No matter your age or experience, if you’re in school, every extra resource counts and is appreciated. For two of this year’s Shinoda Scholarship Foundation winners, the scholarship and their appreciation for what it means to their careers connects two dissimilar lives.
Kelly Norris, Living The Horticultural Life
At 19, Kelly Norris of Bedford, Iowa, is the youngest recipient of the 2006 Shinoda Scholarship. But at such a young age, his resume already reads like a horticulture industry veteran. Garden writer. Newspaper columnist. Lecturer. On top of these activities, the Iowa State University sophomore juggles a more-than-full 21-credit-hour schedule that includes classes, labs and a hosta genetics research program. Did I mention he manages a seven-acre specialty iris nursery, too?
Like many who encounter gardening and plants as a child, horticulture has become Kelly’s life, with everything else merely a hobby. “My earliest garden memories trace back to when I was four, about as soon as I was able to hold a trowel in my hand,” Kelly says. “I have very early memories of helping my grandmother in the garden. She was a nurturer of my inquiry into nature and gardening.” Being raised on a farm also accounts for his knack for horticulture, with gardening, according to Kelly, being a natural extension of a farm family’s outdoor life.
Kelly turned from avid gardener to garden professional at age 13. His first lecture, to a garden club about ways to attract birds, led to online and print articles for regional garden publications. He now publishes on a range of ornamental topics for mainly regional publications and lectures at least once per month throughout the Midwest. He’s also a member of more than a dozen professional societies and is even on the scientific advisory committee of the American Iris Society.
With a background like this, it’s no wonder that Kelly is emphasizing horticultural communications and public education in the ISU horticulture department. “As an industry we have an obligation as vendors of horticulture products to educate our customers,” Kelly says. “We should provide every opportunity we can to put consumers in touch with information to help them make better-informed decisions about their landscapes and to help them make better buying decisions,” he continues. Noting the demand of this “information hungry world” will eventually turn into an expectation on the consumers’ part, Kelly speculates that the obligation will eventually fall on the retailer to provide as much information as possible regarding all the goods and services they sell.
Kelly’s budding communication and education career will be just the tip of the iceberg. His foremost goal is to earn a Ph.D. in ornamental plant breeding and work to expand his current nursery and breeding programs into genera that have yet to enter the marketplace, aspiring to the likes of Dan Heims of Terra Nova Nurseries.
But he doesn’t call any of this a job. “I’ve always held the idea that you have to find something that you love to do and choose that as your career so that at the end of your life you can proudly say you’ve never worked a day.”
Russ Newman, Coming Around To Horticulture
Russ Newman of Nipomo, Calif., the oldest of the 2006 Shinoda Scholarship winners at 27, wasn’t bitten by the horticulture bug until his mid 20s. Prior to entering the California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo (Cal Poly) in January 2005, Russ worked full time in a local bread plant, helping to support his wife, Amber, while she finished her education. When she graduated and it was his turn to earn a degree, Russ considered his enjoyment of plants, as well as the strength of the horticulture industry and the number of greenhouse and cut flower operations where the couple lives along the central coast of California. Having a university with an outstanding horticulture program cemented his decision.
Now a senior, Russ has concentrated his studies in greenhouse production of ornamentals, potted plants and cut flowers. His senior project is fitting for an environmental horticulture science major and deals with a subject that every horticulture operation is sure to confrontâ€“waste water. Using an effluent collection system designed and constructed by another Cal Poly student four years ago, Russ will collect waste water from one facility growing a variety of cut flowers, store it in a collection tank and use it to produce a cut flower crop. How will this crop differ from a crop grown with irrigation water? Hopefully the answer will help growers answer a question of their ownâ€“how to process their greenhouse and nursery runoff.
Russ notes married life has made a big difference as a student, compared to his traditionally aged classmates. “I really owe a lot to Amber, because she’s enabled me to concentrate on school alone,” Russ says. Prior to his bread plant job, Russ worked 40 or more hours a week plus attended night classes to earn his Associate’s degree. “Having that experience really makes me appreciate what I have now,” Russ adds. “Paying for school out of our own pockets really makes me appreciate the opportunity to pursue an education, and it makes me appreciate scholarships even more because it’s one less worry for us.” This year, Russ has received a total of $7,700, including the $3,000 from the Shinoda Foundation. “What the Shinoda Scholarship has done is enabled me to pay for my tuition from the current quarter through my last quarter. Other funds have allowed me to pay off some of my previous student loans. All of these scholarships have really been a big help.”
A Shout Out For Scholarships
Scholarship funds have made a critical difference in the lives of thousands, if not millions of students, including Russ and Kelly. Funds are available if students and their horticulture departments search for the different resources. In Kelly’s case, he fills out about 70 scholarship applications each year, with the goal of receiving enough scholarship money each year to cover annual tuition. “Scholarships had aided me tremendously,” he says. “I am so very thankful and grateful for the scholarships I have received.”
“As much work as it is to apply for scholarships at a typically busy time of year, it’s really worth it,” Russ says. “They’ve really made a difference in my ability to fund schooling, and also how I feel about choosing a horticulture career. It’s already paying off.” And regarding businesses and individuals who support horticulture scholarships, Russ says, “You never know what kind of seeds you’re going to plant in funding someone going to school. They could be your future employee or they could be the head of a great company some day. Past Shinoda Scholarship winners have gone on to do some great things.”
The Shinoda Foundation was established in 1964 in memory of the late Joseph Shinoda, pioneer of the floral industry. The foundation has awarded scholarships valued at more $662,000 to 585 undergraduate floriculture students since 1965. Applications for the Shinoda Foundation’s scholarships are distributed each January and can be downloaded from its Web siteâ€“www.shinodascholarship.org. For those interested in contributing to the scholarship, please visit the Web site, e-mail [email protected] or call 805-544-0717.