Posted: February 22, 2021

Dr. Margaret Hoffman, Assistant Professor of the Landscape Contracting, talks about the opportunities for students within the major.

Landscape Contracting Major

Dr. Margaret Hoffman is an Assistant Professor of the Landscape Contracting Program in the Plant Science Department. She is also the Program Coordinator for the Landscape Contracting Program and co-teaches two studio classes, two landscape construction classes, and a landscape estimating and bidding course. 

When Dr Hoffman came to Penn State to work on a PhD, she owned a landscape design/build company. She studies the biological filtration of natural swimming pools. After receiving her degree, she accepted a position at Western Illinois University as Assistant Professor of Sustainable Horticulture and taught horticulture and landscape classes. She then moved on to Cal Poly where she was an Assistant Professor of Sustainable Landscape Horticulture.  Dr. Hoffman decided to come back to Happy Valley three years ago.

As Program Coordinator for the Landscape Contracting Program, her goal is to continue the program's reputation as one of the nation's top landscape programs while increasing enrollment.  Landscape Contracting aims to give students as many real world, experiential learning opportunities as possible. The program recently introduced a mentoring program that will solidify connections between the industry and Penn State students. In this major, there are a lot of opportunities for undergrad research that range from understanding the diversity of urban forests, research on the science of teaching and learning, and the use of emerging technologies in landscape contracting.

Students in the Landscape Contracting major complete spring projects and fall field trips. In the spring, they complete landscapes on campus or in the community which involves the installation of hardscapes and plantings as well as the operation of heavy equipment. In the fall, they take field trips to designed landscapes, such as the Flight 93 Memorial, and visit companies, such as Eichenlaub in Pittsburgh and others, on the east coast.

“People don't realize all the possibilities in landscape contracting…Students should be aware there are often three job offers to consider before graduation." This industry needs qualified candidates and Penn State students have job offers lined up months in advance. This program is for problem solvers, team leaders and people that like to work outside. It brings many disciplines together including business management, plant science, and design. “ Since this is a smaller major in the college, students and faculty all know each other very well," she states. Most importantly, “the sense of community is very special."

Her research focuses on stormwater management and biological filtration and is also expanding to sustainable landscapes. She is working on two publications with current grad students. The first is on the effects of deicing salts on ornamental native plants in green stormwater infrastructure and the other on nutrient removal by native ornamental plants in bioswales under two different designs.

Learn more about Dr. Hoffman and the Landscape Contracting Major.