CSU's Zach Johnson promotes industry partnerships Email
Written by Colorado Green NOW   
Monday, September 26, 2022 04:00 AM

Colorado Green Now

CSU's Zach Johnson promotes industry partners

Green industry gifts influence curriculum, attract students

The opening celebration for the new Nutrien Agricultural Sciences Building at Colorado State University (CSU) in May 2022, represents an exciting commitment of the university to horticulture. For Zachary Johnson, CSU professor, whose major teaching emphasis is in the Landscape Design and Contracting concentration within the Environmental Horticulture major, is a boon for students, green industry businesses and the university. 
Donations directly support programs  
“Our new building represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to strengthen the relationships with our industry partners. The capital costs of this building have been paid for in large part by Nutrien, allowing gifts to Environmental Horticulture to immediately impact programs and students in ways we just haven’t been able to do in the past,” Johnson explains. 
CSU/industry partnership is strong 
Several green industry companies have already stepped up and made substantial donations and numerous more gifts are in the pipeline. Johnson wants “to ensure long-term funding is in place to not only serve our current students but to meet the needs of future students."  

CSU/industry partnership is strong 

Several green industry companies have already stepped up and made substantial donations and numerous more gifts are in the pipeline. Johnson wants “to ensure long-term funding is in place to not only serve our current students but to meet the needs of future students.  

The Landscape Design and Contracting program has an active advisory committee composed of industry leaders from companies of all sizes within the profession. Our advisory committee helps us stay well-connected to the industry, ensuring our students are well prepared to enter the profession and contribute on Day One, not one day,” Johnson says. He wants us to know that all engagement with our stakeholders, whether it be the advisory committee or new partners, allows the programs to address goals and revisit curriculum further demonstrating the importance and relevance of industry connectedness.  

Both building and curriculum highlight industry support 

“We work closely with our donors to help strengthen the program, and assure them their contributions are being used wisely to teach and better prepare students for success now and in the future,” says Johnson. Currently, two people and one company have made significant contributions that directed the design and buildout of the building. 

“Design studios—two of them separated by a glass walls allowing interaction between seniors and incoming students—are the heart of the Landscape Design and Contracting major and students have 24/7 access,” Johnson says. Phil Steinhauer, landscape architect and CEO at Designscapes Colorado, Centennial went through this program at CSU. Steinhauer’s generous gift ensures that the design studios—named after Steinhauer—and the program, continue to thrive in the new building. His gift will also provide scholarships and help fund a new position within the program. 

The building also now hosts a materials library courtesy of a donation from Intermountain Stihl. “This library shows sample of materials that go into designing and building landscapes,” explains Johnson. “Materials can be brought to the classroom for students to see and experience firsthand.” Previously, students sometimes only saw pictures of materials on a slide. Stihl’s gift extends over at least 10 years and the materials library will continue to improve and evolve. Sthil also has two scholarships in place for Landscape Design and Contracting students.  

Matt Edmundson, president at Arbor Valley Nursery, provided a gift that funded the pinup/critique room, where students in Landscape Design and Contracting, work with real clients throughout their time at CSU. Students in other Environmental Horticulture programs will also use this space, which is named the Arbor Valley Environmental Horticulture Collaboration room. 

Up and coming  

Johnson is very excited about the up and coming “design semester /build week” course, which gifts will support. Students across all class levels will work with a nonprofit organization in Northern Colorado that has a specific landscape need or project. During the semester, the students create the full landscape design and then go to the site and build the project out during the following semester. “This course will bring students together to help a nonprofit in the community and allows CSU to build more industry partnerships as we approach landscape companies to lend a person/expert and/or equipment to assist with the build,” describes Johnson. 

Landscape Design and Contracting has also secured a permanent outdoor classroom space north of campus which will be used to demonstrate equipment and materials, as well as allow students to build and manage projects and better understand the challenges faced in the field.  

New staff position 

Even more exciting, Johnson tells us, is the new position within this program. This role, called program coordinator, is 100% funded by industry partner donations, meaning the university pays nothing. Role responsibilities will be: 40% recruitment and outreach; 30% teaching and helping in the classroom, both inside and outdoor classroom space; 20% event organization; and 10% working with student to coordinate internships and placement after graduation. The selection process for this position has started.  

We are especially excited to have a position which will allow us to devote significant time and energy to exposing students, and in many cases their parents, to all the opportunities within the entire Environmental Horticulture major at CSU,” Johnson says. “So many amazing careers exist and we are excited to helps others learn about them.”  

The overall point Johnson wants to emphasize is these industry gifts have allowed the Landscape Design and Contracting program and the other Environmental Horticulture concentrations to do “some really cool stuff!” The gifts go directly to strengthening the programs and enhancing the experience for students to better prepare them for a career. 

This article appeared in Colorado Green magazine, Sept./Oct., 2022 issue.

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