Collegiate Plant Initiative Helps Foster a Love of Plants Among Students

Collegiate Plant Initiative Helps Foster a Love of Plants Among Students

Collegiate-Plant-Initiative

The Collegiate Plant Initiative offers a unique perspective of the plant world, with the goal of connecting college students with exciting plants and teaching them more about opportunities in the plant industry.

The Collegiate Plant Initiative (CPI) is a student-run organization that started at the University of Florida (UF). Made up of a core group of students from all academic backgrounds, it offers a unique perspective of the plant world, with the goal of connecting college students with exciting plants and teaching them more about opportunities in the plant industry.

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Virginia Frazier, Executive Director of the CPI, says it was inspired by an introductory horticulture class at the University of Florida (UF) led by Dr. Dave Clark. “Plants, Gardening, and You (PG&Y)” teaches more than 300 students a semester about everything from strawberry and blueberry breeding to biotechnology.

“One thing that sets this class apart from many others is that students receive a new plant every class for the entire semester,” Frazier says. “Students can also bring a friend to receive extra credit, while their friend gets to pick out their favorite plant to take home.”

Students who formed the CPI all became involved with the organization after taking Dr. Clark’s class and seeing how many students majoring outside of plant science absolutely loved plants.

“With each new activity, we saw our following in the class and on social media grow, with students from Penn State also becoming involved through another grant,” Frazier says. “After seeing the wonderful responses from students and the amount of energy and excitement for plants they had, we knew we had to take things even further.”

Over the course of summer 2017, the group realized that the best path would be to become a nonprofit organization. In the fall, it applied for tax-exempt status with the IRS and was ultimately approved in January.

“It has taken a lot of hard work and dedication, but we have created an organization that we truly believe can now accomplish many goals that were impossible before,” Frazier says.

The CPI has two main goals: to create people who love plants, and to find which plants people love. For the first goal, CPI is going to college campuses across the country to give away free plants to students passing by, at events it calls Plant Drops. For the second goal, it is partnering with Dr. Clark and collecting data on what types of plants students prefer.

“Using the 5,000+ responses collected in the past two semesters, we will develop prediction models to assist us in determining which plant each student will choose when given a selection before they even see the plant,” Frazier says.

Students across the country have responded to the CPI mission with further excitement.

“We have received numerous requests from both students at UF and other universities to host additional Plant Drops and other events,” Frazier says. “The social media response has also been greater than expected, with many students connecting to discuss events, opportunities, and their love of plants.”

CPI has partnered with Texas A&M University and Penn State University within the past year, and the goal is to partner with two new universities every academic year to have sustainable national growth.

When it comes to connecting horticulture students with industry companies and organizations for future careers, CPI has a portal on its website with links to internship, career, and scholarship opportunities with organizations in the industry.

“By showing students from all academic backgrounds the different career opportunities in horticulture, we hope to assist companies in filling positions throughout all areas of the supply chain,” Frazier says.

CPI will expand research and outreach efforts this summer, reviewing past efforts and identifying what was successful and what needs improvement.

“We plan on attending Cultivate’18 and would love to hear from any groups that share our mission and wish to help us not only reach our current goals, but also establish new goals for our future,” Frazier says.