Student Spotlight: Antonio Tranquilino

An NC State turfgrass student adjusts irrigation sprinklers

NC State’s Department of Crop and Soil Sciences is home to over 250 graduate and undergraduate students pursuing degrees in agricultural and environmental sciences. Our students are on the move between classes, homework, and hands-on experiences that equip them for meaningful careers. Recently, we caught up with Antonio Tranquilino, an Agricultural Institute freshman double majoring in turfgrass management and horticultural science management, to learn about his academic journey and future plans. 

Hi Antonio, where are you from?

Carolina Shores, North Carolina in Brunswick County.

What led you to NC State and CSSC?

Since the age of 13 or 14, I’ve helped my Dad in doing major landscaping jobs. I’ve always enjoyed it — enough that I want to do it for a living. I applied and was accepted to both NC State and Clemson, but I’ve always been a Wolfpack fan so it was a pretty easy decision.

I know that I don’t want to work inside in a regular nine-to-five job. Working in the field allows me to be outside and doing something active — and involves the things I enjoy. I had my mind set that I wanted to work in an agriculture-related career field. I chose NC State’s two-year Ag Institute so that I could finish two degrees and get started working sooner. 

What topics in this field most interest you?

A student installs an irrigation timerI’ve already done a little bit of work in everything from landscape construction to hardscapes, irrigation, and pretty much anything else in the landscaping field. 

The specialty I enjoy most is irrigation – both the design and installation where you get to see the finished product. But I want to study and do all of the different specialties. Since I enjoy them all, my mindset is why not do them all?

What have been your favorite classes so far?

I’d have to say both plant identification and plant propagation have been my favorites. Ever since I was young, I started helping my Dad with landscaping jobs. I’ve always found plants fascinating.

This year, I got to go more in-depth learning the scientific names and how to propagate them as well as all of the different components of a plant. 

What types of hands-on experiences have you had at NC State?

During my plant id class, we did a lot of plant walks to learn different types of plants and during my landscape construction class, we did a lot of hands-on jobs that you would do in a real-world landscape business. 

In my plant propagation lab, we learned to perform different methods to propagate and grow different species of plants.  We successfully rooted leaf cuttings from a snake plant, grafted ginkgo trees, and many others. We even get to take them home when the class is over.  Since I want to open a nursery, those propagation skills should be really helpful to make it a profitable business.

Do you participate in any student groups or clubs?

Last semester during my Introduction to Turfgrass class taught by Emily Erickson, she told our class about the HortPack team and that it was open to two and four-year students from both turfgrass and horticulture. The team competes every year in the National Collegiate Landscape Competition (NCLC).

The HortPack team sounded right up my alley as a group of people all interested in the same field. We talk about industry-specific topics but it’s also a great social outlet. There are people of all different backgrounds on the team. It’s a good thing that we are all different but at the same time, we have common interests that bring us together.

Learning with the team definitely helps with my studies but will also help prepare me for after graduation. We’ve had a lot of guest speakers from our team sponsors which are really helpful.

NC State is hosting the NCLC event this year. Tell us about the event and in which events are you competing?

I’m competing in the safety-first test and the hands-on irrigation troubleshooting competition. We’ve been studying and training for months both individually and with our teammates. 

For my irrigation competition, I’ve been practicing with my teammate, Matt Murphy, out at the JC Raulston Arboretum. We have sample irrigation setups for basic practice but we’ve also installed and worked on some active in-ground sprinklers for their planting beds. That was a real hands-on experience. 

JC Raulston Arboretum
The JC Raulston Arboretum is a nationally acclaimed garden with one of the largest and most diverse collections of landscape plants adapted for landscape use in the Southeast. Photo by Marc Hall

We also had a great opportunity to learn from SiteOne Landscape Supply. They recently invited us to come out to their business and had a mentor meet with us one on one to help prepare us for the competition. He told us to study hard and take our time so we could do a good job – but also not to worry too much. 

On competition day, we don’t expect a lot of direction – we’ll be pointed to an irrigation system that’s having electrical or hydraulic issues. We’ll have to inspect the system, diagnose the problem and fix it in a short amount of time.

A student adjusts a turfgrass irrigation sprinkler

How are the HortPack team and NCLC competition preparing you for your career?  

The learning is helpful with our studies and the hands-on experience is practical work experience. But there’s also a lot of networking. 

In addition to industry speakers and local sponsors who regularly come to our HortPack meetings, there is a major career fair as part of the NCLC event. It will be a great chance to network and meet with industry representatives about internships or career opportunities.

As part of our AGI 192 class, we have to complete an internship so I’ll be looking at the career fair to see if I can find an opportunity that gives me experience in both turf and horticulture fields.

What has been your biggest accomplishment so far?

Last semester I earned a 4.0 GPA. I am proud of that. I’m the first in my family to attend college so my parents are extremely proud too. 

My Dad is always excited to hear about the things I’m learning and to see how far I will go. I like showing him things I’ve learned in plant identification and propagation that he wasn’t aware of before. 

What is your career goal?

Our job in the landscape industry is to fill that demand with the highest quality service.

Ever since the pandemic hit, people have wanted to spend more time outside. They are investing in their landscape and want to create green spaces their families can enjoy. Our job in the landscape industry is to fill that demand with the highest quality service.

My goal is to start my own landscaping business. And at the same time, I’d like to start a plant nursery. It will be a lot of work but if I put in the time and make some sacrifices, I hope I can achieve it sooner rather than later.

What’s your advice to a prospective turf or landscape student considering NC State?

You should definitely come to NC State! It has the best agriculture programs you can major in. The learning experiences, information, and hands-on opportunities you get in different areas of study make NC State your best choice.  

Picture yourself in crop and soil sciences. 

turfgrass ebook coverIf you are looking for an academic path that leads to a career of impact, consider crop and soil sciences. Our students learn from expert professors and experience hands-on adventures every day. 

Learn more about our student degree pathways including deep dives into our soil science and turfgrass programs. Then join us for a guided email tour of our Crop & Soil Sciences Department.  

Connecting students with green careers is just part of how we are growing the future.

NC State logo on turfgrass