Public Garden Leadership Fellows Program

About the Program

The Cornell University Masters of Professional Studies in Public Garden Leadership (PGL) offers a degree by the top ranked Horticulture program in the U.S. in conjunction with Cornell Botanic Gardens and Botanic Gardens Conservation International.  The degree emphasizes leadership, strategic decision making, and business management, preparing students for leadership roles in the public garden field.

Program Overview

COURSEWORK: Each student enrolls in the PGL program for 12 months. During the Fall and Spring semesters students have to complete 24 course credits. Leadership, management, and public garden management classes are required.

ACTION PROJECT: Each student must complete an action project that addresses an issue related to the public garden field.

PRACTICAL EXPERIENCE: Students are expected to work and study with Cornell Botanic Gardens’ staff on projects related to each students’ interest area and of importance to Cornell Botanic Gardens.

TIMELINE: Upon acceptance, program directors work with students to develop a course of study and identify an action project.  Students enroll in courses during the fall and spring semesters and complete the action project over the summer months.

Program Enrichments

TRAVEL: Students and directors travel, as a group, during the year to experience and learn from public gardens.

INDEPENDENT STUDY: Independent Graduate Study with Cornell Botanic Gardens’ staff provides the option for each PGL student to work one-on-one with a Cornell Botanic Gardens staff member on a one semester project. 

MENTORING : Each PGL student is also matched to a leader in the public garden field who serves as that student’s mentor, counseling him or her on the action project, public garden issues, and career development.

Admission Requirements

Students are selected for the program based on their demonstrated dedication to the public garden field, their work and life experiences, leadership qualities, and academic excellence. An undergraduate degree is required. Applications must be submitted by February 1 through Cornell's Graduate School.  Successful candidates are notified of their entry into the program by early April. 

Program Funding

Individuals accepted into the program are responsible for paying the required Graduate School tuition and fees. Sholarships are available on request.


Get to know current and past fellows in our program here.

For more information, contact

Dr. Sonja Skelly, (607) 255-2406,

Dr. Don Rakow, (607) 255-1045,