Ecampus Military Student Profile

Jay Addington Master GardenerJay Addington

2010 Master Gardener Program
Security Manager for Iraq and Afghanistan, CH2M Hill

Managing security operations by day; studying the art and science of gardening by night: apparently it's just another day in the life of a Security Manager for Iraq and Afghanistan.

Jay Addington has been working on and off as a private security contractor for CH2M Hill in the Middle East and Southwest Asia since 2004. When a co-worker informed him that he could pass time and gain knowledge by taking online classes through Oregon State Ecampus, he began exploring his options.

"I've always been interested in plant nurseries and plan to buy and operate my own someday," says Addington. He built a greenhouse for his wife in the States, which made the dream even more alluring. In the process of stocking what's become "his greenhouse," Addington says it was hard to find vendors who were truly knowledgeable about the products they were selling. Thus, he saw an opportunity in the market. He discovered Ecampus' Master GardenerTM Online Certificate and enrolled, hoping it would arm him with the knowledge he needed to be a well-informed nursery owner.

"It was the first time I had paid for education out of my own pocket without being reimbursed," he says. "I was really hopeful that it would deliver, and it has absolutely exceeded my expectations."

After 12-hour days in Afghanistan, Jay would spend his evenings immersed in topics like botany, entomology, plant pathology and soils. Studying offered him a release from the day-to-day stress and realities of his job. He says it also gave him something to do on the 15-hour plane rides back to the U.S.

While the Internet isn't always reliable from a combat zone, Jay says he was always able to download the content he needed and participate in his courses. The only challenge he faced was finding rare indigenous plants to photograph for one assignment, as poppies and sunflowers apparently reign supreme in Kabul.

He tells that story with a grin. Or at least something that sounded like a grin as he told his story via Skype from Afghanistan. Addington will return to the U.S. in December and begin a new role as Deputy Director of International Security for CH2M Hill, which will focus on Latin America. He'll continue prepping for a nursery business of his own, and is interested in continuing his education, possibly with online courses in landscape design or architecture.

But he says the OSU Ecampus Master Gardener taught him a great deal about how to raise plants. "Before, I didn't know the product. Lead Instructor Gail Langellotto was extremely helpful and truly made the course challenging and enjoyable. It gave me confidence in my skills and background knowledge about a product I'd like to sell. It has absolutely exceeded my expectations on what I was hoping for."

Learn more about the Master Gardener Online Program on the Ecampus website.