College of Ag Sciences student grows seeds of opportunity in Accomplish Program

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — It can be challenging for a student to move from one university to another, but making that transition in the middle of an ongoing pandemic is daunting — as it was for junior Kyle Hartmann, who moved from South Dakota State University to Penn State’s University Park campus in 2020. However, the plant sciences major in the College of Agricultural Sciences found new opportunities at Penn State through joining the Accomplish Program.

The peer mentor program helps students moving from other campuses or universities to find resources to successfully acclimate to University Park, the college and the community.

Students are matched with a peer mentor and attend special program events, which are held once a week for the first six weeks of the fall and spring semesters. 

“The sessions were quite helpful,” said Hartmann, who now is an Accomplish mentor. “My mentors gave me some useful tips on how to use the technology and labs at Penn State, which I’m hoping to use when we return to in-person learning.”

Kyle Hartmann is a junior majoring in plant sciences in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences. Credit: Kyle HartmannAll Rights Reserved.

He also had two in-person classroom experiences last fall semester: a plant ecology class with Armen Kemanian, associate professor of production systems and modeling, and a plant propagation lab with James Sellmer, professor of horticulture.

“I really enjoyed both of those experiences,” Hartmann said. “It was great to hear Dr. Kemanian lecture, and it was much easier to focus when I was with him in person. Dr. Sellmer’s lab also was quite useful. We divided tulip bulbs, planted certain kinds of trees and learned the best way to propagate many different types of plants.”

Inspired by a conversation with Kemanian, Hartmann started a personal research project during the fall semester — he started growing oak saplings and palmetto seedlings from a variety of places across the U.S., including North Carolina, Virginia, Texas, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania.

After they have grown for a few years, he plans to transplant them in various spots in Potomac Falls, Virginia, to test their hardiness and viability. Though this project is extracurricular, he hopes that his findings will help future research.

This experiment, as well as Hartmann’s classroom demeanor and natural curiosity, made a strong impression on Kemanian.

“Kyle is one of those students that any instructor would love to have in class,” he said. “By asking insightful questions and interacting easily with others, he helped create a great learning environment. Kyle is an explorer, a natural observer of the plant world, and a doer.”

Hartmann, who spent the spring semester at his home in northern Virginia, also has experience with the United States Botanic Garden. He interned there in the summer of 2019, working in the garden’s conservatory and its greenhouse production facility.

“Interning at the botanic garden taught me a lot,” said Hartmann, who continues to work for the facility. “I got experience in a production greenhouse and with public horticulture. I picked up a bunch of valuable skills, such as learning how to prune, water and take care of potted plants.”

When asked about any potential post-graduation plans, Hartmann said he has several interests but wants to leave his options open.

“I haven’t exactly made up my mind yet,” said Hartmann, who added that he is looking forward to returning to University Park for his senior year. “I would like to work at a nursery or landscaping business of some sort to see if that’s something I would like. If it is not, I think I’ll search for a botanic garden position.”

Last Updated May 20, 2021