Grad collects life lessons from each job
By Janelle Dixon
Photos provided by Mark Tomaras
Colleen Lockovitch, a 1998 Purdue Agriculture graduate, pauses while giving a garden tour to visitors at Lurie Garden in Chicago's Millennium Park. Lockovitch earned a degree in horticultural science and previously worked in Pennyslyvania, Delaware and the United Kingdom.
Colleen Lockovitch enjoys working with the volunteers and plants at Lurie Garden in Millennium Park. But her journey to the park along Chicago's lakeshore began after she earned her bachelor's degree in horticulture science from Purdue in 1998. Along the way, she made stops at positions in Pennyslyvania, Delaware, Illinois and the United Kingdom.
Lockovitch's job at Lurie Garden is unique because she is active in the gardens and spends time in the office teaching workshops and attending meetings. Her wrok allows her to wear many hats.
The different career opportunities she had before coming to Chicago prepared Lockovitch for her position at Lurie Garden. She said those jobs helped her learn how to work with others and keep an open mind — two qualities that really help her today.
"I have learned to keep a healthy perspective and open mind," Lockovitch said. "You never know what someone else can teach you."
Sometimes, that lesson is simple. "In England, you have to be outgoing or you just get lonely," she said.
Today, Lockovitch spends much of each day working in the gardens with volunteers who have different backgrounds and ethnicities. That experience is important to Lockovitch. "Through my position at the Chicago Botanic Garden, I learned to work with all types of people," Lockovitch said. "You never know what someone else can teach you - everyone has a situation and story to tell."
Not only does Lockovitch work with volunteers at the garden, she also manages the work schedule for all the Lurie Garden employees and locates sponsors, which requires her to work with many different people, a skill she developed early in her career.
"Shortly after graduation, I took an internship with Gibraltar Gardens in Delaware," Lockovitch said. "I learned quickly to not overract or jump to conclusions. You just have to patient."
The lesson in patience she experienced 11 years ago is something she practifces every day. She works with all different types of people, which she said requires patience, a positive attitude and an open mind.
"I learned to keep an open mind and healthy perspective through a fellowship in the United Kingdom," said Lockovitch. While there, she was exposed to a variety of gardens throughout the country. For her work, she researched, helped start a botanical garden volunteer program, gave tours and performed other duties that help her today. The experience abroad helped in other ways.
"Leaving your surroundings forces you to open your eyes and see how other cultures operate and function," she said.
Some of her goals for Lurie Garden include promoting sustainable practices and conducting environmental programs. Ultimately, she wants all of Millennium Park to start thinking and acting in a responsible, greener way.
"I hope to stay interested and motivated in my job, finding new challenges and succeeding in the professional world," she said. Lockovitch also has two personal goals: to travel abroad and volunteer more for other organizations.