May 5, 2011
It’s safe to say that Horticulture student Austin Deputy was born to his profession.
“Essentially I live in the woods in Elverson, right near French Creek State Park. I’ve always had a connection to nature,” said Deputy, who graduated with a degree in Horticulture from Temple’s School of Environmental Design in the College of Liberal Arts in May. “My grandparents always had vegetable gardens and I started small gardens of my own.”
At Owen J. Roberts High School, Deputy had the good fortune to pursue his passion while pursuing his education, studying horticulture for four years.
“You could actually select it as part of your curriculum. I was involved in the greenhouse, holiday plant and fruit sales, and generally growing things that I found interesting,” he said. “I was also able to begin interning at Welkinweir Arboretum and Nature Sanctuary while I was still in high school.”
Safe to say Deputy was a natural fit for Temple’s Horticulture program offered at Temple University Ambler.
“It had everything I was looking for. The fact that the campus was an Arboretum and I could get hands-on experience in the campus greenhouse was a bonus,” he said. “The program has broadened my perspective on my career opportunities. I’ve become much more interested in the sustainable and environmental side of horticulture, environmentally friendly management practices and managing invasive species, for example.”
According to Eva Monheim, Temple University Lecturer in Horticulture, Deputy became “a master at controlling invasive plants and also identifying trees and working with groups that would come for tours (at Welkinweir).”
“I met Austin when he had just graduated high school and was working at Welkinweir. He and the head Horticulturist and another student were the only three people maintaining a tract of 197 acres during the summer of my visit,” she said. “When I met him, I heard that he was going to be coming to Temple and he said he would see me in Woody Plants classes in the fall — he showed mastery of the subject matter right away. I have watched his progress and feel that he has grown so much and has a great deal to offer our horticulture profession.”
Seeing his dedication and commitment to his craft, it was Monheim who nominated Deputy for a Pennsylvania Landscape and Nursery Association (PLNA) Foundation Scholarship for 2011. He received the $5,000 award during the PLNA Green Industry Leadership Summit held in Lancaster this year.
“One of the greatest things about the Horticulture program at Ambler is the support you receive from your professors; they will go that extra step. They support us in the classroom in addition to providing career support and helping us establish good connections within the industry,” said Deputy, who will have also completed a Certificate in Environmental Sustainability from Temple when he graduates. “There are a lot of things that you can’t learn in a textbook. You’re given the opportunity to work out problems, ask questions, and truly benefit from their experiences as professionals in the field — I think that’s essentially going into such a hands-on profession.”
Not content to simply take his courses and head home, Deputy established a core group of friends at Ambler, which allowed him to become part of the campus community as a whole, including representing Pi Alpha Xi, the national honors society for horticulture students, at campus student government programs. Through the Horticulture Directed Studies Program, he also helped prepare plants for Temple University Ambler’s award-winning 2011 Philadelphia International Flower Show exhibit, “Écolibrium – French Traditions/Modern Interpretations.”
“The horticulture industry is extremely broad. You can become involved with everything from golf course management to public gardens,” he said. “There is a student in my class that wants to work for the National Park Service, another wants to work in environmental horticulture.”
Deputy himself has secured a one-year paid internship as a groundskeeper with Longwood Gardens, a highly competitive position that more than 100 people apply for each year.
“Temple’s horticulture program is structured in such a way that it helps guide you to your interests. Whether it’s science research in the lab or getting hands-on in the arboretum, it’s always good to try everything,” he said. “My interest has always been in public horticulture so that is where I focused my attention. The program has given me the knowledge to become a professional horticulturist. I feel I have more to learn now more than ever.”