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Longwood Gardens Selects Fellows for Prestigious Leadership Program

March 3, 2020

KENNETT SQUARE, PA–Longwood Gardens today announced the six talented professionals selected for its prestigious Longwood Gardens Fellows Program, continuing a legacy of developing global leaders in horticulture that began in 1958. After a rigorous selection process, the Fellows chosen are Zach Borngraver (Niwot, Colorado); Noemí Hernández Castro (Mexico City, Mexico); Usman Ibrahim, Ph.D. (Zaria, Nigeria); Nicholas Lazio (Hyattsville, MD); Joleen Schilling (Corvallis, Oregon), and Katie Serock (Washington, DC.) They will begin their studies at Longwood in June. For information on the Fellows Program, visit longwoodgardens.org/longwood-fellows.

“Our incoming Fellows are a dynamic group of professionals with a passion for elevating public horticulture around the globe. Through the Fellows Program, they will gain invaluable leadership skills that will empower them to advance not only their careers, but the industry as well,” said Longwood Gardens President and CEO Paul B. Redman.

During the 13-month, fully funded, cohort-based residency at Longwood, Fellows delve into topical issues relevant to public horticulture today such as leadership, organizational behavior, board relations and governance, communications, and other relevant business-related content. A two-month field placement provides a deeper understanding of these issues, equipping Fellows to lead organizations into a vibrant and sustainable future. Alumni of the Fellows Program go on to assume executive leadership positions in gardens around the world, and join the prestigious Society of Fellows, a global network of public garden professionals.

The aim of the Fellows Program is to build leadership capacity within the public horticulture industry. The ideal candidate has a bachelor’s degree and wants to serve—or is serving—in a leadership role. Individuals transitioning between careers are also encouraged to apply. Nominations for the 2022 cohort program are open now and can be submitted via the online nomination form at: https://longwoodgardens.org/education/longwood-fellows-program/fellows-n.... Interested applicants may apply beginning August 1 through October 30, 2020. Learn more at longwoodgardens.org/longwood-fellows.

The Fellows
Zach Borngraver comes to the Fellows program from the University of Colorado (CU) Boulder where he served as a Grounds and Nursery associate for five years. Prior to CU Boulder, Borngraver launched and ran a nonprofit organization, Chain Reaction, that taught basic bicycle maintenance to underprivileged individuals in order to promote healthy lifestyles, share the importance of environment stewardship, and build community engagement. Additionally, he worked for Texas Mountain Flora in Denver where he transformed horticulturists’ visions into reality. Borngraver earned a BA in Sustainability Studies from Colorado Mountain College in Steamboat Springs. While at Longwood, he hopes to continue to develop his emotional intelligence so he can more quickly build public awareness of the mental health benefits of horticulture after the program.

Before coming to Longwood, Noemí Hernández Castro worked as a plant propagation technician for 6 years at the Botanical Garden of the Institute of Biology of the National Autonomous University in Mexico. For three years there, she worked in a cacti and crassulacean species propagation program where one of the outcomes was to publish a technical support guide and register 5 plant varieties of Echeveria with the breeders title. Hernández Castro is currently working with a multidisciplinary team in the management of the University’s green spaces, focusing on the propagation and cultivation of native species to Mexico. She received her bachelor’s degree in Biology from the Autonomous Metropolitan University campus Xochimilco and during the program hopes to develop expertise in greening urban spaces around the globe.

Usman Ibrahim, Ph.D. is on study leave from Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, Nigeria where he teaches horticulture and conducts horticulture-related research. He has 18 years of experience in the field of Agronomy and completed his Ph.D. also at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. Ibrahim is the current President-in-Council of the Horticultural Society of Nigeria. His goals include establishing botanical and public gardens for private and public uses; establishing leadership courses for executives and managers of parks and gardens in Nigeria; and, establishing the Association of Public Gardens of Nigeria. Ibrahim is looking forward to gaining skills through the Program that he can then use to transform Ahmadu Bello University Park and Gardens into a world-class garden and create curriculum that provides in-depth training of the theory and practice of public horticulture to both students and executives of parks and gardens in Nigeria. He is the first person from Nigeria to participate in the Fellows Program.

