An accomplished broadcast journalist and owner of a successful video production company, Gail Hudson wasn’t sure if she wanted to go back to school to pursue a graduate degree. After producing demanding television shows for years at KSTP, including the popular “On the Road with Jason Davis,” as well as documentaries for TPT, Hudson was considering what she wanted to tackle next.
Flashback to 2008 and Hudson is in the Master Gardener program here at the University of Minnesota. Due to an illness in the family, she never completes the training, but a fire has been lit that is refueled four years later when she takes Professor Tom Michael’s Plant Propagation 1001.
“Wow, I really love this,” she thought. “I could just eat it up.”
A Wealth of Support
Once the decision was made to return to school, Hudson knew she wanted a degree that provided “a well rounded grasp of horticulture.” She loved the science aspect of the field but didn’t want to commit to a three-year research project.
With the help of Director of Graduate Studies, Mary Meyer, Hudson is designing a Master of Professional Studies in Horticulture degree that combines her decades of journalism experience with her lifelong love of gardening.
Being self-employed allows her to take the classes she wants on a schedule that suits her. She even lived in York, England, for a year, studying and performing garden restoration for her capstone project. Meyer face-timed and e-mailed her while she was abroad.
“All of the faculty are excellent,” Hudson says. “Everyone is highly respected in their field, generous with their time, caring, and invested in student success. They are all active at the [Minnesota Landscape] Arboretum, out there doing research and sharing their experience. Class sizes aren’t huge so you can get to know the professors well.”
Cultivating a Niche
Moving forward, Hudson plans to use her storytelling skills to write articles and produce videos and other informative content for consumers and professionals in the field.
“There aren’t a ton of people who do this... Many experts have told me that there needs to be more communication in the horticulture industry.”
Her recent project reflects this pursuit. Hired for her abilities as a professional journalist and researcher, Hudson wrote a high school teacher’s handbook as a companion to Meyer’s upcoming book, The 10 Plants That Changed Minnesota.
“I really enjoyed that project. It showed that I was ready to apply the knowledge I had learned in the classroom.”
This summer, Hudson will present her British garden restoration case study to the American Society of Horticulture Science conference in Atlanta. She has written a paper on entomology that could be up for publication soon.
Even with her experience and recognition, Hudson still finds opportunities to learn more. Next year she’ll take courses on plant production and breeding to explore the science of what happens in a greenhouse and to gain “more gravitas as an expert.”
Stan Hokanson’s Public Garden Management class, because of the speakers coming in every week and the interactive nature of the class.
- Bodnant Gardens in Wales
- Hidcote Manor Garden in England
- Minnesota Landscape Arboretum
- Olbrich Botanical Gardens in Madison, WI
Make this degree work for your life. You’ll want to be involved in the labs and field trips, so make the investment of time: it’s worthwhile. Talk to the professors to help you decide what you want to do. Get involved: go to as many open lectures as you can and take advantage of the Department of Horticulture Science’s many opportunities.