University system offers internships aimed at battling drought

Sonoma State University students will soon have the opportunity to take part in the Watershed Management Internship Program made possible because of a $2 million grant the CSU received from the United States Department of Agriculture. This grant will fund 200 internships primarily for students at 18 CSU campuses of which have at least 25 percent of Hispanic enrollment as well as students from the other five universities including Sonoma State. The CSU will offer 50 paid internships across the university system per year until 2020 beginning in January.

Even though he internships are primarily for Latino students attending one of the 18 Hispanic serving campuses, they are open to students from all CSU’s, including Sonoma State and California community colleges, according to Elizabeth Chapin, public affairs web communications specialist for the CSU.

Senior Gustavo Vasquez believes the internship program could potentially increase retention rates among Hispanic students in the CSU. Vasquez doesn’t believe the internship program should be primarily offered to students at Hispanic serving institutions.

“There are many factors that create distractions and situations where students have to leave school,” said Vasquez. “This internship will help increase the retention rate of Latino students and make these students more competitive in today’s job market.”

The internship program, which began in 2012, is in response to California’s water crisis. In the program, students will have the chance to address the crisis head-on by learning water management techniques and how to be more sustainable in their water usage. The internship program is administered by the CSU’s Water Resources and Policy Initiatives consortium, which began in 2008 and is dedicated to promoting water management research and solutions.

The director of WRPI, Boykin Witherspoon III believes the paid internship program will help underrepresented students in the CSU secure future employment as well as learn essential strategies to conserve water during the drought and in the future.

In the internship program, students will have the opportunity to assist professors at their university with watershed research or work for an agency that deals with conserving the state’s water supply.

“Educating California’s future water managers is vital to maintaining the state’s water supply,” said Chapin.  “This is especially important during our drought and into the future, since drought is a recurring event in California.”

The CSU hopes this program will help students secure a job in the related field following graduation.

The internship program will also allow students to work experienced professionals in their career field and receive career advice.

By offering the Watershed Management Internships primarily to underrepresented students, the CSU hopes to increase graduation rates as well.

To apply for the paid internship program beginning in January, students can visit