May 6, 2010
Grant Folin is a Temple triple threat.
When Folin graduates with a BS in Horticulture on May 13, he’ll be able to place the diploma next to his BS in Spanish and Master’s in Education, also from Temple. When he decided to make it a Temple “threepeat” and return to the classroom after 10 years working as a Spanish teacher and trying his hand as a professional photographer, he felt the Ambler Campus was the right fit.
“It seemed that if I was going to jump off that cliff and see where it took me, then this was the place to do it,” said Folin, 40, who will graduate with a 3.94 grade point average. “Since I had my core courses out of the way, I could focus on what I loved to do — being in the garden and learning about plants.”
Finding his true passion, however, took a little bit of searching.
“After five full years of teaching Spanish at three schools in the Philadelphia School District, I found that, while I loved the students, it didn’t really fit my vision of who I am as a person,” Folin said. “At that point I thought I might explore my fascination with photography as a possible new career path — I also worked as a bartender to pay my rent. I discovered photography is a very competitive and very expensive field just to break into and I wasn’t ready to work 60 to 80 hours a week just to try to get my name out there. It was great experience, but I realized, again, that it didn’t feel right.”
For a period of time, Folin returned to teaching at the Robert E. Lamberton School in the Overbrook Park section of Philadelphia. It was there that he and he wife, Karyl Weber, discovered Morris Park “a wonderful little woodland park next to a stream,” part of the Fairmount Park system. He was “home” and a “lifelong fascination” with natural areas began.
“It started to occur to me, why not pursue my love of nature in some capacity. Thanks to my mentor, Sally McCabe, I became involved in community gardening,” he said. “I had never grown anything in my adult life, but the neighbors and I made the impossible happen in a vacant lot. There was food and flowers where there were once just bricks and morning glories — that began my formal interest in horticulture. Being among the plants, I now realize that it was something I was always drawn to, but it took actually growing them to fully recognize that that was what I was supposed to be doing.”
Folin said he had heard of Temple’s Horticulture program in the School of Environmental Design (SED) through friends who had studied at the Ambler Campus, home to the SED programs.
“Coming back to the classroom was a joy. I was highly motivated to get as much out of it as I could,” he said. “I’ve also been provided with the chance to work in the (Ambler Arboretum of Temple University), which has been a tremendous opportunity. Being around the plants on a daily basis — even if on a given day it’s just weeding — has been a great experience.”
Early in the program, Folin said, Dr. Michael Olszewski, Assistant Professor of Horticulture, approached him to assist with hands-on research focusing on the seed germination of warm season grasses — improving germination to ensure more reliable results for growers. During the summers of 2008 and 2009, networking in the program also afforded Folin the opportunity to intern at Bartram’s Garden in southwest Philadelphia.
“Private landscapes receive as much cares as the owner believes is necessary or has the resources to manage. For large parks and public gardens, the necessary recourses might not be readily available — our open spaces and public space suffer for it,” he said. “A dream job for me would be to work at Bartram’s. I’m looking forward to using the knowledge I’ve gained at Temple and Bartram’s to manage natural areas, such as large parks and public gardens.”
The Ambler Campus, Folin said “has a reputation for being a place that fosters a love of plants, nature, and sustainability.”
“There is an ‘ease of community’ to Ambler. You’re given the opportunity to nurture and explore your passions,” he said. “I got a great deal out of my time at Temple. If you feel that you’re not in the right place, life’s too short not to do what you love.”