Welcome to the Department of Horticultural Science
It is a great time to be a horticulturist and an especially great time to be a graduate student in the Department of Horticultural Science. As many of you know, there are numerous grand challenges at the global scale and local scale with regard to food security, environmental stewardship, landscape design, recreation and, of course, human health and welfare.
The Horticulture Tree
There are many opportunities to make a difference! When you walk into the front-north doors of Kilgore Hall, there is a sculpture of a tree showing a diversity of branches of horticulture, symbolically representative of our activities in this department.
I want you to know that you are now part of that tree and that a tree is a living thing that changes. Each of you comes here with a unique set of talents, interests and passions, and these unique attributes feed into the tree, which is really our horticultural family. By virtue of who you ARE and what you will DO in this department, you will affect the way that tree grows.
As new members in the department, you will be working on diverse projects, and we celebrate that. This is a diverse department with many branches in teaching, extension and outreach, research and service in multiple different disciplines. We believe it is a rich learning environment, and we are always changing, reaching and growing.
The tree also has deep roots. You will discover the rich history of this department and the discipline of horticultural science. You will discover how knowledge about the history of horticulture informs the art and science of solutions for our tomorrows.
In the window case, next to the tree sculpture,.of the Kilgore Hall main entrance lobby, there also are three phrases and I wanted to speak to that.
The first phrase is “Passionate Professors”: People are here and do what they do because they love it; it is who they are and what they enjoy. Ironically, many work all day in the department, then go home to do horticultural things like gardening, or volunteering in their communities.
I would like to expand this phrase for you to “PASSIONATE PROFESSIONALS”. For many of you, this is your first graduate student experience but I challenge you not to think of yourself primarily as a student. You are a professional, always learning, and the things you are learning and the activities you will be doing are consistent with being a professional. You will be advancing the science and practice of horticulture, you will give talks and make a difference in the lives of others, and you will engage constantly with many other professionals. Learn to lead, stay engaged, and help shape the tree. Be a passionate professional.
The second phrase is “Innovative Researchers”: This alludes to what I said earlier. There are many grand challenges but also many unforeseen opportunities that will come through innovation in your programs and through what you will do in research and education. One of the primary prospects you have is the opportunity to do something new, to think differently and outside the box. In today’s world, innovation often comes by cross-disciplinary engagement and ideas. Therefore, get to know each other well, go to seminars, workshops and do not be afraid to cross disciplines. Get to know people in engineering, the social sciences and other disciplines to enhance your innovative thinking and experiences.
Finally, the third motto is “Knowledgeable Specialists”: This ultimately has to do with making a difference. The goal is not to become knowledgeable for the sake of knowledge; rather, it is to gain and advance knowledge to make a difference. There are so many places to make a difference in the horticultural sciences. I often think of it as a double degree — you need to be highly competent in your area of expertise. but you also need to understand the answer to the question: So what? Our land-grant mission is to make a difference in the areas of teaching, extension and outreach, research and service.
Again, welcome to the Department of Horticultural Science and NC State University. We trust you will enjoy your time here.