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Bailee Hopkins

About Bailee

What were you doing prior to your degree program?

I had just finished my undergraduate degree in Plant Sciences at Cornell. I was volunteering at The Cornell Botanic Gardens and maintained the Natural Dye Garden for the College of Human Ecology.

Why did you choose to pursue the MPS degree?

The MPS in Public Garden Leadership is a one-of-a kind program that offered the training to become a leader in my desired field and earn a Master’s Degree. There is no other program that offers both of those two things.

What are your post-MPS plans?

I will be working at Oak Spring Garden Foundation in Upperville, VA as a Horticulturist in the Biocultural Conservation Farm onsite.

What are the strengths of the PGL/Horticulture program, in your opinion?

This program is incredible. The opportunity to be academically advised by leaders in the public garden field, Dr. Don Rakow and Dr. Sonja Skelly, is a one-of-a kind experience. They both have a lot of experience both working in public gardens and in educating the next public garden leaders as professors and mentors.

Another strength is the opportunity to work on the action project. Coming into the program the action project was the focus of discussion and there was a big emphasis placed on making our projects relevant to the public garden field.

The Cornell Botanic Gardens is another major strength in the program. Many universities do not have a botanic garden so close to campus or even have one at all. Through this MPS program we have the opportunity, and are encouraged to, create independent study courses to work on a small project at the Cornell Botanic Gardens. Having the opportunity to work alongside the staff of the gardens is something that I took advantage of in both of my semesters and loved working on. I was able to develop skills that can help me in my career as a public garden professional through these Independent study courses.

What words would you use to describe the PGL/Horticulture MPS degree program?

Inspiring, Journey, Engaged, Connected, Extraordinary

What have been some of your most rewarding moments while in your program?

During the program we had the opportunity to go on garden study tours each semester that we have input on planning. In the fall, we visited Botanic Gardens near and in New York City including Stonecrop Gardens, Wave Hill Public Garden, and New York Botanical Garden. This spring we are going on a trip to five gardens in the New England area. We were also able to meet with the advisory council for the Public Garden Leadership Program in Atlanta, Georgia. This was incredibly memorable as the committee was welcoming, inspiring, and a group of incredible leaders in our field. I really adore these trips and garden visits as they really help connect us to public gardens throughout the country and realize some of the major challenges professionals in our field are tackling and struggling with.

What are your short term and long term career goals?

I hope to gain some incredible hands-on experience in my next job at Oak Spring Garden Foundation that will prepare me to move on into a leadership role in my next job. My short term goals include working in gardens in a role that will allow for me to be able to collaborate with the local Indigenous communities and promote an inclusive environment for visitors. In the long term I want to play a role in respectfully developing Native plant gardens that promote hands-on learning and plant interaction for people of every age, as well as to help Native American communities of the area build their own community gardens.

What courses stand out as most helpful for your specific career goals?

My independent study courses at Cornell Botanic Gardens have been the most applicable toward working to meet my career goals as I was able to craft them with goals that directly help me work toward my career.

I also think Dr. Karim-Aly Kassam’s course, Ways of Knowing: Indigenous and Place-Based Ecological Knowledge, was essential for me to take during my time in my MPS program. As an Indigneous student with a goal of collaborating with Indigneous communities, this course gave me skills that I will apply in my career.

Dr. Don Rakow’s course, Public Garden Management, was an essential course to my development as a public garden leader. I think including this course was important as it taught me a lot about every part of running a public garden and current issues in this field.

What advice would you give to your younger self embarking on the journey of graduate school?

I’d tell myself that the experience is very different from being an undergraduate and that I should really take the time to enjoy exploring my passions both in and outside of the classroom.

How has your MPS experience changed you, both personally and professionally?

Personally, I have explored my passions throughout the MPS program and have gotten to understand what I want out of my career and in my life. Professionally, I have had the opportunity to learn new skills (plant identification, budgeting, exhibit interpretation) that I will be able to utilize in my career.

What’s your favorite thing about living in Ithaca?

Ithaca is beautiful! I love being able to explore all of the natural areas in Ithaca and learning about the diversity of the native plants of this area. Ithaca is a very lively town and the options for local food sources are incredible and delicious!

What advice would you give an undergraduate student who is preparing to jump right into the MPS program?

The experience will be very different from your experience as an undergraduate. Prepare to really explore what you are interested in and focus on learning useful professional skills that will help you in your career. Take courses that you are invested in experiencing. Make sure that you are passionate about your action project topic and will be proud of what you produce upon completion of your program. Be involved on campus and take part in any activities or clubs that you think will add value to your time here in the MPS program!

What student organizations are you involved in?

I am involved in OADI’s Graduate Students Mentoring Undergraduates Program and the American Indian Science and Engineering Society.

What do you like about being involved in student organizations?

I love getting to spend time with students that have similar interests but I also love that the organizations that I’m involved in and include different communities from my MPS program. I think that it’s important to be involved in communities related to interests that may not be directly related to what you are studying. I love having a diverse set of friends and mentees.

How have the faculty supported your educational goals?

The faculty at Cornell are incredible and supportive. Faculty in the School of Integrated Plant Sciences have helped me understand the relationships between what I’m learning in class and how to apply it in my future career. Faculty in American Indian and Indigneous Studies supported my educational goals by acting as mentors and helping me develop methods for approaching a topic from a different perspective. My advisors have been incredibly supportive of my educational goals in helping me choose the best courses to enroll in and helping me develop my independent study ideas into courses. They were also instrumental in helping me throughout the process of working on my action project.