Student Career Days - from a grad assistants' perspective - The Edge from the National Association of Landscape Professionals

We recently updated our Privacy Policy. By continuing to use this website, you acknowledge that our revised Privacy Policy applies.

Student Career Days – from a grad assistants' perspective

When I was contacted about writing a blog entry about PLANET’s Student Career Days (SCD), I was quite surprised. I’m too old to compete in the events and don’t understand how my point of view might be helpful, but here goes nothing…


SCD 2010 was the fourth consecutive year I attended, and the second year that I attended as a graduate assistant. Graduate assistant means I can’t compete. This particular role at SCD has its ups and downs: it is frustrating that I can’t compete because I want to help our team, but it is so very rewarding to watch students learn throughout the process. Last year I had a student who, at the beginning of the academic year, did not know how to use a scale. By the end of SCD he was competing in plant install and did a fantastic job. There are similar stories I could tell from this year but I won’t bore you all with the details.


Before I even started my master’s degree I knew that one day I wanted to be a college professor. That made SCD very different for me, especially in 2009. I knew I wouldn’t interview for a career or an internship. It would be a waste of time for me, for the company, and I would be stealing valuable time from a student who may want that job very much. Instead, I made a list of questions and started tracking down potential future graduate advisors so I could make a list of ‘Potential PhD Programs”. Because I specifically wanted to do green roof research, my list was already quite limited. I somewhat attacked Dr. Steve Cohan immediately after the opening ceremony, and after he was nice enough to answer all of the questions on my limitless list he invited me to visit their campus in the fall. A few short months later I applied and was later accepted.


So I guess I’m trying to say that I can’t define what SCD means to me in a short blog. It’s a competition, which is great because I’m a very competitive person. It’s how I found my future PhD program, and how I’m currently networking with future colleagues (this year was my first faculty reception – awesome!). It’s a reward. SCD is the perfect opportunity for me to sit back and watch students grow and learn – which is why I want to teach in the first place. I can’t describe the feeling of joy when I see that expression of understanding come across a student’s face. It’s an opportunity for greatness. One of my professors probably has the statistic, but let me suffice by saying that MANY of our students come to SCD without job offers or internships and leave with multiple offers from fantastic companies. It’s an answer to a prayer.


When PLANET staffer, Kristen Nolton, emailed me in December about applying for an AEF Scholarship, I wasn’t sure I had the time. I had finals, an ongoing research experiment, and surgery scheduled all the same week. But, I decided I would make it worth the effort and made it the best scholarship application I’d ever submitted. I received a letter in March that I had received a scholarship. Kristen called me a few days later to tell me I’d received the big one – the President’s Scholarship. She can vouch for me – I was speechless. And I meant it – the scholarship was an answer to a prayer. You see, it’s pretty expensive to move nearly 1,000 miles away (Auburn to Maryland) and I’m just a broke graduate student. That scholarship will help my new husband and I rent a moving truck, pay deposits on an apartment, and pay for rent until we can draw our first paychecks.


I know I’m still an infant in the world of SCD, having only attended four times. But I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I will continue attending SCD (I mean, Dr. Cohan already informed me I’ll help coach their team next year); and if one day I find myself working at a university that is not involved in PLANET I know that I’ll do whatever it takes to get the students involved. SCD played an integral role in who I am today as a professional and in who I will become, and I want future students to have the same opportunities.