—Dewayne Ingram, ASHS President
The focus of ASHS is the science and discipline of horticulture. Our members make discoveries through research and ASHS provides avenues for vetting those discoveries through peer review. Research is an important focus for ASHS and must always be such. However, horticulturists are also engaged in the application and dissemination of those discoveries to our industries and the general public. This application and dissemination frequently occurs in the U.S. at the interface of research, Cooperative Extension, and industry. The other important interface for this exchange is undergraduate and graduate education. And we all know that the future of horticultural science rests with those being educated for careers in horticulture.
Undergraduate education in horticulture was once dominated by programs at land-grant universities. Graduate education is still primarily provided by such institutions that have a strong research mission. However, an increasing percentage of undergraduates are gaining their horticulture education at non-land grant universities, community colleges, and technical colleges. Many two- and four-year non-land grant institutions have a strong history in horticulture education. That has certainly been true during my career. It appears to me that the fastest growing horticulture student population might be in the two- and four-year non-land grant institutions.
The two- and four-year non-land grant institution programs are significantly important to the future of horticulture. Therefore, it is imperative that ASHS enhance its service to the horticulture professors and students at those institutions. They have much to contribute to ASHS as we advance the profession. However, I fear many of them are unaware of the opportunities to multiply their impact on the profession through ASHS and what ASHS can do for them.
In an effort to understand how ASHS can reach the horticulture faculty at non-land grant universities and community colleges, I have initiated conversations with ASHS members working at these institutions. Some of them are long-time members of ASHS and others have recently become members.
Faculty from community colleges are particularly under-represented in ASHS, but I was a bit surprised when Mike Neff identified only six through a search of our member database. Granted, we do not have employer data delineated in our database, but only six used a community college address. In conversations with four of those six members, I learned that they are members because they were introduced to ASHS as graduate students and have carried their membership into their careers. Again, this verifies results from our member survey, which revealed we joined and are active in ASHS because someone advised us to become active and modeled such activity. Two of these members had attended an annual conference in the past three years and said they always took home new information applicable to their teaching. One of the two presents his work at annual conferences. All of them valued the newsletter and access to journals, particularly HortTechnology. Teaching-oriented workshops at annual conferences are important to them and even more targeted workshops with take-home techniques or modules would be valued. They used the ASHS website. The career materials from the website were incorporated in introductory horticulture courses. For some, the website was difficult to navigate when searching for targeted information. One suggested an easy-to-find gallery of teaching materials available on the website would be helpful. We are already working on that idea as Kim Moore, chair of the Teaching Methods Working Group, plans to lead discussion at the 2012 Annual Conference on strategies to share teaching materials among members.
The conversations with these colleagues can be summed-up by this quote from Dr. Javier Garces, Professor and Program Director at Valencia College in Florida, “The American Society for Horticultural Science has provided me with valuable tools that I utilize in several ways for my students. The ASHS website offers an employment search engine that I make use of during the first lecture for my Introduction to Horticulture course to show students some of the opportunities currently available. The three Journals also allow me to stay current in the field, and I use journal article examples in class to educate my students on the most recent developments. Lastly, the complimentary undergraduate student membership will be a great way to introduce students to the benefits of membership in the American Society for Horticultural Science.” We need to reach Dr. Garces’ colleagues with this message.
One surprising thing that I gleaned from the phone conversations was that these professors had heard of an ASHS certification program, but did not know the details of our Certified Horticulturist (CH) program. Graduates of two-year programs that have completed two years of paid work experience and graduates of four-year institutions with one year of paid experience can take the CH examination. That paid experience can include summer jobs, paid internships, etc. Completing the requirements of CH documents the skills and knowledge of students graduating from our programs. But remember, the CH examination is based on skills as well as knowledge and reflects real work experience. Horticulture faculty are encouraged to get involved in CH by encouraging students to become qualified to sit for the exam and by hosting certification exams for qualified graduates and area horticultural practitioners. For more information about the CH program consult the ASHS website.
Horticulture faculty at two- and four-year non-land grant institutions are focused on undergraduate education. The demands of multiple and changing courses per semester consume them. They don’t have the same pressures to conduct peer-refereed research as colleagues at land-grant universities, but time pressures from preparing classes and interacting with an increasing number of students are significant. However, most two- and four-year non-land grant institutions do require some form of scholarly activity in order to demonstrate current knowledge in the field. ASHS can definitely play a supportive role in that endeavor.
ASHS has not adequately reached out to the two-year institution horticulture faculty members and consequently too few are ASHS members. Because most of them are not members of ASHS and will not be reading this “Reflections” column, we are emailing the community college horticulture faculty information about ASHS and our programs. Headquarters has updated our contact list of 286 horticulture programs at community colleges. That is correct, almost 300 two-year programs ranging from a few to a few hundred students each. We will include in that email information about how their students can become complimentary members of ASHS during their undergraduate education and receive a free online subscription to HortTechnology. We will also send them examples of materials available for their use on our website, highlight education-oriented workshops and sessions at the 2012 Annual Conference, and provide details of our Certified Horticulturist program.
ASHS would be strengthened by participation of the horticulture faculty at the two- and four-year non-land grant institutions and those colleagues would benefit from ASHS membership. I encourage you to reach out to the horticulturists at these institutions in your state who are not members of ASHS. It is a fact that personal contact is the most effective way to encourage individuals to join and participate. If you have questions about the institutions in your state that offer horticulture, please check with Mike Neff at headquarters (
Let’s continue a more intentional conversation this year about ways to strengthen the link between ASHS and horticulture faculty at non-land grant institutions. I would be delighted to hear your ideas and thoughts on the subject.
Published in the April 2012 ASHS Newsletter.