An OSU faculty member since August of 1988, Cole had been serving as director of the OSU Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources’ accredited landscape management program.
“One of the greatest rewards of the new position is it allows me to work with and on behalf of department personnel and DASNR administration as part of a total team effort in meeting our land-grant teaching, research and Extension responsibilities,” Cole said.
DASNR is comprised of the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources and two state agencies; the Oklahoma Agricultural Experiment Station system and the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service.
The division’s objective is straightforward yet anything but simple: Develop and disseminate research-based knowledge to improve the quality of life for Oklahomans, their families and their communities. Cole’s department is a key fixture in that mission.
“Our Extension horticulture activities are extensive, though people are probably most aware of our Oklahoma Master Gardener Program, with its many local volunteers, and our Oklahoma Gardening television show, which has been on the air for more than 40 years and is broadcast weekly on OETA,” Cole said. “Horticulture and landscape architecture are disciplines that can literally have a positive effect in every community and region of the state.”
Department research programs have received numerous honors and acclaim over the years, and at national and international levels of recognition. Research programs encompass ornamental flowers, fruits and nuts, vegetables, turfgrass and outdoor water conservation, among others.
“Many people are surprised to learn that Oklahoma is the nation’s fifth-leading producer of pecans, or that our landscapes typically account for 30 percent to 40 percent of household water use,” Cole said. “Research-based knowledge allows individuals and community officials to make informed decisions and manage resources wisely.”
And for students trying to determine what they want to do with their professional lives, the department of horticulture and landscape architecture can provide them with timely and relevant educational experiences.
“Horticulture and landscape architecture are career fields that are in need of more trained professionals to fill job positions, and that bodes well for students interested in pursuing these career options,” Cole said, “plus the challenge is international in scope, meaning there are a great many opportunities, though not necessarily in one’s hometown.”
Though everyone is an individual, Cole said there are some commonalities among students who are attracted to horticulture and landscape architecture careers: Individuals who like to be outdoors, who like to work with their hands and who enjoy having “nature” close at hand. For landscape architecture majors, an affinity for design and graphics is a plus; for horticulturists, an affinity for the natural sciences.
“Our landscape contracting/management graduates are something of a hybrid,” Cole said. “Their career-related affinity is typically a love of building what has been designed, actually putting in the plants, lighting and other physical aspects of the process.”
The challenges that come with leading such a vibrant university department are welcome ones for Cole.
“My primary role is to help our educators, researchers and specialists maximize available resources in ways that ultimately provide the greatest benefit to our students and stakeholders,” she said. “The land-grant ethic is one of adding value to people’s lives. We rate our successes on how they eventually help others to succeed.”
Success is nothing new to Cole. Her many honors include the Gamma Sigma Delta Teaching Award of Merit in 2013, OSU Ag Alumni Association Exemplary Faculty Award in 2010, North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture Teacher Fellow Award in 2005 and CASNR Award for Excellence in Student Mentoring in 2004.
Cole was named a Fellow of the American Society for Horticultural Science in 2009, the most prestigious honor awarded by the organization. Cole also earned the society’s Outstanding Undergraduate Educator Award in 2004.
She has been a certified arborist since 1998, certified by the International Society of Arboriculture; a certified professional horticulturist since 1993, certified by the American Society of Horticultural Science; and a certified pesticide applicator since 1989, certified by the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry.
“We’re very pleased to have Dr. Cole join our administrative team and believe she will be a significant contributor as we work to strengthen division programs and expand on our record of achievement and impact,” said Thomas Coon, DASNR vice president, dean and director.
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