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Sometimes the right career move brings you closer to home

The hands-on experience Chris Holt gained in the Oregon State Ecampus horticulture program helped him change careers and land his dream job as a middle school agriculture teacher.

By Julie Cooper
August 7, 2018

Chris Holt was well-settled into his career in the automotive industry that was stable and provided for his family.

Staying put would have been the easy thing to do. But when the long hours kept him away from home too often, Chris realized it was time to make a change and pursue the career he really wanted – one that would allow him more time with his wife and two young kids.

And in his search for an online bachelor’s degree in horticulture that would put him on track to become a teacher, he held potential degree programs to the same family-friendly standard.

“When I did my research online, (Oregon State) Ecampus fit all my needs for my busy lifestyle with my family, and it was one of the top-ranked schools in the country for horticulture, especially for the online campus,” says Chris, a Florida resident who graduated in June.

Earning a degree with Ecampus did more than just provide the flexibility in his schedule that allowed for more family time. It created entirely new opportunities for connection.

“In my horticulture classes, I had to create plant profiles with real plants in the area, photographing, examining and studying plants, pests and diseases in the wild. We had to propagate plants,” he says.

Horticulture grad Chris Holt smiles as he walks through the Oregon State campus with trees out of focus in the background.

“I am a hands-on learner, and I think that in a field like horticulture we need to get outside and get our hands dirty to really understand the concepts covered,” says Chris.

“It’s literally been a team effort for the whole family. It’s gotten me and the kids out in the field to go and sample bugs. Our kids will go out there and start naming off plants and say, ‘Dad, we need to go deadhead the flowers.’ ”

Making a career change comes with unique challenges, so Chris put in the work to make the most of the skills he learned in his Ecampus classes and build a strong foundation in his new profession.

While enrolled in the horticulture program, he accepted a position with the United States Department of Agriculture, where he learned about the programs and services offered by the Farm Service Agency.

And after that, to his own surprise, he found himself in an internship with the Walt Disney World Department of Horticulture – because even magic takes a little work.

He gained knowledge and experience in pest management, animal trapping, landscaping, irrigation, arboriculture and more. And after completing his internship, his work ethic landed him a full-time position with Disney’s Department of Horticulture.

Passing field work skills on to his own children and helping maintain Disney World for the park’s millions of annual visitors were great strides in the direction of Chris’ next adventure – making a difference in the lives of youths and families once more, this time as an educator.

Shortly before graduating in June and attending the graduation ceremony with his wife on Oregon State’s Corvallis campus, Chris landed his dream job.

In his new teaching position at Lake Gibson Middle School in his hometown of Lakeland, Florida, he will teach agriculture and manage an aquaponics (a symbiotic system of aquatic plants and animals) program.

“It really is not my graduation; it’s ours, because we made it through this together,” he says of his family. “I’m the first of my family to earn a bachelor’s, and coming from my background, it’s a huge deal. It’s just been a tremendous thing for me and my family.”

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