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Ag students pursue legislative internships

Sen. Thom Tillis and Ethan Holland
Sen. Thom Tillis and Ethan Holland

Two North Carolina State University students are spending their summer on Capitol Hill, thanks to legislative internships made possible by an endowment honoring the late N.C. Sen. Jesse Helms.

Ethan Holland and Elizabeth Gillispie are the first Helms interns since 2005, when the endowment was set up to support legislative internships for students enrolled in traditional agricultural programs at NC State and North Carolina A&T State University. (The Adolph Warren Family Leadership Program, supported by an endowment created by Joe and Gail Dunn, is another CALS effort designed to prepare students for leadership and public service in agriculture. As Warren Fellows, the students will participate in full-time summer internship experiences with agricultural organizations or the state legislature’s standing committees on agriculture, environment and natural resources.)

Holland: ‘Very humbling’

Holland is a rising junior pursuing bachelor’s degrees in poultry science and agricultural business management. As an intern with Sen. Thom Tillis’ office in Washington, D.C., he hopes to build on his experiences in agriculture to help shape public policy.

“As public policies are developed, they can certainly have a tremendous impact on the agriculture industry as people become more removed from agriculture and even our legislative bodies of government, for that matter,” said Holland, who grew up on a dairy farm in Olin.

“Perhaps coming from a farm and having the hands-on background experience, this internship will allow me the opportunity to provide input on policies that are being discussed for possible development,” he said. “This could certainly prove beneficial to the agriculture industry, and knowing that I could potentially be that voice for farmers is certainly very humbling.”

Holland has two career goals: After graduating from NC State, he hopes to focus on agricultural and environmental law. And he wants to return to his family’s farm and expand operations to include agritourism and an on-site milk processing plant.

Liz Gillispie
Liz Gillispie

Gillispie: ‘Ag policy impacts every human life’

Gillispie, who is entering her third year of Ph.D. studies in soil science at NC State, is working in the office of Rep. David Rouzer, of North Carolina’s 7th Congressional district. Rouzer is a 1994 CALS and College of Sciences alumnus, with degrees in agricultural business management, agricultural economics and chemistry. He also previously served as CALS’ legislative liaison.

She said the internship will allow her to apply the knowledge and experiences she’s gained through research to help aid in agricultural and environmental policies.

“Agricultural policy impacts every human life, whether we realize it or not. Our congressmen and women have a direct influence on the outcome of many of these policies, and they rely on the advice of their staff,” she said. “If we start incorporating staff members with a scientific background in these offices, then they are not only contributing in-depth technical knowledge of agricultural issues, but they provide the offices with an extensive network of colleagues in extension, academia, industry, stakeholders and more.”

Gillispie holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Mary Washington and NC State University, respectively.

For information on supporting the Helms’ Endowment, or related programs, please contact Keith Oakley at 919-515-9262 or Chris Wessel at 919-515-7678.

— D. Shore