Annual summer internship experience takes a virtual turn

by | Jul 1, 2020

For more than a decade, the Public Affairs Division of the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has hosted a summer intern through the Youth Advocacy Office of the N.C. Department of Administration. The internship offers the opportunity to gain valuable real-world experience working as a member of a public affairs team.

The COVID-19 pandemic meant interns joined others in state government who are primarily working at home. This challenge meant that the 2020 intern, Emily Sutton, had to adjust to learning about her new job and meeting her coworkers in a virtual workplace. Instead of joining the Public Affairs team in downtown Raleigh for 10 weeks, Sutton works from her home in Sampson County.

The challenges didn’t stop there. Pretty much every assignment that was presented during the interview process was adjusted or postponed for the year due to the impact of COVID-19. According to her supervisor Heather Overton, Emily jumped right into her different assignments and roles feet first.

” You know the saying that when life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” Overton said. “Emily’s N.C. State Fair internship has been about taking apples and making caramel apples!” In fact, she chose Caramel Apple as her Fair nickname.

Already, Emily has highlighted 2020 agriculture graduates, interviewed farmers, highlighted improvements done to the State Fairgrounds during the COVID-19 shutdown and featured the upcoming virtual FFA conference on our department and N.C. State Fair blogs. Her posts have helped with the division’s goals to reach more people with stories about agriculture and increase their understanding about its importance to everyone.

In addition to her writing assignments, Emily is working to design an N.C. State Fair Scavenger Hunt for elementary, middle and high school students. She is also working to design a bingo game for use in the Flower Show area during the fair.

2020 marks the 50th anniversary of the Century Farm Family Program. This program began as part of the 1970 N.C. State Fair. To showcase this anniversary, Emily will be writing a half dozen features on families in the program.

Emily also took on a “big” assignment – highlighting the work that goes into growing giant pumpkins for the N.C. State Fair.

“Although she has not met her coworkers in person, she has managed to find a way to fit right into our team,” Overton said. “She has been a great virtual intern. We will miss her when she returns to UNC Chapel Hill in the fall for her senior year.”

You can find Sutton’s blogs on the NCDA&CS In the Field blog and the N.C. State Fair Deep Fried blog.

For more information on the State of NC Internship Program visit