Leadership and Internships Make the Difference for CALS Grad-to-Be
With three internships plus leadership positions in a number of student organizations under her belt, graduating senior Ashling Murphy will leave NC State soon with strong skills she plans to put to work in graduate school and in a future career in academia.
Murphy, who will earn a bachelor’s degree in agricultural business management in December, hopes to continue her studies in agricultural or general economics. Awaiting admissions decisions in March, she’s uncertain where she’ll wind up.
What she is certain of: her desire to return to NC State one day as a professor, following in the footsteps of her father, Paul Murphy, a professor and small grains breeder in the university’s Department of Crop and Soil Sciences.
“I was attracted to NC State because I know it is one of the top schools in the United States for agriculture,” Ashling Murphy said. “I grew up alongside graduate students and assistants who worked for my dad and always heard about their positive experiences while at NC State. I knew that was where I could receive an excellent education and build my professional skills.”
I loved … having a big group of friends starting the first week of classes. It made NC State instantly feel … more like home.
One of Murphy’s first experiences at NC State – a class in microeconomics with lecturer Jonathan Phillips — affirmed her belief. “I loved the feeling of having a big group of friends starting the first week of classes, because it made NC State instantly feel smaller and more like home,” she said.
Murphy’s path to agricultural economics started as a middle and high school volunteer with the North Carolina Small Grain Growers Association, where she worked with Nikki Johnson and the late Dan Weathington.
I was attracted by the genuine personalities of the people I met and the sense of community that agriculture brought to the people across North Carolina.
“Through Dan and Nikki, I met the diverse agricultural community and I realized that I wanted to work with farmers, extension agents and industry representatives,” Murphy explained. “I was attracted by the genuine personalities of the people I met and the sense of community that agriculture brought to the people across North Carolina.”
With the help of her faculty advisors John Russ and Robin Clements, Murphy continued to grow her network through college internships. The first was with N.C. Rep. Garland Pierce. Working at the General Assembly, she listened to constituents’ concerns, drafted letters, learned how the legislature works, attended briefings and conducted research on policy issues.
From there, she worked with Nick Piggott and Heidi Schweizer, both faculty members in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, and Ph.D. student Robert Thompson. During the internship, she compiled data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture on feed grain production, trade and marketing strategies in North Carolina.
During the summer of 2019, she interned with Tyson Foods’ commodity purchasing group. At the company’s grain elevator in Elizabeth City, she worked with growers negotiating prices for corn, soybeans and wheat.
She continued her internship with Tyson Foods virtually during the summer and fall of 2020. She has worked with soybean meal and corn rail logistics for feed mills, creating a mapping interface to display freight-rate mileage and bids for customers and competitors.
I am most grateful for all of my professors who are driven each day to give their students the best education that they can receive.
In addition to gaining professional skills from the internships, Murphy said she also gained leadership skills and self-confidence at NC State. She served as vice president and AgriLife representative for the Agronomy Club, student ambassador for the agricultural and resource economics department and social chair of Chi Omega sorority.
While the pandemic presented unexpected challenges, Murphy said that with the help of her teachers and peers, she was able to form new daily routines that kept her on top of her studies.
“My new schedule included waking up early every morning, going for a five-mile walk with my roommate Anna and listening to all my lectures for the day,” she said. “I felt like I quickly adjusted to my new routine, and I was happy with what seemed to be the new normal.”
Through the pandemic, Murphy saw professors going “above and beyond,” she said, to help their students handle the challenges that change presented, and she expressed gratitude for their care.
“I am most grateful,” she said, “for all of my professors who are driven each day to give their students the best education that they can receive while at NC State.”