MOUNT OLIVE, N.C. — “Even though I grew up in a farming town and spent years in local 4-H, I did not get the real experience of agriculture until I came to the University of Mount Olive (UMO),” said Tessa Seitter, an agriculture production systems major from Burgaw, NC.
Seitter is not alone. Around 90% of UMO’s agriculture and biological science students hail from rural communities, yet prior to college, many have never had the hands-on experience required in most agriculture-related professions.
(Tessa Seitter, photo by UMO)
“That is what makes our programs so unique and relevant,” said UMO’s Dean of the School of Agriculture and Biological Sciences Dr. Sandy Maddox. “Students in our programs have the opportunity to take the classroom principles and theories that they are learning and apply them in multiple experiential learning environments including our greenhouse, high tunnels, arboretum, Goodson-Wells Agricultural Mechanics Shop, and throughout the 63-acre Kornegay Student Farm.”
After graduation, Seitter, who is a junior, would like to start a career in agriculture back in her hometown, with the ultimate goal of growing row crops, raising beef cattle, and maybe even market hogs. She is not alone, about 93% of graduates from UMO’s ag programs are employed in rural communities.
“Currently, UMO has a job placement of 100% for its ag graduates within six months of commencement,” said Maddox. “The majority of these graduates are placed in eastern NC or in their respective local communities in other areas of the state. It is essential to the sustainability of our rural communities for these graduates to return to their local communities to serve as educators and leaders in the agricultural industry.”
Noah Summerlin, a sophomore, agriculture education major from Mount Olive plans to use his degree to educate the next generation of ag enthusiasts in his home county of Wayne. “Teaching agriculture has been a goal since I was in high school,” he said. “During my time at UMO, I have been constantly preparing for a future career in education. From various classes that provide me with foundational knowledge in all areas of agriculture to working with students from surrounding middle and high schools, my professors continuously challenge us, while also finding ways to push us out of our comfort zone.”
(Noah Summerlin, photo by UMO)
“Summerlin and Seitter are prime examples of the University’s commitment to providing well trained graduates for the industry that is the economic engine of North Carolina,” said Maddox.
“Our expanded degree offerings are allowing us to meet the educational needs of both students and employers within the changing agricultural industry across the state. Precision agriculture, agronomic principles, sales and marketing, and agricultural education will remain at the forefront of educating students for careers in agriculture, and applied learning experiences are pivotal in this process.”
Seitter said, “At UMO, I have taken part in a lot of different agricultural production operations. I have obtained certifications in pest control, livestock care, and waste management. I have learned about horticulture, crop growth, and livestock health. I have also had the opportunity to operate both classic and state-of-the-art tractors. All of these experiences, no matter how big or small, are special and will contribute to my goals after graduation. That is why I chose the University of Mount Olive for my undergraduate degree. They have the professors, the programs, and the participatory learning experiences that give students an added advantage.”
The University of Mount Olive is a private institution rooted in the liberal arts tradition with defining Christian values. The University is sponsored by the Convention of Original Free Will Baptists. For more information, visit www.umo.edu.
—Rhonda Jessup, University of Mount Olive