCSU senior year learning about the Cooperative Extension Service, as well as homing in on future career choices.

Those achievements are what the Philip Morris internship program is all about, says Marcy Bullock, director of Career Services in the College.

"The Philip Morris program provides opportunities for students in the College to test the waters in career fields in research and extension capacities," Bullock says. "The students get a great chance to work with professionals and learn about how they might fit into a career."

In the case of Wescott, the horticultural science major (with a minor in agribusiness management) got the opportunity to work with the professionals at the County Extension Office in her home county of Brunswick.

Brunswick County Extension Director Martha Warner.
(Courtesy Lindsay Wescott)
"I worked with everybody there," says Wescott, who became so close to the staff members that she refers to them as if they were so many honorary aunts and uncles. "I worked with Miss Martha [Warner], county Extension director, and Mr. Al [Hight], county agriculture agent; with Mr. David [Barkley], horticulture agent; Mr. Billy Privette, 4-H agent; Matt Martin, area turfgrass specialist; Miss Pearl Stanley, family and consumer sciences agent; and Miss Susan Morgan, also an FCS agent."

With Hight she toured area farms "to look at black shank disease on tobacco plants in our county," says Wescott, who adds that the experience helped familiarize her with the economic effects and the need to help farmers prevent and fight such diseases in their crops.

The tour struck a chord with Wescott, who hails from a farming family. On her mother's side are the Clemmonses of Bolivia, where for four generations they have farmed tobacco, soybeans, corn, beef cattle and hogs.

However, Wescott's internship duties often kept her indoors as well as out in the field. "A lot of meetings," she says, were among her primary activities and duties. "I love event planning, and I previously had no idea how much of that was involved in Extension."

Wescott's interest in participating as an intern sprang from her desire to know more about Cooperative Extension and how it operates. She had heard about the program through email from the Career Services office.

"Philip Morris provided the funding, and the internship was set up so I'd work in an Extension office on tobacco-related issues, as well as other things," Wescott says.

"The main thing was to give me a better understanding of Extension."

CALS Career Services hosts a database of more than 1,000 internships for students to search, Bullock says. "This is just one of many great chances to explore the career doors open in agriculture and life sciences."

The internship is one part of the many programs in the College supported by Philip Morris USA. The company averages $600,000 in annual support of 24 scholarships, internships and graduate fellowships in the College, as well as providing funds in support of professorships, extension leadership programs and research projects.

Martha Warner has nothing but gratitude for the intern that Philip Morris provided her county.

"Lindsay won the hearts of all the Brunswick County Extension faculty and staff," Warner says. "She is bright, intelligent and hard-working. Her work ethic is unsurpassed. She definitely was an asset to Cooperative Extension and the County of Brunswick; each of us was able to benefit from Lindsay's positive attitude, energy and collegial viewpoint.

"She was always willing to give her best and accepted each new challenge with enthusiasm and eagerness."

Among Wescott's activities and challenges were helping Barkley three days a week with youths in the 4-H horticulture judging program; assisting Morgan as she taught classes on nutrition and wellness at a senior citizens' center; and judging a blueberry contest in Burgaw. She also got to meet many community leaders and spoke at a county commissioners meeting.

She traveled to the North Carolina mountain counties, where Rob Hawk, Extension specialist, took her to visit farmers and helped her plan her Indiana/Illinois trip. Later, on that trip, she visited a reindeer ranch and other agritourism sites, and she toured the John Deere world headquarters in Illinois.

"On both trips I met awesome people who gave me pamphlets and brochures and told me not to hesitate to call for advice," Wescott says.

Everything she learned about agritourism she brought back and reported to Warner, so the information could be applied to Brunswick County efforts.

Wescott also created a tourism directory for Brunswick County, including county attractions such as agritourism sites, historic sites, bed-and-breakfast inns, golf courses, horse farms and kayaking opportunities. "I compiled it all into a binder so that Miss Martha had a go-to resource that listed everything," Wescott says.

She also was able to apply her internship activities to her horticultural science studies back on campus, parlaying the experience into academic credit. Working with her academic adviser, Bryce Lane, Wescott wrote a paper summarizing the internship and how it related to her curriculum. This included her duties of monitoring pond water levels in the Brunswick Center's demonstration gardens and her work with the horticulture judging teams. "I took what I had learned in my NCSU ornamental plant identification classes and taught kids to identify plants."

And Wescott mentions another benefit she brought back to campus: "I'm vice president of the NCSU Horticulture Club, so I was able to meet people like Jonathan Fussel, who runs Duplin Winery, and Carol Kline of Cooperative Extension [in the area of sustainable tourism planning, development and marketing] and get them to come speak to the club."

The internship experience "has just opened so many doors for me and given me so many good connections," she says.

Her activities also helped crystallize her career goals. "I would definitely enjoy a career in Extension," she says. "I enjoyed everything I did, especially in tourism, which I hope to pursue some day. I saw the ways Extension can help entrepreneurs across the state."