Two University of Wisconsin-Platteville environmental horticulture students, Kassidy Kleeber and Braden Meyers, attended the ELEVATE conference last month in Orlando, Florida, as student ambassadors.
“This was an amazing opportunity for our students to assist with educational sessions, interact directly with top leaders in our industry and develop mentor relationships to help them as they start their own careers,” said Dr. Donita Cartmill, environmental horticulture program coordinator and professor at UW-Platteville.
The competitive selection process started when a call went out to universities across the U.S. with programs focused on horticulture. Students had to submit an application detailing their experience in the landscaping field and why they should be selected. They also needed to include a letter of recommendation from a faculty member in order to be considered for one of the ten student ambassador openings.
Kleeber, a senior environmental horticulture major with an emphasis in professional landscape management and a minor in architecture, hopes to become part of a labor crew in residential or commercial installation. Her goal is to learn as much as she can about the physical aspects of landscaping and to someday become a project manager.
“I was able to speak with a lot of different companies,” said Kleeber, a Reedsburg, Wisconsin native. “One of the biggest takeaways I had was the realization that many of these companies were facing issues similar to those of the company where I had interned. No matter what you do, there is always going to be something new to learn or improve upon, especially in a changing landscaping environment.”
ELEVATE provided a lot of opportunities to meet and mingle with employees and business owners and connect with landscaping professionals from all over the country.
“Not only did I connect with industry leaders, but I was also able to connect with students across the country aspiring to work in the landscaping field as well,” said Kleeber. “We were able to share our experiences with each other and gain an understanding of what it is like to be a part of the industry.”
Meyers, a senior environmental horticulture major with a minor in psychology, hopes to someday have a management position at a large wholesale nursery.
“The ELEVATE conference helped me to see the owner/leadership side of owning a land care business,” said Meyers, a Roscoe, Illinois native. “I sat in on many sessions and learned a lot about safety, caring for employees and overall running a successful business.”
Meyers said he learned that many companies are having issues regarding the supply chain, inflation and finding valuable employees. The small retail nursery he’s worked at for the last three summers is dealing with those issues, so it was helpful to learn about what other companies are doing to combat those issues while meeting new people at the conference.
“I enjoyed meeting other students from around the country. We were able to talk about our future aspirations, bounce ideas off of each other and share our interests,” said Meyers. “It was really a great experience to be surrounded by so many like-minded people who were all very different in their own way.”
The ELEVATE conference was hosted by the National Association of Landscape Professionals which, according to its website, brings together industry icons, thought leaders and new partners to reimagine the future of the horticulture profession and the needs of the green community.