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Ask Hannah O'Leary the first question you ask any college student – what's your major? – and you'll get an unusual answer from this University Honors College junior. She's accustomed to quizzical looks.
“A lot of people find Horticulture and Fine Arts to be an odd mix, but I wouldn't say so,” the College of Agricultural Sciences student ambassador says. “At OSU I've found great opportunities to develop my interests in both fields. I love when the two combine.”
A prime example took place in the summer of 2010 when Hannah served as Artist in Residence at OSU's Oak Creek Center for Urban Horticulture. She spent half her time performing general horticultural tasks and half documenting the story of sustainable horticulture through photographs. Her photos are being used in web and print forms, to educate the public about Oak Creek and potential opportunities to be a part of the garden.
“Many people don't understand what goes into producing our nation's food,” she notes. “It helps to be able to tell that story visually.”
Hannah grew up in the tiny south-central Oregon town of Paisley, where she was surrounded by agriculture and active in the FFA program. Her grandmother was a painter and Hannah developed this interest at an early age, but her high school was too small to offer art classes. When entering college, she knew she wanted to have the chance to cultivate her art as well as her interest in horticulture.
Scholarships helped make it possible for Hannah to major in both areas. Along with scholarships from her home county and the Ford Family Foundation, she received the V. Kent and Nancy J. Billingsley Searles Scholarship and other awards from the College of Agricultural Sciences plus the Dr. Helen E. Plinkiewisch Art Scholarship from the College of Liberal Arts. With additional income from campus jobs and her growing photography business, her goal is to finish her degree debt-free.
“I see scholarships as a gift with the potential to keep on giving,” Hannah says. “It's a little like teaching hungry people how to farm rather than only giving them food. When students have a chance to go to school, they gain skills that will help them help others later on.”
Photos by Hannah O'Leary. Used with permission.
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