Jesse Jones - Columbus State Community College 50th Anniversary

A landscaper's busy time is spring, summer and fall. That doesn't leave much time to work on a college degree, but Caleb Auman decided to take classes.

The summer after his high school graduation in 2000 while working as a "yard ape," he was touring a four-year university. During the tour, the guide pulled him aside and suggested he check out Columbus State's Landscape Design and Build courses.

The "Blue Collar Degree" Auman earned is a result of his own work ethic and the outstanding instruction and guidance provided by the Landscape Design and Build curriculum and instructors.

"Because of those guys, I came away with a good mindset from my school experience. I had a great opportunity to learn a lot."

The instructors who guided Auman to take his business to the next level - Dick Ansley, Dave Holloway, Steve O'Neal, Jim Dunkerley, Fred Hower, and Deb Knapke - had field experience and were well-educated in their own right.

"Those guys are a dedicated group of professionals. They really emphasized being serious and professional, and were always adamant about us being very horticulturally minded. I've always been very impressed by them," Auman says. "Because of those guys, I came away with a good mindset from my school experience. I had a great opportunity to learn a lot."

Still working toward his associate degree in 2006, Auman and a partner represented Columbus State at the Annual Landscape Design Student Career Day. Held at Brigham Young University that year, the event is a high profile and well-respected student-professional conference. Auman and a partner won the Paver Installation Event award, beating out students from many four-year schools.

These days, Auman runs his own company, Auman Landscape. Reflecting on his experience, Auman says that as an employer he would rather have Columbus State students than students from many other programs.

"Columbus State offers a lot of well-respected programs, and it deserves great credence in the community. And, students are usually working while they're going to school, which adds to their accomplishments."

Images: A Year in the Life of Columbus State