Faculty Spotlight: Julia Fitzpatrick-Cooper

Julia Fitzpatrick-Cooper

Julia Fitzpatrick-Cooper
Program: Horticulture

While Julia Fitzpatrick-Cooper inspires her Horticulture students, they often do the same to her.

"In many cases, they are making great sacrifices to be in class," she explained. "They have families and jobs and all the obligations life brings. I am inspired by my plant identification students when I see it really 'click' for them."

Interesting enough, Fitzpatrick-Cooper had never heard of the word "horticulture" before attending Ohio State University.

"I just knew that I wanted to do something that would allow me be outside," she said. "At that time (in the 1970s), everyone wanted to be a park ranger or in natural resources. I knew that wasn't for me. I met someone who was finishing his degree in horticulture. I thought that sounded interesting, took my first class, and was hooked!"

Before coming to COD, she worked at nurseries in California and Cincinnati, an arboretum in Boston, and was a teacher of horticulture at a sheltered workshop for mentally and physically handicapped adults. Upon moving to the Chicago area, Fitzpatrick-Cooper worked at Platt Hill Nursery and Garden Center.

"My mother recommended I get certified to teach as I finished my degree in Horticulture. I quickly found that this was my passion and went back to school for a master's degree in Agricultural Education. All of these years later (OK, 29 years later), I am still doing what I went to school for, which is kind of unusual these days."

As for her students, she wants them to know how to think about plants.

"I don't want them to say, 'Julia says ...' I want them to say, 'I know' or 'I know how to find out what I don't know.'

"Plants are living, growing and dynamic. It takes a lifetime to really learn about them. I want my students to have the interest, passion and ability to keep learning."

More about the Horticulture program