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Hilary Nichols Alumni Profile

Please describe your current job position:

I guide students in designing and installing school and greenspace native plant gardens to support birds, bees, and butterflies. Individually and as a team, I teach classes to everyone from adults to kindergarteners.  I find and guide volunteers to helping EcoAddendum attain our mission of incorporating native plants back into Georgia's landscape. I sustainably collect seed, rescue plants from construction projects, and buy in propagation material to be able to provide schools and the public with local native plants that attract pollinators. I build partnerships with local botanists, rangers, nurseries, communities, and professional organizations.

What is the most interesting thing about your job? 

The most interesting part of my job is helping students of all ages get excited about horticulture and their environment.

How well did the Department of Horticultural Science at NCSU prepare you for your current position?

The Department of Horticultural Science at NCSU prepared me well for my position.  I was taught design principles, plant identification techniques, how to teach, the volunteer mindset of giving back to my community, and much more.

What other horticultural-related jobs did you have prior to your current position?

  • Georgia Perennial Plant Association- Chair and Co-chair Symposium and Silent Auction; Raffle Committee
  • Fine Gardening Magazine- Writer
  • Garden*Hood Nursery- Sales Associate
  • Oakhurst Community Garden- Volunteer
  • Atlanta Botanical Garden- Senior Horticulturist
  • Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew- Glasshouse Horticulture Intern
  • Bland Landscaping- Residential Maintenance Foreman, Training Committee Member
  • NCSU Research- Horticulture Research Assistant
  • Longwood Gardens- Conservatory Horticulture Intern
  • NCSU Conservatory- Greenhouse Assistant
  • JC Raulston Arboretum - Plant Records Intern, Moonlight in the Garden and Gala Volunteer
  • Walt Disney World- Horticulture Intern
  • NCSU Landscape Maintenance- Horticulture Intern
  • Charlotte, NC Parks and Recreation- Horticulture Intern

What made the Department of Horticultural Science at NCSU unique?

The Department of Horticultural Science at NCSU is unique because it is connected to JC Raulston Arboretum, as well as has a diverse teaching garden around the department's building to add the hands-on element to what we were learning.  Several-day optional field trips with staff and other students to horticultural sites built connections with each other and the people we visited.  The student PLANET group opportunities, especially the fund-raising events, brought people together and taught us new skills.  PAX (the Horticulture Honorary Club), Horticulture Club and Departmental Lectures, and Departmental potluck picnics with a tight community atmosphere all make NCSU unique.  Hanging out in the horticulture student lounge we got to know the people who would become our colleagues.  Most of all, the Department of Horticultural Science at NCSU is unique because of all the professors who care about what they're teaching and helping the students they teach in every way.

What would you say are the strengths of the Department of Horticultural Science at NCSU?

Smart, enthusiastic, well-connected, experienced professors who care about their students even after their workday ends is the biggest strength of the Department of Horticultural Science at NCSU.  Professors who are very involved in their horticultural community locally and internationally.  Professors who introduce and share their connections with their students for the betterment of the department and the field.  They are what make NCSU fantastic.

If you received degrees from other departments/universities, how did the experiences differ from the one you had in the Department of Horticultural Science at NCSU?

There is more of a team and community feeling in this department.  You're not one professor's pet project, nor someone to pass through the system as quickly as possible and forget.  All the professors (even ones with whom you do not take a class!), all the staff, and all the students work together with you to bring you into the horticulture field.

What words of wisdom/advice would you give students thinking about attending the Department of Horticultural Sciences at NCSU? 

Incoming students, participate in as many activities outside of class offered by the department as you can.  Do as many internships in a wide variety of horticulture jobs as you can before you graduate.  Ask many questions about what inspired the professionals around you and how they got where they are.