I am going to grad school!

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Okay, deep breath in…. deep breath out… Are you ready for the news? I GOT A JOB! I am getting paid to go to grad school to get my Masters in Horticulture Science. AND my coursework will be in horticulture and food science. AND my research will be on medicinal plants.

Let me back up and tell you how this came to be. It is a pretty cool story.

It all started last spring when I took an elective class called Organic Gardening. My professor was David Berle.


Here is a picture of him taken from his UGA faculty profile. One of the requirements of his class was to go and volunteer for 8 hours at the farm that he oversees.  It is a 4-acre student run farm called the UGArden.


UGArden is wonderful place, and their mission is to teach students how to grow food organically and provide fresh produce for those less fortunate. Most of their produce gets donated to local outreach organizations.


I told Berle about my interest in medicinal herbs and found out that UGArden had a dedicated medicinal herb garden, where the herbs were harvested, dried and sold as tea.

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The Medicinal Herb garden was started by this beautiful woman named Maisie Loo. She is a master gardener and herbalist and very knowledgable about the plants. As soon as I heard about her I knew I wanted to work with her!


I volunteered at the UGArden for my class requirement and loved it so much I decided to continue volunteering over the summer to help Maisie.


We harvested over 28 different kinds of herbs we were growing at UGArden and hung them to dry in our dry room.


And filled a whole cabinet with herbs that we use to make loose leaf tea blends.

After volunteering over the summer, I knew I wanted to spend more time at the UGArden. So I signed up for the UGArden internship class. I received class credit to spend 10-12 hours a week out there in the fall working with the medicinals and leading student volunteer work groups.


At one point I had a group of 12 students that came out to UGArden at 6:45am to work with me in the medicinal garden. I learned that working with medicinal plants and teaching others really made me come alive! I was in my element!

During this time, Professor Berle that is in charge of the UGArden knew about my background in nutrition science, my interest in medicinal herbs and saw potential in me. He approached me about applying for an assistantship to do a masters in Horticulture Science and study medicinal herbs as my research project. I wasn’t planning on doing grad school, but everything fell into place and I decided to go for it and apply for the grant.


So, last fall in the midst of completing a Certificate of Herbal Studies, taking 17 credit hours of classes, and working; with Professor Berle’s help I began to figure out what my research project would be if I went to grad school and wrote a grant to apply for an assistantship.


On December 11 last year I received the news that I got the grant!! I was going to get paid to go to grad school! My program would start August 1st and my research project would be on Holy Basil identifying growing practices that produce the highest quality Holy Basil as shown by lab analysis. I didn’t know that something this amazing could exist!

Everything was moving along nicely this spring until I found out a few days before graduation (last week) that there was a class I needed to take, taught by the food scientist on my masters committee, Ron Pegg.  It was only offered every other year and was being taught as a Maymester this year.


It is an 8000 level food science class called Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals. The class sounded like something I would really be interested in and yesterday I got the call from Berle saying that I could take the class if I wanted to start grad school the next day. It all happened so fast, but again, somehow everything fell into place perfectly. Better than I could have possibly planned on my own.

My professor worked all day to get things moved around.


This morning I came in to this! I signed the paperwork and was cleared to register for classes as a grad student.


I was assigned a desk in the graduate student work room.


Once all of that was squared away, I went to class!



This class meets for 3 hours a day, 5 days a week until June 3rd. I loved my first day. Basically, talking about functional foods and nutraceuticals is the food science way of talking about what we know as ‘food as medicine’. He is going to talk about omega 3 fatty acids, fiber, probiotics, antioxidants and how they are scientifically studied, how they are regulated by the FDA and whether or not these food components are actually healthy or just a marketing myth. I am so excited about everything I am going to learn in this class!! After this, I have the rest of the summer to start my research and spend my workweek working out at the UGArden.

I can’t even believe this is happening. It is terrifying at exhilarating all at the same time. I can be a worrier and over-plan things, so starting grad school with 1 day notice is probably the best way to go. I just have to jump in :).

I am thankful at how everything is falling into place and I can’t help but feel God’s handiwork and provision. Chris is the ever supportive husband and I couldn’t be more thankful for that either. I am a blessed woman!


4 Responses

  1. Wow! Noelle, it is so amazing to see how God has led you thus far into Grad School, and I do believe that you are such a blessed person :)! Now I see why you always smile a lot, it’s because of God who is with you all the time~*:)! hehe Reading your story of how you got into grad school makes me to think about how God led me to be here and to be thankful again for everything that God has done, is doing, and will do in my whole life 🙂 See you in class!

    1. Thank you Sae!! I would love to hear your story sometime :). It is amazing to look back and see how everything falls into place and see God’s hand in all of it.

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