Recapping the 2023 National Collegiate Landscape Competition (NCLC)

Several of our Ruppert Representatives recently attended the National Collegiate Landscape Competition (NCLC) at Mississippi State University, hosted by the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP). This annual event brings together hundreds of landscape and horticulture students alongside industry-leading organizations, manufacturers, and suppliers for three days of competitive events, networking, recruiting, and learning. We are excited to take part in NCLC every year and have been honored to participate in several facets of the event—the competitions, career fair, faculty luncheon, scholarships, and even the event planning and coordination.

Pictured left to right: Michael Moody, Mike Felts, Jim Tuzzolino, McKenna Rowles, Steve Faber, Courtney Pohlit, Michael Vispi, Marvin Clermont, Ethan Faber.

Region Vice President Doug Halsey has served as NCLC Committee Chairman for the past six years (typically a three-year term, extended due to the pandemic), and can attest to the high degree of planning and involvement that goes into making this event a success.

“In my role as chairman, I represented the industry perspective—the glue between NALP and the students, professors, and sponsors. There are 60 schools competing in a total of 40 events, with over 1,200 people in attendance. So, as you can imagine, we begin planning a year in advance—performing a site visit the summer prior, laying out where the events will take place, working with the faculty at the host school, and bringing in the following year’s hosts so that they have an idea of what to expect. During the actual event I am in the field ensuring competitions are set up correctly and acting as liaison for the sponsors.”

Doug noted that he also enjoyed reliving his own college NCLC experience.

“I competed in this event in 1990 with SUNY Cobleskill, and now here I am presenting opening and closing ceremonies and getting to tell my story of how this helped launch my 30-year career at Ruppert. I am grateful to give back to something that was so pivotal to my career and to see how it’s impacting this generation’s students.”

Arguably the most exciting part of NCLC is the hands-on competitions. Branch Manager Michael Moody recalls, “I have participated in scoring some of the hands-on events like wood construction, irrigation troubleshooting, and the most fun competition at NCLC—the plant installation. It’s one of the greatest feelings watching the hustle of the teams, the comradery between participants, and the overall energy of these two days. It’s reassuring to see that the future of the green industry is in good hands.”

In addition to the hands-on competitions, there are also classroom exams, where students test their knowledge on topics like plant and weed identification as well as seminars that cover topics ranging from safety and sales to estimating and finance.

“Ruppert sponsors the Business Management exam each year—I remember competing in NCLC in 2011 and 2012 for the University of Maryland and actually participated in this event as a Senior,” Moody recalled. “Students are tested on smart business practices that are utilized and measured in almost every facet of the industry and are key ingredients for Ruppert and the green industry as a whole to continue to grow and be prosperous.”

Pictured left to right: NALP President Mike Bogan; business management exam winners Maureen Comella, Sierra Brazell, and Kelley Chase; Ruppert Branch Manager Michael Vispi

While the competitions are exciting to watch, what we look forward to the most every year is the career fair—the biggest recruiting event in the industry.

Irrigation Manager McKenna Rowles noted, “Our career fair booth had a great turnout, and we were able to meet many potential interns and even future employees. All the preparation and training that we do prior to this event paid off tremendously. We regularly attend career fairs at local high schools, community colleges, and universities and often host students at our facilities to conduct hands-on training as they are getting to know the industry and the careers Ruppert has to offer. So it was exciting to see that many students attending NCLC already knew about Ruppert—they knew what we are about, all the career opportunities we have to offer, and more importantly they knew all about our culture.”

Moody added, “A big part of this success was the fact we had representation from every single market we currently operate in, so that we could be transparent about all of the amazing positions and locations we have to work in.”

Regional Vice President Mike Felts remarked that NCLC is a great way to connect with faculty, too.

“Ruppert sponsors the Faculty Luncheon the day before the opening ceremonies to foster relationships with faculty and professors and gain a better understanding of what we can do as industry professionals to better support the next generation of people joining and flourishing in our industry.”

At the end of the three-day event, the NALP Foundation presents their annual scholarships. Each year, we award the Ruppert Landscape Company scholarship to a deserving student pursuing a career as a landscape professional. This year, we were proud to present this scholarship to Jordan Mills, a student at Wallace State Community College. We are happy to support such a bright, talented young scholar and are excited to see where her green industry career takes her!

Pictured: Ruppert scholarship winner Jordan Mills with NALP Foundation board members.

We would also like to congratulate the winners of the competition: Cuyahoga Community College (first), Brigham Young University, Provo (second), and Mississippi State University (third).

Director of HR Courtney Pohlit summed up, “NCLC is a truly unique event that we are thrilled to be involved in every year. Not only does it provide an opportunity to connect with students from outstanding programs across the country, it allows us to come together with our industry colleagues and vendors to build momentum and excitement in promoting our industry and developing the next generation of leaders. We can’t wait to see the energy that the students bring to Provo next year when NCLC is held at BYU!”

Photo credit: Philippe Nobile Photography, courtesy of the National Association of Landscape Professionals