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Sarah Maddry: Finding a Career Opportunity in Challenging Times

Sarah Maddry wearing her gown and other graduation regalia.

In January, NC State CALS senior and former Ag Institute Ambassador Sarah Maddry needed a couple of semesters’ work to earn her degree. Little did she know that a global pandemic was about to dramatically change her university experience while dropping a career opportunity at her doorstep.

An Agricultural and Resource Economics student in agricultural business management, Maddry faced many of the same challenges felt by other students through the course of the pandemic, but has found a silver lining through saved time, money and an internship that led to a position with N.C. Cooperative Extension’s Orange County Center.

“Last November (2019), I moved home to Alamance County. It meant a long commute back to campus for classes and for my job at a Raleigh dog store, and that commute continued into the spring,” Maddry says.

When the coronavirus forced classes to switch to virtual instruction, Maddry discovered new ways to make the situation work to her advantage. 

“I found that I was able to save time and money by not commuting as much, and I was fortunate that my job at the dog store was classified as an essential business so I could still work. I was able to focus on school and do it on my own time. That flexibility helped a lot,” she says.

Maddry began an internship with Cooperative Extension in May 2019, working with both 4-H and horticultural programs. “Working with 4-H is great — it encompasses the entire community. And I was lucky enough to have a full-time position open in Orange County at just the right time,” she says. That position, which she was offered after a competitive search, would not have been possible if she were commuting to campus for the summer and fall terms.

“Taking remote classes over the summer lightened my fall semester workload, so I could be fully committed to my new job as well as my studies,” Maddry says.

As a 4-H program assistant, Maddry is challenged to plan virtual programs, since most summer 4-H activities like camps were suspended. “Being virtual is allowing me to plan what I want to do with the program in the future. I can talk to youth and see what they want to do,” she explains.

Maddry looks forward to starting to work in-person with her 4-H clubs. “I just can’t wait to see the members come together and do the things they are passionate about, to help them find something they may like to do for the rest of their lives,” she says.

As for her senior year, Maddry is glad to have had a “typical” first semester in fall 2019 with ball games and the college atmosphere. But her perspective on 2020 is a bit different than most. “I couldn’t have asked for a better senior year for me,” she says. “It just all worked out.”

When asked what she wants others to know about her CALS experience she replies, “A lot of people don’t realize what the Ag Institute is. You can get your four-year degree through transfer. I am living proof that you can do it!”

And if her pandemic story alone isn’t inspiring enough, Maddry’s attitude is infectious. “Don’t take anything for granted,” she says. “2020 is not the year that we thought it would be, but there can be a positive in any situation. Keep a positive mindset —- you never know what is going to happen!”

This post was originally published in College of Agriculture and Life Sciences News.