MFOS Alum Libbie Clark shares her journey in horticulture in the Fall 2021 edition of UF/IFAS Environmental Horticulture Department’s newsletter, The Cultivar.
How did you get into Horticulture?
I honestly found Horticulture on accident. I was a Machen Florida Opportunity Scholar (MFOS) and my first fall semester as a gator I attended a welcome reception at the president’s house and received a Gator Glory Coleus as a gift. I quickly became obsessed with my coleus (Bernie, after president Machen) and treated it as most people would treat a pet. As I started to struggle and realize that my original major was not the right fit for me, I had an advisor suggest I take a Plant Science class. Through that class I met with Amy Alexander-Vasquez the former Plant Sciences advisor and quickly realized that Plant Science was a much better fit. She encouraged me to join the undergraduate Environmental Horticulture (ENH) club and introduced me to members of the FNGLA (Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association). I was a member of the ENH club for three Poinsettia seasons and loved being able to get hands-on experience with plant production. It also helped me connect the dots for everything I was learning in my classes. Members of the FNGLA were eager to meet with students and get them involved with industry, I attended every trade show and event that FNGLA invited the students to and quickly learned of all of the opportunities that this industry had to offer. As a first-generation college student, I never dreamed that I would get the opportunities that I did, and I was fortunate enough to graduate debt-free, thanks to the MFOS program, and traveled to Europe twice with the ENH club.
Why did you choose UF/IFAS?
I grew up in Middleburg, Florida which is only about an hour away from Gainesville and always dreamed of attending UF. I had an inspirational high school Science teacher who began to show me how interesting science was, and knew from there that I wanted to pursue something within the science world. When I got accepted into one of the top-rated science Universities in the nation, it was a simple decision.