For the past fifteen years, AmericanHort has identified and supported emerging leaders in the horticulture industry through the HortScholar Program. After a rigorous application process, six students are chosen who show qualities such as a passion for the industry, growth mindset, teamwork, and leadership. Previous classes of HortScholars have gone on to become successful horticultural researchers, educators, growers, retailers, and much more - and the class of 2021 promises to do the same.
The 2021 HortScholars will be set on a path to success at Cultivate’21 where they will be exposed to the breadth of the horticulture industry, its opportunities, and its leaders. The program offers a beyond-the-classroom experience, giving insight and awareness of the industry, its supply chain, and where they might find a home for their passion. With a focus on professional development, the HortScholars will attend educational sessions, network, and explore the horticulture industry at Cultivate’21.
AmericanHort is excited to announce the HortScholar class of 2021. Take a moment to get to know them in their own words.
JAYDEN BLACK - OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY
Growing plants and loving nature has been my passion for my entire life—for as long as I can remember. This hunger to learn more and expand my experience naturally led me to pursue a degree in horticulture at Ohio State University, one in Sustainable Plant Systems (Horticulture Specialization) and the other in Agriculture Business. I continuously strive to create sustainable, ecologically functional, and horticulturally enriched landscapes for people to enjoy. I hope to have a career in horticulture production, outreach, education, or state extension. I believe in the immense potential of teaching the world how to grow beautiful plants—inspiring others to make a change.
STEPHANIE CRUZ - UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
My interest in cooking and nature evolved into an interest in horticulture when I learned about the health benefits of eating plant-based foods. My interest in horticulture solidified when I interned as a farmhand at Field and Fork, Farm and Gardens at the University of Florida as an undergraduate. I enjoy the combination of art, nature, science, and business that comes with working in this field. I am currently a graduate student at the University of Florida, focusing on controlled environment agriculture of fruiting vegetables. I hope to build on this experience by learning from other growers so I can be on the path to becoming a grower myself upon my graduation in December 2021.
MARIA FERNANDA DO AMARAL TRIENTINI - UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
As a child who grew up in a big city, I always sought to link people to nature. While earning my Bachelor in Agriculture at the University of Sao Paulo (Brazil), ornamental plant production sparked a special interest in me, as I saw it as a way to bring nature to city dwellers. Since August 2018, I have been working at the University of Florida (UF), where I expect to earn my Master’s degree in Environmental Horticulture this Summer and to start my Ph.D. in the Fall. As a horticulture professional, I hope to bring scientific knowledge and methods to advance ornamental plant production and better meet consumer demands.
JUAN QUIJIA PILLAJO - OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY
My passion for horticulture was inspired by the tireless work and commitment of my parents to successfully run their ornamental greenhouse business in Quito, Ecuador. I had the opportunity to pursue a degree in agriculture at Zamorano University in Honduras and later a master at The Ohio State University doing research focused on floriculture crop improvement. In my last position as technical advisor, I had the chance to get very into the use of beneficial microbes and bio-stimulation for crop production. These experiences prompted me to pursue a Ph.D. at The Ohio State University and study plant-microbe interactions and how these interactions can influence plant growth and health. I want to promote an innovative and sustainable horticulture industry through developing environmentally friendly tools for crop production.
ANKIT SINGH - UNIVERSITY OF CONNECTICUT
I am a doctoral candidate at the University of Connecticut (UConn), where I am studying the technical and financial feasibility of the novel GREENBOX technology (USDA funded). Through my research with GREENBOX, I aim to further the knowledge of large-scale urban horticulture that reduces the food transportation network’s strain and provides fresh, nutritious produce to the urban populous. I enjoy teaching environmental science and scientific writing to college students (freshman-seniors) and being a graduate mentor to high school students, as they take on environmental projects at UConn. I hope to have a career in sustainability or teaching.
RUNSHI XIE - TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY
I have always been captivated by the biodiversity and improved well-being that plants bring to individuals since I grew up in a subtropical city located in southeast China. I started my undergraduate study in Landscape Architecture, where I was exposed to both nature and plant sciences. Later I joined Texas A&M University for my master’s degree in Plant Breeding, which ultimately leads to my current pursuit of doctoral-level education in Horticulture. I am currently working on a multi-state multi-disciplinary project to combat the crapemyrtle bark scale (CMBS), an introduced pest species in the United States. I believe my research goals would allow me to develop innovative and sustainable pest control and management methods in the horticulture industry.