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Dan T. Stearns

Decisions regarding curricular direction are often made by departmental committees comprised of faculty who are most closely associated with the curriculum. While knowledgeable about current direction, these faculty may not be positioned to accurately forecast future shifts in industry focus. By including employers, potential employers, alumni, students, and representatives from similar programs in the process, alternative views and opinions critical to the visioning process are generated. Penn State's recent efforts in program assessment will be outlined.

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Dan T. Stearns

To strengthen students' ability to solve landscape problems creatively while working in group settings, faculty members in the landscape contracting program at The Pennsylvania State Univ. incorporated experiential learning through the construction of on-campus landscape projects between 1992 and 1994. Collaborative student groups developed landscape plans and built the projects. Partnering with other university units resulted in benefits essential to completion of the projects. Student evaluations were shared between the instructor and the students. The success of these projects has led to plarming future experiential projects.

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Dan T. Stearns and Shirley M. Gryczuk

Certain principles that appear in examples of successful design create the structure around which landscape design education is woven. Concepts of balance, contrast, rhythm, dominance, unity, and order must be understood before quality &sign is produced, but these concepts are often difficult to explain in a classroom situation. Commercially available vi&o imaging software has proven to be a valuable tool in increasing student understanding of design principles. After scanning an actual site photograph, students add, delete, or modify plant materials and other amenities to strengthen the design principles as they relate to the specific site. Benefits of this method over traditional lecture or studio techniques include the ability to investigate a variety of sites and an increased ability to observe the inter-dependency of design principles. As modifications are made to strengthen one principle, the others are also affected in either a positive or negative manner.

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Michael E. Reinert and Dan T. Stearns

ePortfolios are gaining popularity in academic communities worldwide. Purposes of ePortfolios include: converting student work from paper to digital format, thereby allowing it to be centrally organized, searchable, and transportable throughout their academic lives and careers; promoting student centered learning and reflection; improving advising; and career planning and resume building. Pennsylvania State University is investing in the use of ePortfolios in course work throughout the university system. To facilitate these efforts, the university provides all students and faculty with 500 MB of hosted web space to create and share their portfolios. One of the courses using ePortfolios is Horticulture 120, Computer Applications for Landscape Contracting, in the Landscape Contracting program. Outcomes of implementing ePortfolios include increased availability of student work to potential employers, enhanced recruiting through displays of student work, and enabled reflection on completed work. Students showed improved quality in project work because their projects would be publicly available through the Internet to potential employers, faculty, family, and other students.

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Dan T. Stearns, Perry M. Morgan and Stephen J. Wallner

As the landscape design/build industry continues to develop, opportunities for providing baccalaureate degree programs in landscape contracting increase. Employers seek individuals with competencies that are not adequately addressed by traditional horticulture or landscape architecture curricula. The Department of Horticulture at Penn State has developed a Bachelor of Science in Landscape Contracting degree. The program, now entering its fourth year of resident instruction, has experienced rapid growth and a high degree of success. Annual increases in student interest and demand have necessitated caps on the number of students entering the major. An emphasis on design process and on construction technology, and a requirement for successful completion of courses in Horticulture and allied departments contribute to an education which instructs students in the art, science, and management of a professional design/build business. Integration of computer-aided design into Landscape Contracting courses positions graduates to carry current technology to the industry. Students obtain skills on the use of AutoCAD, LandCADD, and New Image software.

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Michael S. McCoy, Kathleen M. Kelley and Dan T. Stearns

The Associated Landscape Contractors of America reported in 2004 that the lawn and landscape industry experienced considerable growth during the last 10 years: an increase of 31% from 2002 to 2003, and 126% from 1998 to 2003. An understanding by landscaping professionals of what factors influence consumers' evaluation and selection process when purchasing landscaping services is instrumental in formulating business and marketing plans that will more effectively target new customers, increase the customer base, and ultimately increase profits. To determine these factors, a questionnaire was developed and mailed to 5000 randomly selected households in the metro-Philadelphia area. Recipients were asked to consider factors deemed relevant to the selection and purchase of a landscaping service provider and rank them in order of importance. Questions pertaining to both the landscape industry, such as types of services purchased or how much was spent on these services, and the participants' demographic status were included. A total of 504 completed surveys were received, representing a 10% response rate. Results indicated that the “quality of work” factor was most important, followed by “cost,” and “types of services offered” when analyzed by both the frequency as well as by an average mean ranking of factors. Further analysis of results showed little or no influence on the ordering of factors by independent variables, such as types of service purchased, how much was spent on the service(s), household income, or education levels of the participants.

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Hala F. Nassar, David J. Beattie and Dan T. Stearns

An undergraduate major in Landscape Contracting was established at The Pennsylvania State University in 1989. Since its inception, women have been consistently underrepresented (13%). From department records and a survey instrument, we examined the academic performance, postgraduate job perceptions, and gender related issues of 319 male and female graduates. Our results showed that women students academically outperformed their male peers in courses specific to the Landscape Contracting curriculum. Survey results indicated that female graduates were represented in all job categories and performed similar types of work as their male peers. In addition, women did not differ significantly from their male peers in regard to job performance and satisfaction levels.

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Martin R. McGann, Dan T. Stearns and Larry J. Kuhns

In discussions among industry representatives, faculty, and graduates of the department of horticulture at Penn State community service was identified as an important attribute of successful landscape contracting companies. To foster a sense of community service responsibility among students, service projects were integrated into three horticulture courses. Fifty-four students in a planting design course worked with township officials to develop a planting plan for a new park located 10 miles from campus. Students planted 120 trees, which were obtained from a nursery operated by the Pennsylvania Dept. of Corrections. Eighty-eight students in two classes, landscape planning and issues in landscape contracting, volunteered to work on a farm being developed as an environmental education center. Work included mechanical and chemical control of invasive species and planting of natives. In discussions following these projects, students expressed personal satisfaction and a willingness to participate in future community service projects.

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Dan T. Stearns, David J. Beattie, Charles W. Heuser and Perry M. Morgan

In an elective course titled “Be A Master Student”, freshmen in The Pennsylvania State Univ.'s College of Agricultural Sciences were introduced to subjects ranging from university policies and procedures to skill enhancement in note-taking, test-taking, and time management techniques. A broad knowledge of agricultural sciences at local, state, national, and international levels was developed with the goal to relate agriculture to individual and societal needs. Mentoring relationships between students and faculty developed, not only with course instructors, but also with other faculty through required interviews and one-on-one discussions. Two volunteer faculty instructors taught 20 students per section. The number of sections has increased from four in 1990 to 13 in 1994. More than 70% of incoming freshmen opted to schedule the course in 1994. Student surveys indicated that >90% of those who enrolled would recommend the class to a close friend. Performance tracking shows that studentswho enrolled in the class maintained higher grade point averages than students who did not enroll. A higher rate of retention also has been documented for students who complete “Be A Master Student”!