Elizabeth “Liz” Riley is the Department Head for Horticulture Technology at Alamance Community College. She holds a Doctorate, Masters, and Bachelor of Science degree in Horticulture Science from North Carolina State University. In addition to her education, Liz has experience in nursery and greenhouse plant production and teaching.
At a young age while working in the gardens surrounding her grandmother’s home, Liz discovered how much she enjoyed being outside working with plants and the landscape. As time passed, her passion for horticulture continued to grow which inspired her pursuit of higher education in the discipline of Horticulture Science.
During her time at North Carolina State University, Liz was able to participate in many different opportunities that helped her to determine her career path. One of those opportunities was an internship with Homewood Nursery and Garden Center in Raleigh, NC. Through this internship, Liz learned much about nursery and greenhouse plant production. This experience revealed her extreme interest in this particular area of horticulture which motivated her to further her education.
After deciding she wanted to learn more about plant production, Liz pursued her Master’s degree focused on alternative substrates for the nursery industry. Her thesis is titled, “Cotton Stalks and Cotton Gin Trash, Renewable Alternative Substrates for the Nursery Industry”. After completing her Master’s degree, she decided to pursue a Doctorate degree in order to gain more research and teaching experience. Liz’s dissertation is titled, “Evaluation of Filter Bed Substrate Composition and Plant Species for Rain Gardens.” Throughout her research, Liz focused on issues that would directly impact the green industry.
While pursuing her M.S. and Ph.D., Liz was also the teaching assistant for numerous courses. She really enjoyed interacting with the students and teaching them about various concepts of horticulture. This experience exposed her fondness of teaching which lead her to seek a position with Alamance Community College’s Horticulture Technology department.
Liz is an enthusiastic instructor and a department head with the vision to continue growing the Horticulture Technology program while moving it forward in an ever changing industry. She strives to keep the program on the cutting-edge by assuring that the courses reflect current industry practices as well as emphasizing student’s exposure to opportunities and the rewarding field of horticulture.
Hanna Smith is a full-time Horticulture Technology Instructor who holds a Masters and Bachelors of Science in Horticulture from Auburn University. Along with her education, Hanna has experience in teaching and the green industry.
Hanna’s interest in Horticulture began when she was in high school in a small town in Alabama. Her mom always had tons of flowers and her dad always had a large vegetable garden, but it wasn’t until she took an agriculture class that focused on floriculture that she realized her passion for plants. After joining FFA and competing in the Career Development Events in nursery/landscape and floriculture, she decided to continue her education and applied to Auburn’s horticulture program.
During her undergraduate time at Auburn, Hanna had the chance to intern at Bonnie Plants and gain valuable greenhouse production experience, but realized that she wanted to interact with people a bit more, so she decided to go to graduate school and complete her Masters with a concentration in public horticulture.
Hanna’s Masters, “Performance of Elm Taxa in Auburn, Alabama” evaluated 14 commercially available elm tree cultivars and their growth, size, fall color, and insect and disease pressure, specifically evaluating their resistance to Dutch Elm Disease.
During graduate school, Hanna had the opportunity to work with the Alabama Nursery and Landscape Association where she got valuable green industry experience and was also able to work with Alabama Cooperative Extension and realize that teaching and serving others was where she finds the most fulfillment.
After finishing her Masters at Auburn, she worked for NC Cooperative Extension in Guilford County where she gained experience in teaching and customer service, and got to see both sides of the industry from commercial to the consumer side.
Hanna loves seeing students gain knowledge and understand a topic and then be able to apply that to real world situations. She is thrilled to be at Alamance Community College and bring her passion and experience to the classroom to help the students reach their potential.
Caleb Fox is the Lab Manager for the Horticulture Technology Department where he supervises the department’s student workers, and assists in the management of the department’s three greenhouses and 47 acre farm. Caleb holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural Education from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and an Associate’s in Applied Science degree in Horticulture Technology from Alamance Community College.
Being surrounded by plants most of his life, Caleb developed an interest in working in the landscape at the age of 15 when he began working with relatives and neighbors to manage their landscape. Eventually that interest for working in the landscape developed into a passion, and after working for a private organization during high school Caleb decided to pursue a career in Horticulture.
During college, Caleb worked as a student worker at Alamance Community College where he maintained the Horticulture Department’s Conservatory and grounds. After realizing the vast world of horticulture through participating in recruiting events and in national competitions in the green industry Caleb decided to take an internship with Surrounds Landscaping in Sterling, Virginia. There he determined that his career interests were in landscape management.
After graduating from Alamance Community College in 2018, Caleb began working for the City of Graham in North Carolina as a landscaper where he helped manage landscapes located in and around Graham and their greenhouse. While working for The City of Graham, Caleb decided to further his education and career to pursue a degree in Agricultural Education. Then, in 2020 after working for the City of Graham for two years Caleb came back to Alamance Community College as the Horticulture Lab Manager.
As the Lab Manager, Caleb strives to help the department and the students be successful. He works with students inside and outside the classroom so they may better learn the knowledge and the skills needed to be successful and experience the rewards of working within a horticultural field. Caleb is valued amongst the students and is a valued team member in the department.
Stella McLean is a full-time Agriculture Instructor and holds a B.S. in Environmental Science from UNC Wilmington and a Master’s of Education from John Carroll University.
Stella grew up in eastern North Carolina on her parent’s perennial nursery and spent much of her time in her mother’s flower gardens, but it wasn’t until she began working on her cousin’s certified organic vegetable farm that she became interested in sustainability and the environment.
During her time at UNCW, Stella studied a broad range of topics in order to understand how natural systems functioned and how to sustain them from the economics of forest and fisheries to the utilization of satellite imagery to monitor the health of ecosystems. It was also during this time that she worked as a sustainable agriculture intern at Anathoth Community Farm and Garden, a 3-acre diverse vegetable farm that supplied CSA-shares to 132 households during the growing season.
Realizing her passion for science and sharing it with others, Stella studied at John Carroll University to earn her Master’s in Education concentrating in Life Science. Much to her delight she took graduate courses in topics such as Plant Ecology, Plant Physiology, and Microbiology as well as Instructional Technologies and Multicultural Education. She was a teaching assistant in undergraduate Biology labs and co-authored three articles in science education journals exploring the use of case studies as an engaging way to teach undergraduate science principles.
From there she went on to teach at a Montessori high school complete with a functioning farm from livestock to vegetables raised for the school’s Farm-to-Table program. Moving on, she became Farm Manager of a regenerative vegetable and cut flower farm located in Greensboro, where she oversaw crop production from greenhouse to market table.
Stella loves to see students’ feel empowered through their ACC education by being able to grow their own food, jump into exciting new careers, and share their knowledge with others.