Building Ecological Skillsets for Transitions to Sustainability in Agriculture and Food Systems (BEST)

Series of Experiential Education Fellowships


Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Building Ecological Skillsets for Transitions to Sustainability in Agriculture and Food Systems (BEST) Research and Extension Experiential Learning Fellowships for Undergraduates (REEU) program?

BEST is a six (6) month long experiential education and research opportunity for undergraduate students seeking to work at the nexus of agroecology, ecology, and policy; more specifically, in ecosystem services delivery. The first three (3) months are preparatory and remote - students are paid to participate with their cohort in tuition-free trainings and networking building-activities as well as interacting with their placement hosts (roughly 20 hours per week at $16/hour). The following three (3) months are devoted to their placements and projects identified by their hosts (up to 40 hours per week at $16/hour). The time commitment during the placement is expected to be at 100% and may be part-time, remote or in-person as determined as determined on a host-by-host basis.

Students work with the BEST team to identify and secure internship placements in their communities or with Prescott College partners and affiliated field stations They will be matched with Prescott College faculty mentors. Students will work with their mentors while also being paid to participate in a mini-course (credit- or non-credit bearing) for a three-month period in advance of their placements to solidify their research and extension skills and projects and then have a three-month placement. 

How is the program funded?

Funding for the BEST program is provided by a grant from the USDA-NIFA AFRI Education and Workforce Development (United States Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Agriculture and Food Research Initiative) to Prescott College.  

What will I do?

BEST participants are paid to participate in a course (tuition-free), whose theme will change annually related to ecological skillsets, but also receive training in:

  • systems thinking and conceptualization 
  • sustainability transitions 
  • networking skills
  • policy analysis and planning 

The USDA’s focus on outreach and extension means that there is an underlying expectation of community service and impact. Many food systems experts recognize that the local is probably the level where policy changes are most immediately attainable. Participants will apply their ecological skillsets to policy analysis with their host organizations to create a policy brief with recommendations that, we hope, can influence the sustainability of food systems by integrating the skills and knowledge of ecosystem services. 

How many students will participate?

Each year, we will sponsor six students.

Each student will work with their host organization and two faculty mentors.  

How are participants selected?

We will evaluate applicants on their written statement of interest in building ecological skillsets for sustainable agriculture and the theme they wish to focus upon; a video (in lieu of a traditional interview); academic performance; a recommendation or nomination; and status with regard to the stated USDA REEU purpose to provide opportunities for "...hands-on experiences for undergraduate students at colleges and universities, especially those from underrepresented and economically disadvantaged groups, veterans, first generation college students, students at minority-serving institutions and community colleges." 

Is this a paid training program?

Yes, each student can receive up to $11,520. Students are paid (estimated at 20 hours/week and $16/hour) for their preparatory work for approximately 3 months and they are also paid (estimated at 40 hours/week and $16/hour) while in their placements (3 months, estimated). Host organizations, students and Program Directors will determine the specific time commitments. There are modest travel and materials/supplies funds available. 

Who is eligible to apply?

To be eligible for the fellowship, the students need to be rising sophomores (between sophomore and junior status) or rising seniors (between junior and senior status). Additionally, they must be registered at a degree-granting institution at least half-time when they receive the BEST fellowship. For example, a community college student who is completing their second year of their Associate’s Degree is invited to apply. Another example includes a Veteran with substantial transfer credits related to their service but in their first year of college will likely have enough credits to be considered a rising sophomore. Confirmation of enrollment status will be requested of fellows to begin their fellowship. Contact robin.currey@prescott.edu if you have questions about your eligibility.

Can current seniors apply?

Students graduating in the same semester that the fellowship begins are not eligible.

Are Prescott College students eligible?

Yes, Prescott College students are eligible provided they meet the selection criteria. 

Do I have to be a Prescott College student to apply?

No. Upper division undergraduate students are eligible provided they meet the selection criteria. 

Are remote and online students eligible?

Yes. The BEST program was specifically designed to be supportive of online students. For that reason, we encourage applicants to identify organizations they might wish to work with in their own communities so that relocation is not a barrier to access this fellowship opportunity. 

Are the partner organizations noted in the application materials the organizations that I will work with or can I suggest an organization to work with in my community?

The partner organizations noted in the application materials are pleased to host REEU placements. However, we are open to and willing to explore additional partnerships as identified by students applying to the BEST REEU. We recognize that independent students are not always able to relocate to predetermined placement sites (child-care; elder-care; spousal deployments; etc.) or simply would like to have the opportunity to apply their skills to sustainable transitions in their own communities. The application provides students with the opportunity to identify a potential host organization with whom the Program Directors will explore a facilitated placement. 

Is there an application fee?

No, there is no fee to apply for the BEST REEU program.

What are the dates of the BEST REEU Fellowship?

The SPRING fellowship preparatory course begins on 11 January 2022. Internship or research placements are planned for March - June 2022, but the final dates will be determined with the fellowship recipient and their host organization and mentors. 

The SUMMER fellowship begins no later than March 15th, 2022. Internship or research placements are planned for May - August 2022, but the final dates will be determined with the fellowship recipient and their host organization and mentors.

How do I apply?

CLICK HERE for application.

What do I need in order to apply?

In order to complete this application you will need your:

  • unofficial transcript, 
  • contact details for a reference (make sure they know!), 
  • a resume, 
  • a 500 word statement of interest as well as 
  • a short video (preferred) or audio recording (in lieu of a real-time interview). 

When must I apply?

Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis but due no later than December 15, 2021 (Spring 2022 Internship) and February 15, 2022 (Summer 2022).As this is a rolling application acceptance, it is in your best interest to submit your application early.

What are the selection criteria? What is the selection process?

Applications are reviewed by members of the REEU Mentors team or their designees and the Directors of Host Placement locations or their designees. The fellowship has  multiple criteria as described in this FAQ document. 

When do students find out if they’ve been accepted into the REU program?

Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis. Please allow up to three weeks from the date of submission to be notified. Please contact robin.currey@prescott.edu with questions.

What are the typical work hours?

Hours are determined by your placement hosts, mentors and your project. Each student can receive up to $11,520. Students are paid (estimated at 20 hours/week and $16/hour) for their preparatory work for approximately 3 months and they are also paid (estimated at 40 hours/week and $16/hour) while in their placements (3 months, estimated). Host organizations, students and Program Directors will determine the specific time commitments and timelines.

Is the starting date flexible?

The preparatory courses begin January 11, 2022 (SPRING 2022 Fellows) and March 15, 2022 (Summer 2022 Fellows).

Do I have to participate for the duration of the program and participate in the training courses and modules?

Yes.

What if I still have questions or comments? For further questions, contact the BEST Program Co-Director, Dr. Robin Currey at robin.currey@prescott.edu. Please put BEST REEU in the Subject Line.

Building Ecological Skillsets for Transitions to Sustainability in Agriculture and Food Systems (BEST) Research and Extension Experiential Learning Fellowships for Undergraduates (REEU)

Prescott College
Sustainable Food Systems
Dr. Robin Currey, Co-Program Director
Director and Faculty, Sustainable Food Systems
220 Grove Ave.
Prescott, AZ 86301
REEU Program: robin.currey@prescott.edu


APPLY NOW