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Meet The HortScholars

Meet The 2020 HortScholars

The AmericanHort HortScholars program sets students in horticulture on a path to success by exposing them to the breadth of the horticulture industry, its opportunities and its leaders. The program offers a beyond-the-classroom experience, giving insight and awareness of the industry, its supply chain, and where the scholars might find a home for their passion. The focus of the program is on professional development, including attending educational sessions, networking and working with industry mentors at Cultivate’20 Virtual.

AmericanHort is pleased to present the 2020 HortScholars. Get to know them in their own words.

Conner Evers - Iowa State University

“Growing up in a family with deep roots in the horticulture industry, I developed an interest in pursuing a degree in Horticulture with a Landscape Design, Installation, & Establishment emphasis at Iowa State University. Upon beginning my degree program at Iowa State University, I quickly became interested in the environmental impacts of urban landscape construction and production practices. Besides my upbringing in a retail garden center, I have been fortunate to intern in wholesale nursery production at Iseli Nursery in Boring, OR, as well as landscape design and sales at Bachman’s Landscape & Garden Services in Minneapolis, MN, along with teaching and conducting research through the university. I continuously strive to create sustainable, ecologically functional, horticulturally enriched landscapes for people to enjoy. This industry combines my creativity, communication skills, and passion for plants, and I am excited to join the industry as a professional following my graduation in December 2020.”


Renata Goossen - Kansas State University

“I have always been fascinated by the growth and development of plants and how they impact people. I was an avid 4-H’er of 13 years, and I also created a micro-greenhouse business called Renata’s Garden in junior high. Both of these life experiences eventually led to my choice of study at Kansas State University--horticulture production. My future career goals are built on my love of growing plants and the education of those around me. Whether I start a business or work for a commercial greenhouse, I hope to make strides to educate the public about horticulture. Not many actually know what the word horticulture means. By educating the public, endless possibilities to advance the horticulture industry exist, and I want to be a part of discovering new ways to strengthen and improve our industry.”


Natalie Guisinger - The Ohio State University ATI

“My love for plants started later in life than most. Although I grew up in the country and we always had a garden, it wasn’t until after I graduated high school and started a summer job at a local greenhouse that I found my love for plants. I then started my college career undecided. It was clear after the first semester that I had a passion for plants. I found myself trying to grow everything and checking plant books out at the library. I soon decided my major and switched schools. I am now graduating from The Ohio State University ATI with a AAS in Greenhouse Management. I hope to spend the rest of my horticultural career helping other learn more about how important plants are in our lives.”


Hunter Hall - University of Mount Olive

“Growing up I always thought I would pursue a career in animal science due to showing livestock, riding horses, and the enjoyment animals brought to my life. I started college as an Agriculture Education major in the hopes of becoming an animal science teacher. However, my career course completely changed because I fell in love with horticulture during my Introduction to Horticulture class. The class led me to a summer internship at Hoffman Nursery where my passion for the industry was solidified. I grew an appreciation for the role that ornamentals play in the landscape for both beauty and function. I additionally had the incredible opportunity to attend the Perennial Plant Association’s National Symposium in Chicago, IL as a scholarship recipient in Summer of 2019. With these experiences and additional coursework at school in mind, I changed my major to better prepare myself for a career in the horticulture industry. While I am still working to find my niche, I am excited to graduate in December of 2020 with a degree in Agriculture Production Systems from the University of Mount Olive!”


Rebekah MaynardUniversity of Georgia

“My love for gardening began by learning to grow vegetables and identify ornamental species with my dad growing up. I have always been fascinated with plants, but never knew there were classes I could take to learn about them from a scientific perspective until I came to college. During my undergraduate work at the University of Georgia, I started volunteering at the student-run garden and learned for the first time that I could turn my passion into a career by pursuing a degree in horticulture. Courses I took on interior plants and greenhouse management of ornamentals led me to become interested in floriculture. I decided to further my education by gaining a master’s degree. I am currently breeding several species of Salvia to improve their ornamental value and am also working to obtain an Interdisciplinary Certificate in University Teaching. Ultimately, I hope to share my love of horticulture with future generations of students by becoming a horticulture professor.”


David McKinney - Colorado State University

“Growing plants has been my passion for my entire life. Though my first experience consisted of tending to a weed patch in the Denver suburbs, it wasn’t long before I was exploring the world of ornamental horticulture. This hunger to learn more and expand my experience naturally led me to pursue two degrees in horticulture at Colorado State University, one in Floriculture and the other in Nursery and Landscape Management. After accepting the tremendous opportunity to coordinate the CSU Perennial Demonstration garden and then the CSU 3-Year Perennial Trial Garden each for a year, I discovered a passion for horticulture education and outreach, aided by a Perennial Plant Association Foundation Scholarship. Following graduation, this marriage of two passions led me to stay at Colorado State for a master’s degree in Controlled Environment Horticulture. I am currently researching bedding plant acclimation responses to elevated carbon dioxide (CO2) with coursework focused on developing and delivering educational programs. My goal has evolved into sharing and exploring my love of plants with others, and I hope to have a career in horticulture outreach, education, or state extension. I believe in the immense potential of teaching the world how to grow beautiful plants!”