A new breed

Internships open the farm gates for a new generation of agriculture students

When first-year UAlberta student Cassidy Clisby stepped into the treatment room at the Westlock Veterinary Center, she couldn’t believe her luck: a dead calf had been laid out on the metal examination table. Two vet students were performing a post-mortem and asked her to help figure out the cause of death. So Clisby rolled up her sleeves and got to work. She learned how to make incisions, remove organs and understand the difference between a healthy lung and an abscessed one. 

Not exactly your typical day in the classroom. But it is a typical day for students in the Mini-Internship Program offered through the Faculty of Agricultural, Life & Environmental Sciences. The donor-funded program places students with food, agriculture and environmental organizations such as hatcheries, distilleries, food processors and feed manufacturers for three days of hands-on learning. 


Cassidy Clisby grew up in the city but knew hands-on experience would help prepare her for a future career as a large animal veterinarian. A donor-funded internship with a livestock farm has set her up for success.


Clisby got to help out at the vet clinic as part of her placement at Triple Lyoness Farm in Westlock, Alta. Growing up in Tsawwassen, B.C., she rode horses but never had the chance to spend time on a working farm. At Triple Lyoness she woke up early to feed the cattle and collect buckets of chicken eggs. She learned as much as she could about what it takes to run a farm and raise livestock, all with an eye to her dream job — becoming a large animal veterinarian. 

“Being able to do the mini-internship — being able to touch, see, listen — proved to me that this is exactly what I want to do,” says Clisby. 

These kinds of experiences are a big advantage for students like Clisby, most of whom come from urban backgrounds and find it difficult to break into the agri-food sector. 

As lead donors to the internship program, agriculture alumni and friends Jim Lockhart, ’63 BSc, ’67 MSc, and Leighton Mellemstrand, ’62 BSc, are not only helping students, they’re also investing in the future of Alberta. 

“It can’t happen the way it did for us anymore,” says Mellemstrand. “This inspired me to support students in any way I can.”

Retired from rewarding careers — Lockhart with Agriculture Canada and Mellemstrand in the feed industry — both remember the professors who offered them career guidance. But they recognize that times and class sizes have changed, making one-on-one support for students hard to come by. Lockhart was keen to give students a glimpse into the industry and brought Mellemstrand on board. 

“It can’t happen the way it did for us anymore,” says Mellemstrand. “This inspired me to support students in any way I can.”

Now students like Clisby are developing the confidence, connections and experience they need to be ready for the workforce. 

“I don’t even think I can say 'thank you' enough,” she says.

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