Nicholas (Nick) Lazio joins the Fellows Program from the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington D.C. where he recently served as an Agricultural Science Research Technician managing the many rare, wild-collected plants in the Asian Collection. Prior to that role, he was a Research Fellow who worked with the National Arboretum to lead several collection trips targeting plants of interest for the Woody Landscape Plant Germplasm Repository. He began his horticultural career after five years in banking after obtaining a degree in Finance from UNC Charlotte where his love of public gardens started through working at the UNC Charlotte Botanical Garden. While working in horticulture his passion for plants led him to become a certified Horticulturalist and obtain a minor in Horticulture from Oregon State University. He is interested in how public gardens can serve as living laboratories that engage communities through transformative spaces while serving as a space that can foster interdisciplinary connections.

Joleen Schilling previously served as Program Chair and Horticulture Instructor for the Agricultural Sciences Department at Chemeketa Community College in Salem, Oregon. Schilling’s career in Oregon's nursery industry started when she was fifteen and since then, she has worked for and managed nurseries in Oregon and Colorado. As a graduate student, Schilling studied free-choice learning in public gardens and arboreta and worked with interpretive specialists at the Hoyt Arboretum in Portland, Oregon, to develop a site interpretive and education master plan to identify and reach target audiences. After completing graduate school, Schilling started her horticultural teaching career and was soon nominated by her peers to receive the Outstanding Teaching Award in Science, Engineering, and Technology. During her time at Chemeketa, Schilling organized a Women in Horticulture event in partnership with the Lord & Schryver Conservancy; held an Ag Summit to offer professional development and industry networking for high school agricultural teachers; formed partnerships with Oregon’s nursery industry and public gardens; collaborated on a new Agricultural Complex at Chemeketa; developed a transfer degree to Oregon State University, a Crop Health certificate, and new horticulture and soil courses, and served as a reviewer for a new conifer identification guide for the Pacific Northwest.

Katie Serock comes to Longwood after serving as a Gardener Supervisor for the Architect of the Capitol, Grounds and Arboretum Division in Washington D.C. She has over eight years of experience in horticulture and environmental conservation. Serock’s passion for horticulture began when she worked for the Peace Corps as an environmental conservation specialist in Panama. In Central America, her love of tropical plants and community gardening grew while working in a local tree nursery and school gardens. Serock’s fascination with sustainable landscaping flourished when she managed a small landscaping company in Florida that was committed to providing native, healthy, and ecological landscape services. She desired to share her innovative ideas and knowledge of sustainability and native landscape designs with public gardens, which brought her to work for the historical landscapes of the House of Representatives. Serock obtained her bachelor’s degree in environmental studies from Hobart and William Smith Colleges and her master’s degree in sustainable landscaping from George Washington University.

About Longwood Gardens
Longwood Gardens is one of the great gardens of the world, encompassing 1,100 acres of gardens, woodlands, meadows, fountains, a 10,010-pipe Aeolian organ, and a 4-acre grand Conservatory. Longwood continues the mission set forth by founder Pierre S. du Pont to inspire people through excellence in garden design, horticulture, education, and the arts. Longwood’s foremost influence on American horticulture has been through its Education programs, in keeping with Mr. du Pont’s desire to establish “a school where students and others may receive instruction in the arts of horticulture and floriculture.” Since 1958, thousands of students from all over the world have participated in one or more of Longwood’s intensive programs, ranging from School & Youth Programs which educates 45,000 students both online and in person each year, to the two-year Professional Horticulture Program to the Fellows Program. Graduates have gone on to leadership roles in many of the world’s top horticultural institutions. For more information, visit longwoodgardens.org.