History of Student Career Days
Professor Robert A. Callaway is the "Father" of PLANET's Student Career Days. In 1969, the Horticulture Department at Mississippi State University decided to incorporate business courses into its offerings, with the idea of graduating students with strong horticulture skills, business training and Cooperative Education experience. The head of the department asked for leadership from the head of the Landscape Architecture department and Bob Callaway, then head of Campus Landscape and Retail Floral Management.
In 1970, the Landscape Contracting Curriculum offered its first courses. What started out as a source for training employees in family-owned nurseries or laborer/foremen trainees became one of the most successful landscape contracting programs in the U.S.
In 1975, a group from Michigan State University took a tour of southern nurseries and Bellengrath Gardens, stopping at Mississippi State University to thank Callaway for putting together a great trip for them. Mississippi State's landscape contracting students put together a picnic for the Michigan State group. Ron Smith, then program director at Ohio State University, heard about that visit, which led to a challenge between Mississippi State's Bob Callaway, Michigan State's Roy Mecklenburg and Ohio State's Ron Smith to see whose students had the best skills.
Mississippi State University was chosen as host of the event, and Callaway decided that he would invite some industry members to serve as judges and "legitimize" the event. At what became the first ALCA (now PLANET) Field Days in 1977, 18 industry members showed up - all at their own expense — and five schools participated — Ohio State, Texas Tech, Georgia Tech, Milwaukee Area Technical College and Mississippi State.
All together, there were nearly 200 participants — students, industry representatives and educators. Although there were no formal job interviews scheduled for the event, industry members ended up pulling students out of the social events to talk to them about job opportunities. In 1978, Mississippi State again hosted the competition and participation doubled — 57 industry people came to observe students "under pressure" and look at the event as a recruiting opportunity.
In 2014, 65 colleges were in attendance with 853 students competing in 28 green industry related events. The students also had the opportunity to meet and interview with more than 75 companies who were participating in the career fair. More than 200 industry representatives were in attendance and supported the event as sponsors or with career fair booths.
In 1991, ALCA and its college advisors voted unanimously to name the traveling first-place trophy the Robert A. Callaway Award. PLANET is proud to continue this tradition.
The challenge was made 39 years ago to see which student possessed the best skills. Let the events begin and may the best person win.
Chronological History of Student Career Days
1977 — Mississippi State University
1978 — Mississippi State University
1979 — Texas Tech
1980 — Ohio State
1981 — Milwaukee Area Technical College
1982 — Oklahoma State
1983 — Richland College
1984 — Ohio State, ATI
1985 — Mississippi State University
1986 — Oklahoma State University
1987 — Richland College
1988 — Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo
1989 — Milwaukee Area Technical College
1990 — Colorado State University
1991 — University of Kentucky
1992 — Cal Poly Pomona
1993 — SUNY Cobleskill
1994 — University of Tennessee, Knoxville
1995 — North Metro Tech
1996 — Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo
1997 — Richland College
1998 — North Carolina State University
1999 — University of Kentucky
2000 — Mississippi State University
2001 — Colorado State University
2002 — Illinois Central College
2003 — Hinds Community College
2004 — Columbus State Community College
2005 — University of Maryland
2006 — Brigham Young University, Provo
2007 — Michigan State University
2008 — North Metro Tech
2009 — Cal Poly Pomona
2010 — Chattahoochee Technical College, North Metro Campus
2011 — Joliet Junior College
2012 — Kansas State University
2013 — Auburn University
2014 — Colorado State University
Future Student Career Days Sites:
2015 — North Carolina State University
2016 — Mississippi State University