“I have always loved being outdoors with nature,” says Nicole Forsyth ’12 (landscape contracting), '14 (environmental design). In middle school, she participated in Women in Natural Science (WINS), a program designed to build girls’ confidence in science and expose them to potential career paths at an age when they typically begin to lose confidence in their science and math abilities. “I decided to attend Norfolk Country Agricultural High School in Walpole because it was very hands-on and there was a group of kids who, like me, loved being outdoors while learning a trade.”
Forsyth started off in the animal science and equine industry, but after taking classes in horticulture and landscape design, she switched—and excelled. Besides winning the Outstanding Vocational Student Award for the state of Massachusetts and graduating as salutatorian of her class, she won awards in volleyball and softball.
“Considering all my brilliant teachers at the Aggie who went to UMass and the Stockbridge School of Agriculture, I thought that Stockbridge must certainly be the place for me,” says Forsyth. “One teacher in particular changed my life. Kate Watson S’77 (arboriculture and park management), U’79 (food and resource economics) put up with a lot at a time when it was not very ladylike to pursue arboriculture. She proved to everyone that she could excel, working at the Arnold Arboretum, among other places, before she began teaching horticulture at Norfolk Aggie. She influenced me to chase my dreams and that nothing, including my gender, would limit my success.”
At Stockbridge, Forsyth became close to her professors and peers. “It's nice going from a small school to another small school within a large university,” she says. “You know everyone in your classes.” In her first year Forsyth was required to complete a 5-month internship. “I did mine at Arnold Arboretum, which was one of the best experiences of my life.”
After completing the two-year Stockbridge program, cum laude, Forsyth landed an “amazing job” at NatureWorks Landscape Services in Walpole, MA, near her home in Canton. Even so, she decided to go for her bachelor’s degree in environmental design with a concentration in horticulture. In fact, she has set up her schedule so that she can accomplish an accelerated master’s degree in regional planning, thanks to the guidance of Professor Mark Hamin.
“By acquiring as much knowledge in the field as I can, I think I can really make a difference by uniting and awakening people to the environment and helping them discover their dependence on it. I want them to understand that it is not going to be there if we don’t take care of it,” says Forsyth, who wants to be a dominant figure in the green industry, perhaps working for a city with a focus on trees, parks and common areas. Eventually, like her mentor Kate Watson, Forsyth would like to teach vocational education and inspire kids the way she was. She’s off to a great start, already serving as a graduate advisor to Stockbridge students, being involved with the Ladies of Stockbridge who do community and charity events, and serving as a mentor to her early inspiration, WINS.
Education has always been important to Forsyth, who is footing the entire cost on her own with grants, loans and work study and maintains a 3.7 GPA. This year, much to her delight, she received one of the very competitive SBS Dean’s Opportunity Scholarships. “In Environmental Design, we are expected to buy a lot of the expensive supplies needed to build models and such for class, which after buying books and other supplies, are hard to afford. The scholarship means a lot. Every bit helps when you’re trying to pay your own way in college.”