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Sydney Suits: Designing a Career in Horticulture

Sydney Suits, landscape design undergraduate student

Sydney Suits is scaling trees and designing a career spent outdoors. After an introductory course and a conversation with her then instructor, Lee Ivy, Suits discovered the world of horticulture, prompting her to switch her studies to landscape design in the Department of Horticultural Science.

Combining her passion for landscape design and her competitive spirit, Suits joined the HortPack, a nationally-recognized collegiate landscape competition team within the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Each year, the HortPack students participate in the National Collegiate Landscaping Competition (NCLC), a  landscape “olympics” between more than 40 two-year and four-year colleges. In addition to the competition, NCLC also offers workshops and a large industry career fair. 

During the March 2022 NCLC, Suits focused her efforts on interior landscape design and worker safety competitions. Suits’ design was awarded 7th place nationally for interior design, helping the Hortpack receive 3rd place overall. Next year, Suits has her sights set on the treetops, and she is training in arboricultural climbing techniques.

Sydney Suits 7th place national interior design
Sydney Suits 7th place in national interior design for the 2022 National Collegiate Landscape Competition hosted at NC State.

What inspired your interest in horticulture?

I was previously a design studies major in the College of Design and was very interested in the Landscape Architecture program. I’ve always been an outdoorsy person and I knew I wanted to be more connected with nature. For an elective, I took “Intro to the World of Horticulture,” which was at the time taught by Ivy. Hetold me about the landscape design undergraduate program within the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. After spending time in Kilgore Hall and being introduced to all the different possibilities horticulture had to offer, I changed my major almost immediately. 

Why do you choose to study landscape design at NC State?

I enjoy connecting people with nature and educating myself and others about plants and their potential. Good landscape design has the opportunity to foster so many wonderful experiences and being a nature enthusiast, I want to provide these experiences whenever I can and share my passion with others. 

What do you most look forward to in next year’s National Collegiate Landscaping Competition?

I am training this year in the arboriculture event [tree climbing techniques]. That will be one of my events next year. It has been a blast so far and I am excited to see how my teammates do! This year, I competed in the new safety event, as well as the interior design event, which was exciting. 

Sydney Suits (left) and Hannah Ledford (right)
Sydney Suits (left) and Hannah Ledford (right) received their HortPack third-place award from the 2022 National Collegiate Landscape Competition.

What was your landscaping internship like? 

My internship was hard but rewarding. I was at the Raleigh/Durham branch of Yellowstone Landscape, which is a commercial landscaping company. I worked in a rotation at the branch gaining experience in sales, management, design, enhancements and maintenance.

Sydney Suits (left) with Jackie Kilby-Cranford (right) of Yellowstone Landscape at career fair.
Sydney Suits (left) with Jackie Kilby-Cranford (right), Yellowstone Landscape’s Raleigh/Durham branch manager, at the 2022 National Collegiate Landscape Competition career fair.

How has the internship impacted your career?

I have been offered a job at Yellowstone Landscape should I choose after graduation. That itself is such a cool feeling.  Additionally, all of the fellow interns got to meet one another through virtual meetings, but we got to know one another during an intern symposium held in Florida at Yellowstone’s headquarters. This was such a wonderful opportunity because I befriended many people my age who will be entering the industry at the same time as myself. It is nice to know I will already have that web of connections waiting for me after graduation.

Are you wanting to join the HortPack landscape competition team or seeking horticulture internship information?

Explore the Department of Horticultural Science student career experience database and find your internship opportunities in landscaping, gardening, lab research, and more. If you are seeking to host a horticulture student internship, view the employer career experience database.

Do you want to join the HortPack? To inquire on how to join our top national collegiate landscape team, contact the horticulture faculty advisor and senior lecturer, Lis Meyer.