| New leadership for UF/IFAS Horticulture to strengthen the industry and research ties |
UF/IFAS HAS 14 ACADEMIC departments and two schools, so I spend a lot of time finding the right people to lead them. Finding a new chair for the Department of Environmental Horticulture was easy, because I already employed an ideal candidate in Fort Pierce.
Sandy Wilson has done outstanding research and teaching, she has boundless enthusiasm, and she has what it takes to lead.
Dr. Wilson is known for her work on the invasive potential of ornamental species. Because I’m the senior vice president of agriculture and natural resources at UF, that’s exactly the kind of work I believe is so crucial for Florida. We must help the industry identify opportunities for profit while protecting natural resources that help make Florida such a great place to live — and to visit.
She’s also an expert ornamental propaGator (our UF computers automatically capitalize Gator in any context!), an active participant in industry events, and what I call a Friend of Ben — someone who has built a strong relationship with Ben Bolusky, CEO of the Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association. Her dedication to the land-grant mission of research, extension and teaching makes her a valuable asset to IFAS and to stakeholders.
I always say, you can expect great things from IFAS, and here’s what you can expect from Dr. Wilson:
• More attention to garnering national awards for our students and faculty.
• Efforts to increase undergraduate and graduate student enrollment — including at the Gulf Coast Research & Education Center’s Plant City campus.
• Advocacy for more resources so the department can do more for the industry. She began talking about the need for more faculty to complement the 30-member department before she even moved to Gainesville!
• A continued commitment to solid science.
• Leadership involvement in the industry. She was the most recent guest speaker at the FNGLA Frontrunner Chapter meeting, introduced herself to a number of the industry vendors at the recent FNGLA Landscape show in Orlando, and is looking forward to attending the Tropical Plant Industry Exhibition in January. She’ll continue to serve on the board of the American Society for Horticultural Science as vice president of education and is an active member of the International Plant Propagation Society, in addition to a number of other plant organizations.
It’s important for us to have someone like Dr. Wilson who has cultivated strong ties with FNGLA. Industry input helps keep our research relevant. Her hire also demonstrates our gratitude for industry support in the form of research funding, scholarships, letters of support for grant applications, and use of nursery lands for demonstration projects.
Although she is more noted for building a large teaching botanical garden at the Indian River Research and Education Center, her yard in her home in Fort Pierce contains a diverse mixture of leftovers from student projects: firebush, Simpson’s stopper, and wild coffee.
article by JACK PAYNE
photos courtesy of UF/IFAS EXTENSION
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jack Payne is the Senior Vice President for Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.