MOUNT OLIVE, N.C. — When Hunter Hall of Hillsborough, NC began her college search, she knew she wanted a small school in North Carolina where she could study agriculture. The University of Mount Olive (UMO) checked all of those boxes. “When I visited campus for the first time, I fell in love with the small-town atmosphere and I felt like I was at home,” she said. “As I met the faculty, I knew they would provide me with the support and guidance that I would need to succeed in college and in my future career.”
Hall did not grow up on a farm, and therefore was not familiar with the production side of agriculture. A field trip to a local soybean farm during her sophomore year at UMO made a tremendous impact on Hall and her future goals. “Since I did not have the agricultural background like many of my classmates, I struggled with understanding the ins-and-outs of harvest,” she recalled. “However, during the field trip, I learned about the GPS, the combine, and the harvest. I felt like I was finally getting the agriculture experience that I had longed for since I was introduced to the industry in high school. That opportunity, as well as countless others are what have made my experience at the University Mount Olive so special.”
Hall is now a senior at UMO majoring in agriculture productions systems. With help from her professors, she has had a horticulture-focused internship every summer since starting college. This past summer, she had the opportunity to intern at a tissue culture lab, an experience that sparked her interest in plant propagation and breeding. “These opportunities have provided me with learning and networking opportunities within my chosen industry that I likely would not have had anywhere else,” she said.
When Hall graduates in December she plans to pursue a career in the horticulture industry and later seek her master’s degree. “The coursework I have taken at UMO has most-definitely prepared me to succeed,” Hall said. “The added benefit of UMO’s greenhouse, arboretum, and Kornegay Student Farm have provided me with hands-on learning experiences that have allowed me to practice real-world skills and solidify my classroom studies.”
Hall is just one of more than 300 students at the University of Mount Olive that are pursuing degrees in agriculture and biological sciences. The University touts a 100% job placement of its ag graduates within six months of commencement.
“It is exciting to see our graduates being hired into the field of agriculture which offers so many opportunities and makes such as impact on our state. North Carolina agriculture is extremely diversified and so are the job opportunities for graduates,” said Dr. Sandy Maddox, Dean of the School of Agriculture and Biological Sciences.
Of those students graduating from UMO’s School of Agriculture and Biological Sciences, 90% are from rural communities, and 93% of those accept employment in rural counties.
“It is important to note that our Ag graduates are returning to work in rural communities in eastern NC and across the state,” Maddox said. “This return to rural areas proves to be important to the economic growth and stability in these communities. Our success in placing students is a result of the relationships that we have been able to build with various agencies and businesses across the spectrum of agriculture and their support of our program. It is exciting to see our young, intelligent, hard-working graduates become educators, farmers, and agribusiness leaders willing to help chart the future of agriculture in these agriculturally rich rural areas of our state.”
Hall, who could have gone anywhere for her four-year undergraduate degree, agrees that hands-on experiences, internships, and personal connections are the keys to success in the ag industry. “UMO has provided me with an incredible support system,” she said. “I have found lifelong friends, I have professors who are invested in my education and future career, and I have mentors who have helped guide me into the industry that I love so much. Their belief in me has inspired a confidence within myself that I did not have prior to being a student here. I know that the connections and experiences that I have made at UMO will make a lasting impact on my life.”
The University of Mount Olive is a private institution rooted in the liberal arts tradition with defining Christian values. The University, sponsored by the Convention of Original Free Will Baptists. For more information, visit www.umo.edu.
–Rhonda Jessup, University of Mount Olive