STILLWATER, Okla. —The footprint of Oklahoma State University is ever evolving to continually meet the changing needs of students. With a groundbreaking ceremony this morning, students in OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, will soon have access to a new facility that will better prepare them to enter the professional workforce.
The Greenhouse Learning Center, a $6 million facility, will replace and improve functions of OSU’s existing teaching greenhouses that have been in use for decades. Construction is expected to be completed in fall 2019.
Randy Davis, president and CEO of Greenleaf Nursery, and a CASNR graduate, said Greenleaf Nursery has committed $1 million toward this new project. Greenleaf Nursery is one of North America’s largest wholesale nursery growers and has been a long-time partner and supporter of OSU’s horticulture programs.
“Greenleaf Nursery is proud to contribute to the construction of the new Greenhouse Learning Center at Oklahoma State University. We believe this new facility will create an enhanced opportunity for both faculty and students to do research and also have a great educational experience,” Davis said. “We are pleased that the new ‘Greenleaf Nursery Headhouse’ will be a part of this dynamic new facility.”
The Greenhouse Learning Center will feature six greenhouses, including an isolated entomology greenhouse, and head house, which includes a classroom, office space and plant-preparation area, as well as storage space for soil, equipment and chemicals such as fertilizer and pest-management materials. A large foyer will provide space for student club meetings. It also will house cutting-edge irrigation systems, intense climate and humidity control and other technology standard in today’s horticulture industry.
The facility will aid CASNR in recruiting and retaining faculty and students, supporting industry relationships and growing its program to better prepare horticulture professionals.
Janet Cole, head of OSU’s Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, said the students have been using current facilities for at least 30 years.
“During that time, there have been many advances in technology related to greenhouse facilities,” Cole said. “The new Greenhouse Learning Center will provide a state-of-the-art facility for our students to learn horticultural practices using equipment and facilities similar to those they will experience in today’s industry.”
The greenhouse facilities currently being used were built in 1963 for cotton research and in the early 1980s were transferred to the department of horticulture and landscape architecture for teaching purposes.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, horticulture has an annual economic impact of $150 million in Oklahoma and more than 3,000 residents work in this industry.
While primarily serving horticulture and landscape architecture students, the new center also will benefit students in agricultural education, communications and leadership; plant and soil sciences; natural resources ecology and management; and entomology and plant pathology. In addition, the facility will create opportunities for more robust Extension programs and better support existing curriculum.
Cynda Clary, CASNR associate dean, said the university is committed to providing the best education possible for its students.
“The new Greenhouse Learning Center is reflective of CASNR's commitment to a hands-on education. Undergraduate students from across the college will benefit from dynamic courses taught in the facility's state-of-the-art classrooms and labs,” Clary said.
Heidi Griswold, OSU Foundation, said Greenleaf Nursery’s relationship with OSU goes back many years, and that relationship has been beneficial for both parties.
“There have been many OSU graduates who have made their careers at Greenleaf Nursery,” Griswold said. “OSU and CASNR are proud to have Greenleaf Nursery commit a $1 million lead gift to make the Greenhouse Learning Center a reality on campus.”
Pictured left to right are Tom Coon, vice president, Division of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources; Burns Hargis, OSU president; John Nickel, owner, Greenleaf Nursery; Randy Davis, president and CEO, Greenleaf Nursery; Lou Watkins, OSU/A&M Board of Regents; and Austin Kenyon, former president, Greenleaf Nursery.
Photo by Todd Johnson, Agricultural Communications Services