Mary Kate Morgan, a senior in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, embodies the Think and Do mindset and attitude. In her four years at NC State, Morgan made it her mission to help her peers find a home away from home. This year, she was one of four students to receive the Mathews Medal, the highest non-academic distinction awarded to graduating seniors.
The award, which is provided by the NC State Alumni Association, recognizes students who will leave the university a better place because of their service, commitment and leadership — characteristics Morgan exemplifies daily.
The granddaughter of an NC State alum, Morgan grew up a Wolfpack fan in the small town of Shawboro in Currituck County on her family’s farm.
Morgan’s high school had a strong agricultural education and FFA program. Being involved in FFA solidified her path towards a career in agriculture.
Coming to NC State was nothing short of a dream come true for me.
“Through my time as state FFA vice president, I realized my passion for working with students and sharing my love of the agriculture industry,” she said. Morgan decided to become an agricultural educator and will earn her bachelor’s degree in agricultural education in May.
“Coming to NC State was nothing short of a dream come true for me. To attend a land grant university so rich in tradition and pride was something I had looked forward to since I began seriously looking at colleges,” she said.
Although being at NC State was an exciting opportunity, Morgan’s first year wasn’t without its challenges. Growing up in a rural county, she found the university community and its population of more than 35,000 a little overwhelming at first.
“My first year was not easy … but once I found my community at NC State, I was able to feel at home.”
Morgan found her family in the Alumni Association’s Student Ambassador Program, Sigma Alpha Professional Sorority and Young Farmers and Ranchers. Through these programs, Morgan was able to share her love for the university and its rich traditions, express her enthusiasm for professional development and become an advocate for agriculture.
Once I found my community at NC State, I was able to feel at home.
“Recruiting students was the largest part of my role as a university ambassador,” Morgan said. “I answered prospective students, parents and families’ questions about NC State and highlighted my favorite things about campus.”
As president of the alumni association’s student ambassador program, Morgan managed a leadership team of 28 students who oversaw the Student Alumni Association.
“We are considered the tradition keepers on campus as we plan events revolving around NC State traditions including the Ram Roast, Ring Ceremony and The Brick, an app full of NC State traditions, where if students complete all 40 traditions, they earn a medal that they can then wear at graduation.”
And for CALS, Morgan served as a North Carolina Teach Ag Ambassador. In this role she met with prospective students and their families about the agricultural education degree program she was in. She also had the opportunity to travel throughout the state, presenting workshops to FFA members about why they should consider a career teaching agriculture.
Although Morgan regularly gave tours to potential students and encouraged them to apply, she realized many incoming students came from a background similar to hers: a rural community. Many of them are also first-generation college students.
“While I had finally found my place on campus, I felt as though I wasn’t doing my part to help others find theirs,” she said.
To aid in the transition, Morgan worked with faculty in her department to implement the Agricultural and Extension Education Pack Peers (AEE Pack Peers) mentoring program. Morgan received the names of all incoming freshmen and transfer students and sent them a survey.
“I asked questions about hobbies, what they were involved with in high school to best pair them with an upperclassman in our department. The upperclassmen also filled out a survey.”
Morgan would spend hours sifting through surveys to ensure that incoming students were paired with someone who had common interests and could help introduce them to campus life. The Pack Peers program has helped over 100 students find their home and family at NC State and in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
“Sometimes something as simple as having a friend to go to who has been through the same situation can make all the difference in the world.”
Discover more amazing CALS students like Mary Kate.