Editor’s note: Kim Colavito Markesich, our long-time freelance contributor, graduated from the Ratcliffe Hicks School of Agriculture, then went on to earn her bachelor of science in agriculture with a focus on environmental writing. Recently she caught up with some of her fellow RHSA alumni.
Ratcliffe Hicks graduate Matthew Bagshaw was raised in Glastonbury, where he now enjoys a career in the landscaping industry, an interest he’s had since childhood. He’s enthusiastic about a field he finds both interesting and challenging.
What was your major in the College? When did you graduate? With what degree? I graduated in May of 2003, with an associate of applied science degree in horticulture (turfgrass management).
What CAHNR class was most useful to you? I think the most useful class was my turf professional development class. Steve Rackliffe was the professor, and he taught us a lot of real-world fundamentals for excelling in the field. I remember that class offering a lot of good background information on the field itself and the business behind it, and he did a great job of preparing us for what to expect out in the real world.
Tell us some of your fond memories of UConn. I used to really enjoy the time we spent up at the plant research facility. It brought a real-world feel to what we were learning in class. Whether it was observing trees and shrubs with Dr. Corbett or Dr. Brand, or analyzing turf plots with Steve Rackliffe or Dr. Guillard, I found it extremely interesting and useful. I was always intrigued to see what new trials were being done and to see real-time results of those trials.
Please describe your current job. I am the operations manager for E.A. Quinn Landscape Contracting Inc. I started here in the summer of 2000, and as soon as I graduated, I came on as a full-time employee. At the time, the company was small, with only six to ten employees, and we mainly provided landscaping services for small residential properties. I have been with the company the entire time since then, and I have helped it grow (with a great team) to a large organization that employs eighty people during the peak season. We provide commercial landscape installations throughout Southern New England, as well as residential outdoor living design/build projects throughout Connecticut. My job as operations manager is to work with the managers below me to ensure all the work is being performed in an efficient manner and we are meeting both budgets and time schedules for installations.
Are you doing what you imagined you would be doing at this point in your life? Believe it or not, in kindergarten I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, and my answer was placed in a book with all my classmates’. In 1988, I wrote “landscaper.” To this day, I have this photo hung in my office. I remember being fascinated by a landscaper doing work for my father when I was really young and knew from then on what I wanted to do. I will say that this industry has allowed me to go places and do things career-wise I never thought would be possible. It has been phenomenal to be part of the company’s success. Each year that passes I am amazed at what we accomplish. The owner has given me an opportunity that wasn’t around every corner and for that I am extremely thankful.
Do you have any advice for current students that will help them in the future? The landscape industry has so much potential. You can survive in this industry with any degree or background in many positions: landscape design, executive, fleet manager, general laborer, equipment operator, fertilization technician, human resources, accounting, estimator, etc.
My advice to current students is to stay in school as long as possible. I opted to complete the two-year program because I was eager to get out into the workplace. I believe I have learned all the knowledge the four-year program would’ve taught me, but at a longer pace. If you are considering the landscape field, give some true thought to what you hope to become. I am a big believer in interning and trying a few companies before you land in one place. This will give you a flavor of the types of companies you want to work for and for those you might not.
Is there anything else you would like us to know about you? My girlfriend, Amanda, and I raise puppies for Fidelco, an organization that provides guide dogs for the sight-impaired. The first dog we raised was a bit too energetic to be a seeing-eye dog, but became an explosive detection dog for FedEx. We also adopted two dogs, Webster and Zack, who didn’t have all the traits necessary to be guide dogs.