PROFILE: Erica Seaquist
Date: July 30, 2001
Is Growing a New Career
By: Mary Bridget Reilly
Phone: (513) 556-1824
Photos by: Dottie Stover
Archive: Profiles Archive
You might say that UC student (and alumna) Erica Seaquist is a late bloomer. It wasn't until she already had one baccalaureate degree under her belt - in interior design - that she discovered that her real passion was for horticulture.
"Two years ago, I sat down and considered what I would really like to do. I looked around, and my apartment had 30 houseplants, even a huge ficus I'd brought back from the dead. I loved nature walks, being outside in nature," she recalled. "Then it hit me. This is what I want. So, I started taking 'hort' classes," remembered Erica, a 1987 graduate of Sycamore High School and a 1995 graduate of UC's College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning.
Looking back, Erica realizes how much she'd always gravitated toward horticulture. All of her interior design projects in DAAP incorporated elements of nature. And when she eventually becomes a landscape designer, she'll be able to incorporate elements from her design education with her growing horticulture expertise.
Erica, of Madisonville, is already working in the horticulture industry, serving as autocad operator (a skill she learned at DAAP) and assistant to landscape architect Gayle Frazer. She landed the position after starting back to school, taking horticulture classes twice a week in the fall of 1998. The following quarter, she asked her instructor, Tom Smith (academic area coordinator of the horticulture program in UC's College of Evening and Continuing Education), if he knew of any available jobs. Said Erica, "I talked to Tom on a Wednesday. Gayle called me on Saturday because he'd given her my name. I started on the following Thursday."
The full-time job plus another part-time job in a bookstore and two classes per quarter make for a packed schedule. Still, Erica plans to have her horticulture baccalaureate in hand by 2003 or 2004. Fortunately, most of her credits from her former degree transferred so she is, already, a junior in the hort program.
She's also preparing on-the-job for her future career. She physically works on jobs, alternating planting beds for residential clients. For large commercial jobs, Erica takes to the computer to translate design concepts into bits and bytes. "Commercial jobs are easier to design on the computer. It saves times because there are a lot more details. We work with engineers, architects, contractors, and they all use autocad. You can e-mail designs around," she explained, adding that spring and summer are the busiest times of the year. "It can be stressful and hectic," Erica admitted, adding that she can usually juggle up to five projects at a time.
The design work goes hand-in-hand with horticulture expertise in a job that calls for a combination of business knowledge and knowledge of biology. Knowledge of soil conditions, sun/shade requirements as well as plant characteristics and requirements and much more are needed for a good design that will go from looking like an etch-a-sketch drawing (except that Erica never shakes the computer) to a color-filled, living mosaic in the local community. "It's like putting a puzzle together. You have to know everything down to where building vents are because you can't have a delicate plant in a strong breeze, or other plants may need to be close to the water spigot," she said. "Then, we have to order plants and estimate the size and quantity we want. We also have to bid out to landscapers."
Still, it's the job for her, she's sure. Even though evening classes make for a long day, they get Erica energized and enthused. "When I come home from class, I'll call someone with a tidbit that I learned in class. I'll call a friend or my Mom or my sister in Seattle or my Dad in Boston. Maybe I'll tell them how the vanilla bean is in the orchid family."
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