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SerPIE-ASEMP students with mentors at TSU.

ALABAMA A&M UNIVERSITY, Ala. – The Alabama Cooperative Extension System, Alabama A&M University and Tennessee State University completed another successful summer mentorship program. Synergistic Efforts to Reduce Pharmaceuticals in the Environment—Agricultural Science Extension Mentorship Program (SerPIE-ASEMP) educates a new generation of young people about the impact of pharmaceutical drugs on the environment. It also increases student interest in Extension and science careers.

The six-week mentorship program ran from June 3 to July 15 and consisted of a nationwide search targeting undergraduate STEM majors with a minimum GPA of 3.0/4.0.

“Applicants had to submit an official transcript, a resume, two letters of recommendation, and a one-page letter detailing their interest in the program,” said Karnita Garner, an Alabama Extension environmental specialist. “From the applicant pool we selected eight students from diverse backgrounds.”

Other program mentors included Alabama A&M professors Paul Okweye and Sampson Hopkinson, Tennessee State professors and graduate student Richard Browning, Samuel Dennis and Ravneet Kaur and veterinarian and animal science consultant Maria Leite-Browning.

Student Activities

Students participated in experiential learning activities that enhanced their understanding of the impacts that pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) have on animal, human and environmental health. They learned best management practices (BMPs) necessary to minimize the risk posed by these chemicals by engaging in hands-on field, classroom and laboratory exercises.

They also participated in workshops, service-learning projects and site visits to the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge in Decatur, Alabama and the WaterWorks Center for Environmental Education in Hartselle, Alabama.

The undergraduates had an opportunity to engage with other Extension specialists and were introduced to Extension programs such as VIP, CHAMPION, Water Wheels, PCREP and Making Money Count. Additionally, they shadowed Extension agents and gained experience in delivering STEM education to youth and gardening education to seniors.  Overall, the mentees learned first-hand the responsibilities of serving the community and the importance of Extension and outreach.

“Evaluation of the mentees revealed significant knowledge gains on issues related to PPCPs, including impacts of PPCPs on wildlife, prescription drug abuse among adults and teens and the benefits of properly disposing of PPCPs,” Garner said.

Program Partners

The SerPIE-ASEMP planning committee would like to thank Alabama Extension and Alabama A&M and Tennessee State students, faculty and staff for their contributions in making the 2019 SerPIE-ASEMP a success. The 2019 program partners included:

  • AAMU Department of Biological & Environmental Sciences
  • AAMU Department of Mathematics, Chemistry & Physics
  • AAMU Wellness Center
  • Alabama 4-H Center
  • Alabama’s Mountains Rivers and Valleys RC&D Council
  • Decatur Farmer’s Market
  • Decatur Youth Services
  • Flint River Conservation Association
  • Hays Nature Preserve
  • Huntsville Waste Water Treatment Facility
  • Madison County Extension Office
  • Morgan County Extension Office
  • Rolling Hills Elementary School
  • TSU Department of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences
  • USDA-Natural Resource Conservation Service
  • USDA-National Institute of Food and Agriculture
  • Water Works Environmental Education Center
  • Wheeler Wildlife Refugee
  • AAMU Winfred T. Agricultural Research Station

Learn More About SerPIE

Contact Garner at (256) 372-8331 or kfg0003@aces.edu to learn more about the SerPIE program.

For a list of program activities that Alabama Extension at Alabama A&M University offers across the state, visit the Urban Extension page of the Alabama Extension website or the Urban Affairs and New Nontraditional Programs Facebook page.


The Agricultural Science Extension Mentorship Program is a collaboration between the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, Alabama A&M University, and Tennessee State University. It is supported by the United States Department of Agriculture-National Institute of Food and Agriculture grant #2017-38821-26426.

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