Faculty Stories: Brian Clement

Brian Clement

Program: Horticulture

From seven-day work weeks to fixing and maintaining farm equipment, College of DuPage Horticulture Assistant Professor Brian Clement learned lessons in self-reliance and sustainability while growing up on a Central Illinois farm, lessons he wanted to share as an educator. 

After teaching high school agriculture classes in Astoria, Illinois, Clement was hired to develop horticulture curriculum for high school students through Technology Center of DuPage (TCD). 

“I had family in the area and I was attracted to the challenge of starting a brand-new program at TCD,” Clement said. As it turned out, it was perfect timing for a country farmer to become a city dweller.

DuPage County was once an agricultural community, but suburban expansion left little space for fields and farms. What the county did require was landscape design and turf maintenance. In 2007, Clement created a landscape design and management program at TCD, only the second of its kind in the nation for high school students.

Clement connected with the COD Horticulture program to assure the high school program aligned with the College’s curriculum. High school horticulture students also had the opportunity to enroll in dual credit courses to earn 17 college credit hours.

While teaching full time at TCD, Clement joined the COD adjunct faculty, where he had the opportunity to expand class offerings. 

“On the farm, we maintained our own equipment to save time and money. Those skills are important to landscapers, too, so I created small engine repair and maintenance and power equipment classes at COD.”

After earning his master’s degree in agricultural education, Clement joined the COD faculty full time and currently serves as the Horticulture program chair. He and his colleagues bring a wealth of experience, knowledge and creativity to the program. 

Industry trends and customer needs drive Clement and his colleagues to expand course offerings regularly. As he explains, a renewed interest in home gardening has paved the way for degrees and certificates in sustainable urban agriculture. Environmental concerns have resulted in more clients requesting sustainable landscape and water conservation for homes and businesses.

Since many of our students are already working in the industry, it is important to keep track of what they need to serve customers and expand their businesses.

Brian Clement

“We currently offer more than 65 different courses, double the amount we had when I started here. We work with students, gauging their interests and providing the instruction they need to succeed. Since many of our students are already working in the industry, it is important to keep track of what they need to serve customers and expand their businesses.” 

COD’s greenhouse and outdoor labs provide students with real-world experience. Specialty classes are taught by industry professionals while local partners provide internships.

Clement also engages COD horticulture students in volunteer work with local nonprofit agencies, building raised flower beds, creating rain gardens and planting perennials at homeless shelters. 

Since horticulture is literally a growing industry, an engaged and supportive advisory board provides insight for new offerings. To meet the challenge of limited outdoor space in urban areas, courses in indoor growing, hydroponics and mushroom production have been proposed. A new project with the DuPage County Farm Bureau will result in a horticulture curriculum for fourth grade students in the district. 

Clement may not have acres of crops to oversee, but COD’s Horticulture program should sustain DuPage County for years to come.

“The pandemic allowed the industry to expand. People were spending more time at home and wanted to make their yards more appealing,” he said. “Fire pits, outdoor kitchens, landscape lighting and water features are trending now. Next year, there might be larger vegetable gardens and edible landscapes. We will be ready to pivot and provide a skilled workforce for whatever the industry needs.”

Learn more about the Horticulture program at College of DuPage