group of six people standing and facing the camera among a desert garden

Here to Change the World

By Katie Mobley, on

A unique, tuition-free leadership development program focused on creating the next generation of senior public horticulture professionals, Longwood’s Fellows Program just got even more remarkable—thanks to the recent arrival of the six talented professionals selected for the 2022-23 Fellows Program cohort. With fascinating backgrounds and diverse expertise from aquatic plant care to landscape architecture to outreach and education, we’re thrilled to welcome our newest Fellows to our Gardens … and we can’t wait to see how they better the field of public horticulture. Learn more about our new Fellows and how they’re going to change the world.

Joining the Fellows Program from Naples Botanical Garden as the Senior Horticulture Manager, Danny Cox specializes in water features management and aquatic plant care—and served as a 2015 summer intern here at Longwood, during which he worked with Longwood Senior Horticulturist Tim Jennings, who oversees Longwood’s aquatic plants and collections. A graduate of the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce Associate Leadership Collier program for emerging leaders, Cox earned his bachelor’s degree in environmental studies from Florida Gulf Coast University and actively serves on the Board of Directors of the International Waterlily and Water Gardening Society. Joining the Fellows Program is “like winning the lottery for professional development in public horticulture,” shares Cox. “The diversity of backgrounds and experiences we all bring is part of what makes it feel like a big break. Each of us has contributed to the best of our ability into this field and through the program we will each be exposed to a new set of experiences and tools that will help us to contribute to public horticulture in a new way.”

person in a gray suit with blue glasses looking at the camera

To Fellow Danny Cox, “public gardens and horticulture are what have made my life meaningful.” Photo by Carlos Alejandro.

Fellow Ryan Gott, Ph.D. is an entomologist who most recently worked as an integrated pest management specialist in Pittsburgh, PA in the medical Cannabis industry; prior to this role, he was the Associate Director of IPM at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Pittsburgh. Gott is also an avid educator, having taught for more than 11 years in settings from college classrooms to public science festivals, and is an advocate for biologically diverse, sustainable gardening with a particular interest in eastern North American native plants; in fact, his personal garden holds more than 150 species of plants that can be found naturally in Pennsylvania. Gott received his bachelor’s degree in biology from Purdue University and his doctorate in entomology from the University of Maryland. “The clearest thread I can see along my journey is that of trying to achieve a greater good that excludes no one, an idea that is really crystallized in Longwood’s culture and vision,” shares Gott. “Within the field of public horticulture, I am interested in the changes and challenges associated with the shifting priorities of newer generations,” he continues, “and how gardens can provide for those needs for both their employees and the communities of which they are a part.”

person in an olive green suit and clear glasses looking at the camera

“Being in the new Fellows cohort means that Longwood sees potential in me, sees me as deserving of investment in my development, so that I can pay it forward to the public horticulture industry,” shares Fellow Ryan Gott, Ph.D. “That means more than anything else to me.” Photo by Carlos Alejandro.

For Fellow Amanda Hannah—who serves as Senior Gardener for the Seattle Parks Department at the Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle—this is her third time as a student at Longwood. Hannah has more than 26 years of experience in the field of horticulture, including a three-month summer internship during her junior year of college and a year-long professional internship in Longwood’s Conservatory. Hannah holds a bachelor’s degree in landscape design and construction and a concentration in public horticulture from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. “There are four things that I keep coming back to when I think about what it means for me be part of the new Longwood Fellows cohort: leaning, learning, leadership, and love,” she shares. “Leaning into discomfort, new experiences, and ways of thinking. Learning about myself, my cohort, and the industry. Seeing who are the leaders, why and how they lead, why I want to lead and how I can do it well. Love for the field of horticulture, for the people who make it happen and the people who come to enjoy it; love for my cohort, family, and friends who are with me through this journey; and love for myself for taking a chance to see what I am capable of.”

person in a blue suit looking at the camera

Fellow Amanda Hannah’s main interests in horticulture are “how we make and keep gardens relevant, meaningful, and welcoming to as many different people as possible while providing incredible visitor experiences through horticulture, art, and community connections.” Photo by Carlos Alejandro.

