May 14, 2009
Jennifer Johnson is a veteran of the Philadelphia Flower Show.
While many of Temple University Ambler’s Landscape Architecture graduating seniors have maybe one or two years of Flower Show experience under their belts thanks to the hands-on, design-build nature of the program, Johnson has eight.
A graduate of W.B. Saul High School in Philadelphia, Johnson had already been a volunteer at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s premiere event for four years running. She wasn’t about to let that streak end when she made the natural transition to the Ambler Campus.
“I asked to volunteer as a freshman and as a sophomore. It gave me the opportunity to see how the exhibits were built and to interact and learn from the students in the classes ahead of me,” she said. “When I was asked to lead the graphics team for the 2008 exhibit (“The Big Four Mississippi Meander”), I was extremely honored and returned to volunteer again in my senior year. The terrific benefit of design-build projects like our Flower Show exhibits is that you get to see a concept become a design and then that design is constructed and built by hand — it gives you a real sense of accomplishment.”
Johnson came by her passion for landscape architecture and design quite naturally.
“W.B. Saul is an agricultural high school to begin with — originally I thought I was going to be a vet! I remember taking a survey about our interests and mine were art, design, and agriculture,” she said. “I tried out for a workshop with a firm called KlingStubbins and spent three years interacting with interior designers, landscape architects, planners, and architects. I fell in love with it, particularly the ability to combine art and design.”
Three tours of the Ambler campus later (just to make sure it was “the right fit”), and she had found her calling.
“I very much liked the small setting and classroom sizes and I loved the Arboretum — it’s like my daily vacation from the city. There’s such a sense of place here; the professors care about you, know your name, and are willing to help you whenever necessary,” she said. “You get the lecture experience in the classroom, but the Arboretum is also our outdoor classroom and there’s opportunity for field trips and hands-on projects. You’re putting into practice what you’re learning in class almost immediately.”
Johnson hit the ground running at Ambler, not only in her classes but as part of the campus community working in the Student Activities office and introducing students to the campus as an Owl Ambassador and Freshman Orientation leader. During her junior year, she was president of the Landscape Architecture and Horticulture Student Association, coordinating the highly successful Halloween Haunted House. It was also not unheard of to find Johnson on campus well into the night completing projects and providing support for her fellow students.
“There’s a very close bond among the students in the programs — these are my friends and my colleagues. We’ll pin up our work on the wall and get opinions from our classmates,” she said. “It’s great to see the variation in thought and design on display, which is a learning experience in itself into what is possible. We’re our own peer teachers.”
Johnson is a multiple award recipient, having received a Dean’s Leadership, Who’s Who, and Ambler College Alumni Association Award in 2009 alone. She has also received numerous scholarships, including the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Phi Beta Omega Chapter Book Award; the Solomon Scholarship, and the Norristown Garden Club Association Scholarship. She also recently completed highly successful National Boxwood Trials in the campus Arboretum, working closely with Arboretum Director Jenny Rose Carey and Horticulture Staff Supervisor and Adjunct Assistant Professor Grace Chapman.
Johnson said the ability to juggle classroom and extracurricular responsibilities, internships, and a part-time job comes from “a passion for my major.”
“I have a particular interest in landscape restoration and park design. I know all of the hard work will be worth it and it will allow me to achieve my goals,” she said. “There is an appreciation, both on campus and off, for what we do and what we are able to accomplish and that certainly helps keep you going. My best advice for anyone entering the program is to learn from your peers, learn from your work, and simply enjoy your major!”