As the world grapples with the challenges of climate change, graduates of the UMass Amherst Stockbridge School of Agriculture—one of the oldest and most esteemed agricultural programs in North America—were informed today at the school’s 101st commencement ceremony that their calling has never been more important.
The Stockbridge School’s director, Baoshan Xing, greeted the students and their families at the Bowker Auditorium in Stockbridge Hall. The 26 members of the Class of 2023 each got an associate degree in one of the following four majors: sustainable horticulture, turfgrass management, landscape contracting, and arboriculture and community forest management.
Nicholas Bain, a major in arboriculture and community forest management who was a part of Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy’s platform party at Friday’s UMass Amherst commencement, was recognized as the graduate with the best GPA by Xing.
The chancellor was presented by interim dean of the College of Natural Sciences Nathaniel Whitaker, who also listed some of the concrete contributions that the graduates had made to the university and the Commonwealth.
Through internships, “our arboriculture and community forest management graduates have spent the past two years caring for trees throughout the commonwealth,” Subbaswamy stated. “They inventoried, removed, trimmed, and planted thousands of trees around the state, earning great accolades from their employers in the process. Some of our graduates will work for these enterprises again, while others will launch their own tree care company.
Regarding the climate catastrophe, he added, “One of the most significant and honorable professions our graduates have chosen is caring for trees amid the global climate crisis. We appreciate their dedication to the world community and the earth we live on.
The university’s award-winning Durfee Conservatory was renovated and updated by alumni of the landscape contracting program, who also received praise from the chancellor for their efforts to build and manage sustainable environments and places for the benefit of all.
According to Subbaswamy, landscape contracting graduates worked with University Landscape Services to plant the 2023 Class tree, a Swamp White Oak that now resides on the north side of the University Campus Center, and spent seven weeks redesigning university property for potential future use as visiting faculty housing.
He said that the Class of 2023 was in high demand and that every single member was either working or pursuing further education.
Director Xing then gave prizes to two seniors who were graduating. Sydney Gagnon, a student majoring in landscape architecture, received the John W. Denison Award for Academic Excellence and
student leadership, for her “enthusiasm, meritorious academic achievements, impressive skills in the green industry, loyalty and commitment.” contracting major.
Liam Power, a senior in turfgrass management, received the Roland H. Verbeck Award, which is granted to a student who best represents and preserves the mission and spirit of the Stockbridge School. In addition to his enthusiasm, selflessness, devotion, inspiration, and initiative in student activities, research, and recruiting, Xing lauded Power for his “passion, dedication, and positive attitude.”
After receiving their diplomas, the graduates exchanged the customary Stockbridge pins, which represent the bonds they have with one another and the larger Stockbridge alumni group.