BYU-Idaho students received more than just a prize.

BYU-I participated in the National Collegiate Landscape Competition in Provo, Utah, Mar. 16-18.

The 20-student team won fourth place out of 62 schools. However, winning is not the main reason why students participate.

The competition, referred to as the “Horticulture Olympics,” is an opportunity for students to develop their landscaping skills and to be discovered by over 60 landscaping companies across the country.

Reese Nelson, an applied plant science professor, said students can get scholarships, internships and job offers from the experience.

He said their team got about $5,000 in scholarships.

“It’s not just a competition, it’s an unparalleled career fair as well,” Nelson said.

Nelson said most of the students got job offers or internship offers as a result of the competition.

He said students take an arranged class designed to train them for the 28 different events in the competition. They meet and practice weekly.

Each student gets to be part of two or three events and works together with a faculty member.

Nelson said they did not know their scenarios until they got to Provo.

Camille Werner, a junior studying horticulture, competed for the first time this year.

She said she enjoyed the opportunity to be part of the competition.

BYU-Idaho Horticulture Department poses together after placing in the competition. | Photo Courtesy: BYU-I Department of Horticulture

“It is a great place to network and make connections with people from all over the country,” Werner said. “There were people who requested a resumé from me, so that they could stay in contact for after I graduate.”

David Hokanson, a senior studying horticulture, said this was his third time competing. He participated in two events: landscape estimating and wood construction.

Hokanson said in the last three years, he was given several employment opportunities, and he had to turn some down. He also received three scholarships, two of them amounting to $2,500 each.

“I have had a lot on encouragement to stretch myself, and to look for opportunities that will make me a better person,” Hokanson said. “I also think that the things that they teach me about looking for ways to be a better disciple leader have helped me to not only think about myself but to think about others as I am furthering my education.”

Nelson said the competition is a great experience for students to be discovered by different companies because they get to interact with the judges for three days.

“In my estimation, it is the perfect scenario because industry and students are brought close together; they can see past the resumé,” Nelson said. “They can actually see how somebody works with a team member, and it is not just a piece of paper; they get to see them perform.”

He said companies often look for students from BYU-I because of their soft skills.

They know students have a high character, are honest, have communication, leadership and sales skills and sometimes even language skills which make the perfect employee.

“That’s ultimately our goal,” Nelson said.

The annual National Collegiate Landscape Competition, being the 41st this year, is considered the largest collegiate competition in the country, according to the Department of Horticulture’s webpage.

During the event, students participate in workshops, fairs and events to develop horticulture skills such as landscape design, irrigation techniques, hardscape installation, plant identification and business management.

Nelson said students need to learn as much as they can but to experience as much as they can.

“Whether it’s a study abroad or field trips, every time a van leaves Rexburg, you have got to be on it,” Nelson said. “The world does not revolve around Rexburg.”

Skyler Westergard, an applied plant science professor, was one of the coaches in the competition. He helped students prepare before and during the competition together with Nelson.

“I told my students that even if they did more poorly on their competition then they wanted, I would be pleased if I knew they did the best they could and also if the result was that they learned and grew personally and professionally,” Westergard said. “That is the most important aspect.”