2013 Ag Graduate Selected for National Agronomy Award

Amanda Middleton Was Agriculture Department's Top Student in Agronomy

May 14, 2013

Amanda Middleton

Amanda Middleton

Wilmington resident Amanda J. Middleton isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty. In fact, she plans to spend much of the rest of her life working with soil.

The May 2013 graduate of Wilmington College earned recognition as WC’s top student in agriculture/agronomy and had those credentials endorsed on a national level as the American Society of Agronomy honored her with its 2013 National Student Recognition Award.

Thomas Stilwell, associate professor of agriculture, nominated her for the accolade.

“Amanda’s academic record, work record, community leadership activities and personal traits are outstanding,” Stillwell said.

Middleton graduated summa cum laude with dual majors in agronomy and history, and a minor in chemistry. She plans to study soil chemistry in graduate school.

“It was really exciting to hear about the award,” she said. “I remember Tom said, ‘We’ve never tried this but we want to nominate a student for this national award this year.’”

Middleton, who grew up on her family’s farm in Wilmington, first attended a large university in Ohio that also offers agricultural studies. Her smallest class had 120 students and “the largest had an upper balcony,” she recalled.

“I didn’t like the big school thing — I knew in the first two days that this was not the environment I wanted to learn in,” she said. “I definitely made the right decision with all the experience I got at Wilmington College.”

(LEFT) The Agriculture Department's academic awards went to, from the left, Amanda Middleton for agronomy/ horticulture, Chad McKay for agribusiness, Rachel Jeffers for animal science and Christina Robison for equine.

Middleton played on the women’s golf team and competed on WC’s soil judging and Western equestrian teams. He also enjoyed spring break study tours in Italy, Ireland and Paris/London.

“The opportunities provided at Wilmington are amazing,” she said.

Coming to WC with a background in agriculture and “a love of chemistry,” she found her niche in soil agronomy with her first soils course and its hands-on applications.

“In agronomy, I’ve taken more of a soil science path rather than areas like weeds or forage,” she said. “It’s totally different what a soil profile looks like on paper and actually standing in a soil pit having the soil actually in your hands, seeing it, smelling it, feeling it.”

Middleton explained the importance of knowing soil profiles and its implications for agriculture, building houses and roads, and installing septic tanks. This spring, she illustrated that important work of soil scientists to third grade students by explaining the concept using pudding, cookies and gummy worms.

“I have a lot of confidence in myself as a result of not only learning the subject matter, but applying it,” she said. “There are a lot of things Wilmington prepared me for that many college and university students don’t get.”

She illustrated that point by mentioning a tour she took of laboratories at one of the large universities that accepted her for graduate studies.

“They showed me equipment they said I could use by my second year of graduate school,” she said. “I recognized a gas chromatograph mass spectrometer, nuclear magnetic resonance and infrared spectrometer.

“They were amazed when I told them I’ve already used them at Wilmington and was allowed to use them all by myself — that made me even more impressed with the confidence my Wilmington profs have in us to work in the lab alone with expensive equipment.

“The profs do everything they can to make sure you understand the material,” she said. “It’s definitely hands-on at WC.”