KINGSTON, R.I. — May 4, 2006 — Jennifer Hushion has been a journalist in the Czech Republic, a financial consultant in Toronto, an English teacher at a refugee camp in Croatia, and an aide to a publishing executive in New York. Along the way, though, she discovered that her true passion is gardening, and after moving to Rhode Island she enrolled in the University of Rhode Island’s Master Gardener training program.
Now a full-time student at URI studying horticulture, Hushion has been named one of 80 students in the U.S. to be awarded the Morris K. Udall Scholarship, the nation’s most prestigious award for students intending to pursue environmental careers.
After being nominated by URI for the award, Hushion, 40, submitted an essay with her application that she believes was a major factor in her selection. “I wrote that to be an effective environmentalist, you have to be political. If you want something done in a lasting way, you have to legislate it. I suspect that [those judging the applications] might not have seen that kind of essay from the typical 19- or 20-year old writing an essay. It’s certainly not what I would have written when I was 20.”
To accept the Udall Scholarship, Hushion will go to a four-day conference in Arizona in August to meet with policy makers and environmental leaders. “I hope the program motivates everyone so we return to our schools with some enthusiasm for environmental responsibility.”
The scholarship is named for the former Arizona congressman who served in the House of Representatives for three decades and whose love for the environment resulted in the passage of numerous important pieces of environmental legislation.
Hushion’s interest in gardening developed somewhat unexpectedly. “I was living in a tiny studio apartment in Toronto with a little balcony that faced south, and I started planting in pots on the balcony one summer. I had vines growing everywhere,” said the Cranston resident. “I did that as a hobby for a couple of summers and decided that’s what I wanted to do [for a career].”
She has already gotten a good start on a professional gardening career. In 2004 she launched a small business called Get Up & Grow that specializes in the design and maintenance of residential perennial gardens.
“It’s a tiny little business, a very niche business, for homeowners who already have a landscape company taking care of the grass,” Hushion explained. “Most of the large scale firms that come in with six guys generally don’t know much about plant material. I design, plant and maintain the perennial garden beds.”
She clearly knows what she’s doing. In 2004 she won the National Garden Club’s Linda Wagner Perennial Garden Award for the best perennial garden in New England. She has also been awarded scholarships by the Rhode Island Nurserymen and Landscape Association, the Rhode Island Federation of Garden Clubs, and the Floriculture Industry Research and Scholarship Trust.
“”Jennifer is typical of our ‘non-traditional’ students – a dedicated, hard working, front-row student,” said URI Horticulture Professor Brian Maynard. “Yet she has also been spotted working in the greenhouses late in the day and on weekends, when all the other students have gone. This is just one example of the extra effort and sincerity Jennifer puts into her study of environmental horticulture. She is exemplary.”
After she earns her bachelor’s degree from the University of Rhode Island in 2007, Hushion intends to enroll in a graduate degree program at URI working with Professor Roger LeBrun and studying conservation biology.
“I got around and have had a great life, and I don’t know that I’ve missed anything in life,” she said. “But now I’m settled in Rhode Island and enjoying my education and my gardening.”
URI News Bureau Photo by Michael Salerno Photography.