Stephanie Welsh discovered and fostered her love for plants from a young age in her family’s garden and as a 4-H member in her home state of Maryland. She maintained that passion as a plant biology major at Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences (SEBS), following the horticulture and turfgrass industry track, completing a certificate in Horticultural Therapy (HT), and a minor in medicinal and economic botany. Welsh is also pursuing professional registration with the American Horticultural Therapy Association as a horticultural therapist.
“When I first came to Rutgers, I had no idea what horticultural therapy was,” admitted Welsh. “Through my “Introduction to Horticulture” course freshman year, I learned what a wonderful method of care HT can be. I find great value in caring both for people and plants, so HT was a marvelous path to explore.”
In addition to her time spent on Cook-Douglass campus, Welsh spent countless hours on the Raritan River as a coxswain on the Rutgers Women’s rowing team, where she had the honor of competing with her teammates at the Big Ten and NCAA Championships. “My experiences as a student-athlete have shaped a lot of my journey here at RU,” she said. “The deep friendships I have built with my teammates, and the life and leadership skills I have developed through athletics, will stay with me for the rest of my life.“
Balancing the demands of athletics and academics requires discipline on all fronts, and Welsh demonstrated it to the degree that got the attention of department faculty. Nrupali Patel, director, undergraduate program in plant science, commented, “Stephanie has overcome the challenges of being a student athlete during her time at Rutgers, all while maintaining a high GPA. She is now about to complete her plant science degree, along with adding a minor degree and a certificate to her credentials. She has impressed the department faculty with her academic achievements and was voted to receive the Plant Science Academic Excellence Award traditionally given at the Baccalaureate.” The excellence award is given to the student with the highest cumulative GPA among the graduating seniors who have declared plant science as their primary major.
Gary Altman, director of the Horticultural Therapy program added, “Stephanie is one of the top students in the horticultural therapy program. She has been a strong performer academically in the classroom, and equally as strong as a horticultural therapy practitioner working with individuals with disabilities.” He added, “Stephanie has demonstrated an ability to utilize and apply her knowledge of plant science to address issues in the human condition. Her genuineness, empathy and unconditional positive regard for the clients she has served are characteristics that will make her a successful horticultural therapist in the future.”
Welsh reflected, “Through my studies here in SEBS, I learned a vast amount of the fascinating ways plants function, and how to use their care as a therapeutic activity. Last summer I was able to put some of my knowledge into practice as an intern for the Green Industry Vocational Skills Training Program, led by Gary Altman. This program works to provide green industry career and technical education to individuals with autism spectrum disorder who are seeking employment. I completely enjoyed my rewarding time in the program, the skills I gained, and the delightful peers I worked with.”
She added, “I am looking forward to bringing all the experiences, skills, and knowledge I have gained at Rutgers out into the world as I graduate and see where the next chapter of life leads me!”