SUNY Cobleskill Landscape Students Become First in U.S. to go Face-to-Face

There is no substitute for applied learning. Though they didn’t get their hands dirty in a literal sense for this particular endeavor, seven SUNY Cobleskill students gained valuable hands-on experience last month, participating in what is known as a “Face to Face” collaboration.

Run by acclaimed business strategist Jim Paluch, founder of JP Horizons, a Face-to-Face is recognized practice in the landscape industry; it involves a group of businesses teaming to perform what SUNY Cobleskill Plant Science Department Chair Tim Marten describes as a “strategic dissection” of a company intent on reinvigorating its practice. Tim Marten says the students are the first group of undergraduates in the country to take part in a JP Horizons-facilitated event, which typically involves the brainpower of 15 or 20 businesses together in consultation.

“The chance for our students to participate in a Face to Face allows them to be at their best, alongside some of the industry’s best,” says Tim Marten. “Sitting in on the strategic planning that takes place at this level is really how our students identify with their coursework. The ability to then actively contribute reaffirms that their education is not only practical, but what is needed to develop innovative ideas, and articulate those to their colleagues.”

Students Desiree Dragonetti, Gavin Erdody, Nicholas Fleckenstein, Ryan German, Nicholas Greenburg, Jeffrey Smolka, and James Wilson attended the two-day event on September 19-20, as part of the College’s Landscape Firm Management Course with Adjunct Professor Phill Sexton. Sexton is managing director of WIT Advisers, LLC, which was one of the participating firms. Strauser Nature’s Helpers, of East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania was the weekend’s beneficiary.

“The point of the Firm Management course (in many ways) is to wrap up our degree,” explains Dragonetti. “It is where we go in-depth on the business aspect of firm oversight, and where we work closely with people with all different relationships to a business. A Face-to-Face is where you get to see a ton of your industry all at once.”

Dragonetti adds that September’s event attracted stakeholders from Georgia to Eastern Canada. Conversation spanned topics from equipment utilization and land stewardship, to clean energy systems, irrigation, pest management, principles in leadership, and snow and ice management.

“The guests from Georgia didn’t have as much to share about the snow and ice management,” says Dragonetti. “The guests from Canada though – they had a good bit of insight.”

While this fall marks the first Face-to-Face for undergraduates studying in the U.S., Tim Marten doubts it will be the last, neither for SUNY Cobleskill students, nor their peers across the country. He adds that there are additional opportunities to engage in initiatives producing similar applied learning outcomes. He cites The Green Street Challenge program as the type of possibility already on his radar.




Photography courtesy of Marten, via JP Horizons