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Jessica Pederson

About Jessica

  • Area of study: Public Garden Leadership
  • Hometown: Watertown, MA
  • Fun fact: I love costumes and Halloween and I am also known at work as the Director of Fairy Education.
  • View Jessica's LinkedIn profile

What were you doing prior to your degree program?

Working as a Gardener at the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University.

What were the biggest obstacles you had to overcome in order to participate in your degree program?

Leaving a job at a wonderful organization and moving away from my family and friends.

Why did you choose to pursue the degree?

I wanted to take my career to the next level and lead environmental education programming at public gardens. I choose the public garden field because I felt (and still feel) that public gardens are an ideal venue for teaching people about plant-based solutions to climate change, sustainable horticulture, sustainable agriculture, and for inspiring people to take action in their own lives and communities.

What did you do after earning your degree?

I was hired as the Interpretive Specialist at the New York Botanical Garden.

What are the strengths of your program, in your opinion?

A major strength of this MPS program is the access to the Cornell Botanic Gardens. This partnership allowed me to experience the best of both worlds. I worked alongside PhD and Master’s students from the School of Integrative Plant Science, who were conducting important research in the horticultural field, and Cornell Botanic Garden employees, who were putting their expertise into practice at a public garden. A highlight for me was working with Dr. Donald A. Rakow, associate professor of horticulture in and the E.N. Wilds Executive Director of Cornell Plantations from 1996 – 2014. Don is a fountain of knowledge and served as a mentor and teacher to the MPS students. He introduced us to public garden professionals and helped us to shape our future careers.

What were some of your most rewarding moments from your time in the program?

One of the most rewarding moments in the program was completing my thesis and MPS project in my chosen interest area. My project and thesis focused on “Interpretive Planning at Public Gardens” which had real-world application in Cornell Botanic Garden’s International Crop & Weed Garden. Other Highlights: travelling to regional public gardens and learning about their programs and meeting staff; attending the American Public Garden Association Conference in California and hearing presentations from professionals; completing my MPS internship as the Internship Coordinator for Cornell Botanic Gardens.

What are your long-term career goals?

To serve as the director of a public garden or environmental nonprofit.

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

Public Garden Leadership

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

Focus your graduate coursework, MPS project, and internship on the area of interest where you hope to work in the future.

How did your professional master’s degree program experience change you, both personally and professionally?

It helped me to build confidence and skills and ultimately get hired in positions I desired within my field of choice.

What professional organizations are you involved in?

American Public Garden Association