Students Intern at Research Station

Students Intern at Research Station

June 22, 2023
Contact: Rhonda Jessup, Director of Public Relations

CLINTON, NC – When Madelyn Slade and Matthew Johnson embarked on their college search, they shared a common goal: to find a university in North Carolina that would cater to their passion for agriculture. The University of Mount Olive (UMO) emerged as the ideal institution, offering a perfect fit for their academic and career aspirations.

UMO’s School of Agriculture and Biological Sciences requires students to complete at least one internship during their course of study.  Students can and do participate in internships with diversified farming operations, livestock production companies, state and national parks, agribusinesses, governmental affairs, nursery and greenhouse operations, and a wide array of local, state, and federal agricultural agencies and organizations.

This summer, Slade and Johnson are undertaking internships at the NC Department of Agriculture’s Horticulture Research Station in Clinton, NC. These internships not only provide hands-on experience, but also offer valuable insights into the multifaceted field of agriculture.

Slade, a senior plant science major, graduated from Gray’s Creek High School in 2020.  It was her involvement, in her high school FFA program, that led Slade to pursue a degree in agriculture.  Since enrolling at UMO in 2021, she has consistently earned a spot on the Dean’s List. Outside the classroom, Slade serves as a Resident Assistant and works in the University greenhouse.

Johnson, also a UMO senior, is double majoring in environmental and natural resources and agribusiness. He graduated from West Johnston High School in 2020. While in high school, Johnson’s family moved to a family farm where they raised chickens, pigs, and cows.  Those farming experiences coupled with his high school FFA involvement fueled Johnson’s desire to pursue agriculture for his education and career aspirations. His decision to attend UMO was driven by the University’s acclaimed agricultural programs, small class sizes, and nurturing small-town environment.

The 32 hour-per-week NCDA internship opportunity is providing both Slade and Johnson with an immersive experience in their respective fields of interest. Slade is focusing on sweet potato research and collaborating closely with sweet potato breeders from North Carolina State University (NCSU). Her work aims to improve crop production methods for sweet potatoes. Slade’s involvement in sweet potato research has reinforced her dedication to enhancing crop production for growers.

Johnson’s responsibilities include cutting sweet potatoes for planting and acquiring insights into irrigation practices. These responsibilities are providing him with exposure to multiple aspects of agricultural research and a comprehensive understanding of various facets of the agricultural industry.

Both Slade and Johnson have expressed their commitment to pursuing careers that leverage their degrees and contribute to developing sustainable agricultural practices. “I would love to get my master’s degree,” Slade said.  “Long term I want to be in crop research, and I eventually want to teach horticulture, botany, or crop science at the collegiate level.”

Russell Mierop, Research Specialist with NCSU’s Sweet Potato Breeding and Genetics Program, said, “We are glad to have the UMO students as part of our program.  They are dependable, courteous, responsible, and eager to learn.”

Superintendent of the Horticultural Crops Research Station Hunter Barrier agreed, “We’re glad that we are able to hire UMO students and give them practical field experience to complement their education.  We hope to continue growing that relationship.  It is a win-win for all involved.”

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