Leaders in the Horticulture World: Longwood Gardens Fellows - The Edge from the National Association of Landscape Professionals

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Leaders in the Horticulture World: Longwood Gardens Fellows

Photo: Longwood Gardens

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By Katie Testa, communications associate at Longwood Gardens

Founded in 1906 by industrialist, conservationist, designer, engineer, and philanthropist Pierre S. du Pont, Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, brings joy and inspiration to everyone through the beauty of nature, conservation, and learning. Located just 30 miles from Philadelphia, our Gardens span more than 1,100 acres and showcase vibrant horticultural design, intricate fountains, architectural grandeur, and natural beauty for guests to enjoy.

Not only is Longwood a place of beauty — it’s also a place of learning and professional growth. Among our many education programs is the renowned Longwood Fellows Program, a unique leader-development program that focuses on refining the skill level and heightening the self-awareness of leaders within public horticulture. This tuition-free, 13-month program welcomes professionals from around the globe to learn from and work directly with regional to international thought leaders. Our Fellows live and work alongside their cohort on the grounds of our Gardens, making this opportunity immersive and rich in professional networking and growth opportunities.

“Since 1967, thousands of students from all over the world have participated in our education programs and have gone on to leadership roles in many of the world’s top horticultural institutions. The Fellows Program carries with it the legacy of its beginnings, with a consciousness of the fast-growing demands on leaders in our industry.” – Longwood Gardens President and Chief Executive Officer Paul B. Redman

Designed to create the next generation of senior public horticulture professionals, the Fellows Program is modeled similarly to the highest-quality leader development programs available today. Guided by the legacy of Longwood’s visionary leader, it is grounded in the literature of experts within the disciplines of leadership, organizational behavior, and nonprofit management. Roughly one-quarter of the program’s focus is on text- and case-based discussions, with another one-quarter spent on learning from local to global public horticulture leaders.

Photo: Longwood Gardens

The remaining half of the program is dedicated to pragmatic experiences gained via departmental immersion, a collective cohort project, and a two-month field placement at a garden in the U.S. or abroad to study the structure, culture, and leadership tactics of their host organization. Past Fellows have traveled from China to Singapore, the United Kingdom to France, and across the U.S. to see and experience different perspectives in the art of horticulture, and to work with seasoned experts.

“Seldom do you get the opportunity to view leadership and management in such an intimate way, by being placed in an organization to look through the lens of how others do it. This immersive experience that is the Fellows field placement allows for both observing and asking questions. Who, what, how, and why? Understanding what leadership and management practices you want to take forward … is key to understanding your own journey.” – 2019–20 Longwood Gardens Fellow Barbara Wheeler

The program’s focus on building leadership capacity in public horticulture is as unique as it is celebrated. After completing the program, Fellows apply their newly refined leadership skills to advance organizations around the world. Graduates have gone on to become executive directors or CEOs; directors of conservation, horticulture, education, public programs; horticulturists; gardeners; and much more at some of the most influential public gardens or environmentally focused organizations around the world. Alumni also join the prestigious Society of Fellows, a close-knit, yet global, community of alumni who support the continued development of leaders in the field.

“You have never met a more engaged and committed group of alumni than the people who are in the Society of Fellows. It is tremendously encouraging because it speaks to the lasting value that people get in going through this experience.” – Fellows Program Director Sharon Thompsonowak, Ed. D.

Through it all, the aim of the Fellows Program is to create the next generation of senior public horticulture professionals—and we’re looking for professionals to serve as our 2024–2025 Fellows cohort. Sound like a great opportunity for you, or for someone you know? Applications for the cohort are now open through July 31, 2023, and nominations are accepted year-round.

Applicants of the program must be able to demonstrate a high potential for professional growth and development in the field of public horticulture, a deep intellectual curiosity related to the field, and a strong commitment to a future in horticulture. Those interested in applying to the program, or submitting a nomination, can do so as well as find more information about the program at longwoodgardens.org/fellows.  

Our Longwood Fellows are inspiring individuals who bring expertise to our global community and enrich the public horticulture field. We are proud to offer this program — and we can’t wait to welcome our new cohort and see what our Fellows do next.  

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