Fellow Rama Lopez-Rivera has more than 15 years of experience in the field of horticulture, working and training in such public gardens as Ramster Garden (Chiddingfold, Surrey), Windsor Great Park (Windsor, Berkshire), and Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University. Lopez-Rivera is in his final year of working toward a degree in horticulture with plantsmanship, with a focus on botanical collection management, at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and currently serves as International Branch Chairman on the RHS Rhododendron, Camellia, and Magnolia Group Committee. “As a horticulturist with a career dedicated to public gardens, I’ve been lucky enough to work in some exceptional collections, travel extensively to see plants in the wild, and develop a strong and diverse plant knowledge,” shares Lopez-Rivera. “As I have moved to pursue a future in senior garden leadership, I saw the essential need to further develop skills in management and to better understand leadership theory.”

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With a particular passion about the relationship between the plants of East Asia and the Appalachian region—as almost half of trees and shrubs found in the Appalachian Mountains have a direct counterpart in East Asia—“I’m very interested in woody plants,” shares Lopez-Rivera, “how these are managed within a collection and how future arboretums and botanical gardens might be developed and look like in the future.” Photo by Carlos Alejandro.

Fellow Anamari (Ana) Mena comes to Longwood with more than 16 years of experience in the planning and landscape architecture professions. With a master’s degree in landscape architecture and a bachelor’s degree in wildlife, ecology, and conservation from the University of Florida, Mena was most recently an Experience Design and Development professional with Virgin Galactic, as well as part of Walt Disney Imagineering at Walt Disney World. “Pre-pandemic I worked at Walt Disney World as an Imagineer where guest experience is front of mind for all cast members,” shares Mena. “Large capital projects were the norm, so I feel inspired and at home by the Longwood Reimagined vision. I’m excited to be here at this transformational time for the Gardens to have a front seat view of this vision coming to reality.” During her time as a Fellow, Mena is especially interested in exploring “how a garden can express in its spaces the arts and culture of a community.”

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Fellow Ana Mena loves “the complexity of gardens as a place where the unique qualities of a community can be envisioned. Gardens provide a variety of spaces for people to reflect and recharge, and make memories in gathering. They provide spaces for nature to flourish, history to be remembered, for public art to be showcased … the possibilities are endless.” Photo by Carlos Alejandro.

Fellow Rae Vassar joins the 2022-23 Fellows cohort from the Landscapes and Gardens team at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, where she managed the design and construction of parks, playgrounds, and green stormwater infrastructure. With a bachelor’s degree from New York University and master’s degree in landscape architecture from the University of Virginia, Vassar has worked as a designer and project manager at landscape architecture firms in Philadelphia and Los Angeles; taught in the Department of Landscape Architecture at California State Polytechnic University, Ponoma and at California State Prison, Los Angeles County; and organized people and programs in support of environmental policy at the city, state, and federal level. “Coming from a career in design and capital project management, with significant experience in outreach and education, I am looking forward to delving into the business side of the garden,” shares Vassar. “Public horticulture is at the intersection of my interest in people, place, and planet,” she continues. “Parks and gardens can be the place where people come together to connect with each other and with the natural world. In a country that is increasingly politically polarized, economically stratified, and racially segregated, we need more and better civic spaces that welcome people of all backgrounds and create shared experience among diverse individuals.”

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“Gardens offer the opportunity to embody, teach, and inspire environmental stewardship at a time when it is urgently needed,” shares Fellow Rae Vassar. “I see the Fellows Program as equipping me with the tools I need to be the most effective leader I can be in using the garden as a site not only of respite, but of inspiration, innovation, collaboration, and action at this critical moment in history.” Photo by Carlos Alejandro.

We welcome our six new Fellows to Longwood, and look forward to the many contributions they’ll make to public horticulture. Follow our Fellows’ journey as we share updates, accomplishments, and insights along the way.

Editor’s note: If you’re looking to pursue a senior leadership role in public horticulture, or know someone who is, apply or nominate a candidate to be part of our 2023-24 Fellows Cohort. Applications for our 2023-24 Fellows Cohort close August 31, 2022. The 2023-24 Fellows Cohort begins in June 2023.

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