Penn State senior shares his passion for landscape contracting

Jack Ouligian
October 06, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — As a child, Jack Pohutsky created backyard designs at his family’s home. Now as an adult, he hopes to grow that interest into a lifelong career.

Pohutsky, a senior majoring in landscape contracting in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, enrolled at the University because he loved the campus, the atmosphere and the strong school pride. He applied to Penn State as a landscape architecture major but switched to landscape contracting after talking with his adviser at New Student Orientation.

“I never even knew it was a major,” Pohutsky said. “Part of the reason that I’m so heavily involved in recruiting is because I want people to know about landscape contracting.”

Pohutsky was attracted to the rewarding, hands-on work of landscape contracting, and he took to the major immediately. Through small, student-focused classes, which touched on subjects such as horticulture, biology and design software, he has gained valuable knowledge and experience. For example, in one class, HORT 269 Residential Landscape Design, Pohutsky met with a local client, inventoried the person’s property and created a landscape design for his final project.

“The landscape contracting major prepares you to be a professional and to manage people right off the bat,” Pohutsky said.

He also credited the annual career fair hosted by the College of Agricultural Sciences with helping him to get a leg up in the working world.

“The companies there want you,” he said. “You almost get to pick and choose your internships.”

Pohutsky has had three internships with two landscaping companies. He interned with Ruppert Landscape in Baltimore and Laytonsville, Maryland, for his first and second internships, working in business development, project management and account management before going out into the field.

Jack Pohutsky design

Shown is a landscape master plan that Jack Pohutsky created in his HORT 120 class. It was created using Realtime Landscaping Architect, one of the many industry-specific software programs that students learn in their classes. The design includes a plan view, plant list, and four 3D views showing off the property, amenities and nighttime lighting.

IMAGE: Jack Pohutsky

In his third internship, with R.P. Marzilli & Co., of Medway, Massachusetts, he managed and completed projects for high-end residential clients. According to Pohutsky, his internship experiences gave him a greater appreciation for all facets of the industry and made him a more marketable job candidate.

In addition to his internships, Pohutsky participated in the National Collegiate Landscape Competition during his sophomore and junior years as part of Penn State’s Horticulture Club, and he plans to compete again in his senior year.

At the competition, a wide range of schools compete in events such as equipment operation, exterior landscape design, irrigation design, plant identification, sales and more. Pohutsky said Penn State always places very well in the competition, and he emphasized the networking opportunities available at the competition, where top landscaping companies recruit talented students.

“Penn State does a lot to help you get out there,” Pohutsky said, highlighting the school-subsidized cost of attendance. “It’s a free networking and career event.”

In Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, Pohutsky has become a staunch advocate for his major. He is a member of the Ag Advocates, an elite group of undergraduate students who serve as ambassadors for the college, building positive relationships with students, alumni and industry professionals. He is the first landscape contracting major to join Ag Advocates in more than 20 years.

His responsibilities have ranged from giving tours to prospective students to speaking with freshmen at the Fall Welcome event. For the college’s annual spring Ag Day — which showcases the diversity of agriculture, from crops to animals to forestry and wildlife — Pohutsky used his skills to create a 2D and 3D rendering for the arrangement of 37 clubs and organizations at the event site.

Pohutsky also has impressed in his classes. Michael Mohney, a professor in the Department of Plant Sciences who taught Pohutsky in two classes and collaborated with him on an independent study, said he believes Pohutsky is an exceptional person.

“Jack exemplifies what it means to be a Penn State student,” he said. “I look forward to watching him utilize his skills, knowledge and enthusiasm for the advancement of the landscape industry.”

Pohutsky’s passion for landscape contracting motivates his advocacy on its behalf.

“It’s a very rewarding industry and it’s a growing industry,” he said. “You get to see a project go from nothing to something, you can make good money and you can live and work wherever you want.”

Highlighting the diverse opportunities available to skilled employees, Pohutsky said that landscaping companies employ arborists, foremen, project managers, account managers, business developers and information technology specialists, among others. He also emphasized the collaborative environment in and between landscaping companies.

“It is a ‘we’ industry,” said Pohutsky, who recently wrote an article for the National Association of Landscape Professionals, offering advice for landscaping students looking to bridge the gap between their collegiate and professional careers.

“If you fall into trouble due to a unique project, just call up your peer at ‘XYZ’ company, and they will help you through it," he advised.

In Pohutsky’s ideal world, landscape contracting would be “a destination major.” He credited the college with giving him all the aid and information that he could have asked for and described Penn State as “the best place I could imagine.”

He also expressed a desire to give back to his major after graduation.

“I want to leave Penn State having made my mark on the department,” he said. “If they need help, they can ask me.”

Following graduation, Pohutsky hopes to explore a career in project management after establishing himself through field work. In particular, he wants to innovate in business development, making landscape contracting more efficient and environmentally friendly.

He plans to work in the mid-Atlantic region of the U.S., or in Spain, and he anticipates acting as a liaison between his company and the National Association of Landscape Professionals. Though his post-graduation plans are indefinite, he is unconcerned.

“The opportunities are boundless,” he said.

  • Jack Pohutsky headshot

    Jack Pohutsky is a senior majoring in landscape contracting in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences.

    IMAGE: Michael Houtz

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated October 06, 2019