NRCS, WVU partner for mutual benefits

West Virginia University Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design students Michael O’Conor, Addie Thornley and Mikenze Poling gain practical experience interning at the NRCS state office.

To many, practical experience is the best education. So a partnership between the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the West Virginia University’s Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design makes perfect sense. While students gain real-world experience, they also provide NRCS with much-needed support.  

The NRCS state office in Morgantown, West Virginia, currently has three interns from WVU. Michael O’Conor and Addie Thornley are both working on their master’s degree in agricultural and resource economics, and Mikenze Poling is working on a bachelor’s degree in agricultural and extension education.

“We are fortunate to have these students interning with the state office programs staff,” said Pam Yost, NRCS WV state economist and mentor. “They are working on watershed planning activities and occasionally getting out to the field to see what our agency is all about.”

Michael O’Conor

O’Conor, came to West Virginia from Cleveland, Ohio, to learn more about rural America and its economies.

“Through an agreement with the Davis College and the NRCS, I found myself working on watershed conservation throughout the state,” he said.  “I didn’t know much about the NRCS before I began my internship, but I quickly learned the importance of this USDA division and how we work with rural communities to maintain healthy and productive working landscapes.”

Addie Thornley

Thornley is originally from Damascus, Maryland, and has gained valuable knowledge about West Virginia.  

“Being a student working in the government really opened my eyes to different job opportunities and what the NRCS really does,” she said. “Growing up on a farm, we have worked with the NRCS many times, and it is cool to see what goes on from the other side at a state level. I have also gained a knowledge about West Virginia that I would not have otherwise — it has made me appreciate this great state even more than I already had. My favorite part about working here is knowing that I have been part of potentially improving watersheds and flood control throughout the state.”

Mikenze Poling

Poling, a West Virginia native from Buckhannon, found her ‘path’ to NRCS when she was working at a local restaurant. She mentioned her agricultural interests to a patron who just so happened to be an NRCS district conservationist. He suggested she contact the state office about opportunities, and voila! Poling was in the right place at the right time to apply and is now a Pathways intern in soil conservation.

“As an intern, I have a great opportunity to work with several different positions in the programs division of NRCS,” Poling said. “Particularly, I have been working with Pam Yost on several new projects. These entail many different kinds of conservation practices, and I am specifically focusing on floodplain areas in southern West Virginia. I am so thankful for my opportunity to work with the NRCS, and I plan to continue my career in this agency upon graduation.”


“The youth, energy and ideas of the students are a great addition to the NRCS family. At the same time, it provides them valuable experience,” said Laura Smith, assistant state conservationist for programs. “Welcome aboard!”

For more information regarding Pathways and other Internship Programs, visit the NRCS WV website at or call your local NRCS office.


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