Press Release Sustainability

USDA-CSU Internship Program Addresses California’s Water Crisis

Elizabeth Chapin



The California State University (CSU) received a $2 million grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) that will fund hands-on water management internships for 200 underrepresented students at CSU and California Community College campuses.

Beginning January 2016, the award will fund 50 paid internships a year for four years spread throughout the 23 CSUs and all California Community College campuses with a priority given to Latino students at the CSU’s 18 Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs)—campuses with an undergraduate Latino student enrollment of at least 25 percent.

The grant is a renewal of the USDA’s commitment to support the Watershed Management Internship Program administered by the CSU’s systemwide Water Resources and Policy Initiatives (WRPI) consortium. The program received its first $2 million four-year grant from the USDA in 2012.

“The USDA grant funding will provide students with an opportunity to learn water management techniques essential to sustain California’s water supply during our current drought and well into the future,” said WRPI Director Boykin Witherspoon III. “It will also provide underserved students with paid internships, which are invaluable to student success and employment opportunities.”​

In addition to solving California’s water problems, the grant also aims to improve retention and graduation outcomes for underrepresented students at the CSU’s HSIs. The student interns will develop academic pathways to join the next generation of employed water professionals.

Internships range from assisting CSU professors with watershed research to working at the USDA or another agency that manages community water supplies. In addition, interns will get advice on how to land a USDA job after graduation by ensuring they take the required courses to immediately apply for entry-level positions at the USDA and its agencies.

Through WRPI, the CSU is working to solve California’s long-term water challenges including the state’s ongoing drought. The group leverages the system’s 250 water experts into an important resource for addressing California’s complex water issues.

WRPI is based at the CSU San Bernardino campus, which also houses its own Water Resources Institute (WRI). To maintain efficiency in the grant allocations, WRI will administer the internship awards to the CSU campuses.​​​

Service Learning; Underrepresented Communities