College of Agriculture & Natural Resources
Institute of Applied Agriculture

Financing College the Smolinski Way: Advice from an IAA Graduate

JoEllen Barnhart, Ph.D.
Meg (back row, third from left) with a group of fellow U.S. National Arboretum interns, enjoyed the opportunity to weed and harvest at The White House vegetable garden. Meg found many internship and scholarship opportunities during her time at the IAA.

For 10 years, Meg Smolinski worked as an executive assistant with Smithsonian Associates. Working for the largest museum-based education program in the world put Meg in an environment where a career in art history could thrive.

Although Meg “loved, loved, loved, art and history,” something was missing. That something, it turns out, was horticulture.

How does one blend a career in art history to include horticulture? Meg sought her answer at the IAA, in the concentration of Ornamental Horticulture. “Art and science come together in horticulture,” claims Meg.

But, changing careers can be costly, so Meg set out to find a way to finance her academic endeavor. The result of her efforts yielded an impressive list of scholarships, internships, and work experiences with minimal impact on her personal bank account. With a handful of scholarships, Meg landed enough award money to finance her studies at the IAA.

The largest of her awards was given by the Professional Grounds Management Society (PGMS), a national organization that provides scholarships to students in horticulture or related fields. As a recipient, Meg was invited to attend two national events, the annual PGMS conference in San Antonio last June, and the GIE+EXPO in Louisville last October.

The Maryland Nursery Landscaping and Greenhouse Association (MNLGA) provided Meg with another merit scholarship, as well as the chance to attend and network with more than 11,000 horticulture enthusiasts at the Mid-Atlantic Nursery Trade Show (MANTS) in Baltimore last winter.

Lastly, the Turf Equipment and Supply Company (TESCO) maintains a scholarship fund specifically for IAA students. Although Meg already holds a B.A. in Art History, her desire to pursue horticulture earned four consecutive TESCO scholarships during her studies. “TESCO is a Maryland-based company and a big advocate for the IAA,” states Meg. “I am so grateful for their support.”

Additionally, Meg’s financial planning included helpful hints from IAA faculty and staff. “The emails and social media posts directed me to many scholarship and internship opportunities,” says Meg.

“The IAA was what I needed to make a career change,” states Meg. “I had a four-year degree and I didn’t want to go further into debt with a master’s degree. I knew I needed specialized education in horticulture, and at the IAA I discovered it was affordable.”

In addition to garnering scholarships, Meg also took on several internships: she worked for Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, the University of Maryland’s Research Greenhouse, and the U.S. National Arboretum.

In December, Meg Smolinski joined the graduating class of 2016. But, she is not leaving UMD. Instead, she is launching her new profession as the Volunteer Coordinator for the University’s Arboretum and Botanical Garden.

Start your own scholarship and internship search by following these helpful links:

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