Foxcroft School Students Gain Knowledge and Experience at Virginia Tech Research and Extension Center

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New partnership between Virginia Tech and Foxcroft School gives all-girls’ school students unique opportunities to work on equine research projects with graduate students and 4-H youth outreach in Middleburg, VA.

“Foxcroft interns will gain confidence and have a real-world perspective that will serve them well in college and in future STEM careers. Plus, the excitement in our students’ voices when they describe their work at the MARE Center is inspiring.” — Cathy McGehee, Head of Foxcroft School

(PRWEB) November 14, 2017 -- Foxcroft School, an all-girls academic boarding school for grades 9-12, is excited to announce a new internship program with Virginia Tech’s Middleburg Agricultural Research and Extension (MARE) Center.  

This unique partnership between the boarding school for girls and higher education institution is designed to engage Foxcroft students in college- and graduate-level equine research projects. The internships are a terrific complement to Foxcroft’s curriculum, which includes innovative STEM initiatives, college prep classes, and a horse riding program that attracts girls from across the country and around the world.

“Providing our students with experiential learning and advanced research opportunities related to horse care is an important part of our strategic initiatives to provide unique learning experiences in and out of the classroom,” says Head of School Cathy McGehee.

Situated in the heart of Virginia horse country just a few miles from the Foxcroft Boarding School campus, the MARE Center is one of Virginia Tech’s 11 agricultural research and extension centers. The 420-acre farm was donated to Virginia Tech by philanthropist Paul Mellon in 1949 to foster research that improved pasture and animal productivity, while enhancing the land. Through collaboration with academic and industry partners around the world, the Center advances the health and wellbeing of the horse through its innovative research efforts and exceptional educational programming in equine science.

In this new partnership, MARE faculty and graduate students will engage Foxcroft students in ongoing research projects that involve equine nutrition and health, pasture management, conservation and land stewardship, and equine reproduction. By acquiring a greater understanding of the scientific method, including experiment design and implementation, Foxcroft interns will develop further their skills in the areas of critical thinking, problem solving, communication, collaboration, and leadership.

“Foxcroft’s commitment to educating girls, along with its century-old tradition of horsemanship and caring for horses, aligns very well with our program and research initiatives. We are proud to welcome these students to our facility for what is sure to be an incredible learning experience,” said MARE. Center Equine Extension Specialist and faculty member Bridgett McIntosh, PhD.

This semester, three Foxcroft Boarding School students —seniors Melanie Fann of Purcellville, VA, and Saylor Hart (Keswick, VA), and junior Kayla Lee (Austin, TX) — have been paired with Virginia Tech graduate students as interns assisting in their research activities. Hart, who has been accepted to Wake Forest University where she plans to major in biology, is considering a career in veterinary science or wildlife conservation. She says the experience at the MARE Center is helping to shape her future.

“I hope to learn how to accurately conduct a scientific experiment, while also developing my horsemanship skills. I am fascinated by the studies they are performing, and would love to learn how to similarly contribute to the equine industry,” she said.

This fall, the research studies are focused on nutrition practices that optimize equine health and performance. Outcomes of the research initiatives will be presented on scientific and academic platforms, and ultimately affect the way horses are fed and cared for. For the Foxcroft students involved in the projects, learning about the impact of their work and how the results will translate into action is very exciting. For now, the girls are spending time at the Center each week and are given specific responsibilities and assignment.
 
“The graduate students serve as outstanding mentors for our students interested in animal science,” said McGehee. “Foxcroft interns will gain confidence and have a real-world perspective that will serve them well in college and in future STEM careers. Plus, the excitement in our students’ voices when they describe their work at the MARE Center is inspiring.”

Lee, whose interest in animal science led her to participate in a high school veterinary program in Thailand last summer, says that working with the graduate students is very rewarding. “One thing that positively surprised me is that the graduate students are creating and following through with their own studies instead of working on things that were assigned to them. It is great to see something that they have planned themselves come to life,” she said.

With the internship program underway, early signs point to a successful partnership. “We are very impressed by the level of equine familiarity and maturity that these high school students have displayed,” says Dr. McIntosh. “They are exceptional. Each one of them has demonstrated an incredible ability to process research technique and their comfort level in working with the horses is a big advantage.”

In addition to the ongoing research internships, the Foxcroft-MARE partnership offers opportunities for community outreach and education to Foxcroft students through the Center’s 4-H youth development extension program.

Under the direction of Virginia State Youth Equine Extension Program Associate Sandy Arnold, Foxcroft juniors Carsyn Betz of Middleburg, Grace Chen (Nanjing, China) and Alex Van De Water (Boulder, CO) will gain valuable experience as they support the Center’s goals by participating in such activities as video and photographic storytelling, and assisting with equine knowledge contests and clinics.

“Having a school campus where horses are such a natural part of the student learning experience makes it even more special,” said Arnold.

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Founded in 1914, Foxcroft School is a college-preparatory boarding and day school for girls in grades 9-12 with a mission of helping every girl explore her unique voice and develop the skills, confidence, and courage to share it with the world. Unique learning experiences; an uncommonly beautiful setting in which to learn, grow and thrive; and a warm, residential community comprised of 157 girls from 13 countries, 18 state, and the District of Columbia support this mission. The School offers 76 courses, including 16 Advanced Placement classes, and a STEM program that inspires girls to pursue disciplines traditionally underrepresented by women. Foxcroft fields athletic teams in nine sports, including a two-time state champion lacrosse team and has a nationally known horse riding program.  About one-third of the students receive financial assistance; 24 percent are international students, and 20 percent are students of color.

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Cathrine Wolf

Bridgett McIntosh
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