Last Updated on September 13, 2018 by Angela Colonna
When thinking of the University of Florida, many associate it with the main campus in Gainesville, Florida. However, throughout the state, there are 12 UF/IFAS research and education centers offering undergraduate degrees in addition to Extension resources. At the Mid-Florida Research and Education Center (MREC) in Apopka, students can receive undergraduate degrees in plant science or geomatics.
Mandy Morgan, a former MREC student, currently serves as the horticultural manager and buyer at LiveTrends Design, an Apopka-based interior plant design group. LiveTrends creates indoor “living” decor from plant material.
“What I love about this company is we are incorporating plants into fashion trends, and even attract non-plant nerds to the plant kingdom,” says Morgan.
Her interest in botany came early in her college career. Morgan recalls being “immediately drawn to the science and mystery of how humans use plants as medicine and textiles, for building, and many other ways.”
Morgan began her academic career with MREC after she transferred from Valencia College with her associate of arts degree and earned a bachelor’s degree in plant science. She then continued at MREC for graduate school in the environmental horticulture master’s program with a focus on medicinal and native plant production.
Morgan describes her most rewarding experience as being able to help begin the medicinal plant program at MREC as the market for medicinal plants grows and continues to gain attention. There were other surprises along the way- such as washing off roots in the middle of a tropical storm. She also recently learned a chapter of her thesis became published in the Journal of Horticulture and Forestry. Morgan noted that writing her master’s thesis was a major challenge but came with a great reward.
For those considering a non-traditional campus, she offers some last bit of advice. “There are so many opportunities at smaller campuses. You are able to connect with faculty and people in the industry which gives rise to greater career opportunities. I love MREC and am forever grateful for the mentorship and experiences I had with the amazing students, faculty and staff.”