'85, Ornamental Horticulture
Agriculture alumna Jan Busco’s days are filled with beauty. As the horticulturalist in the Vegetation Program at Grand Canyon National Park, Busco is charged with preserving of one of the most stunning places in the world.
“I think I have the most wonderful career of any human being on earth,” says Busco, who earned a bachelor’s degree in ornamental horticulture and minor in soil science from Cal Poly Pomona in 1985.
Busco’s path to her dream job was not a direct one. Growing up in San Diego, Busco didn’t have any career in mind. “I was one of the smart kids, and my parents wanted me to be a doctor,” she recalls. She received a full scholarship to UC San Diego and enrolled in 1971. But, she says, “I hated everything about it. It was not a good fit.” She dropped out after two weeks and spent most of the next decade managing medical and other offices.
A friend’s garden party in 1980 – in which everyone brought something to plant – convinced Busco that she could attend college and create a career out of something she loved. She entered Cal Poly Pomona in 1981, having fallen in love with the campus on a high school field trip.
After graduation in 1985, Busco worked for various organizations, including The Arboretum at Flagstaff and the U.S. Geological Survey. She received a master’s degree in forestry in 2005 at Northern Arizona University, wrote three books about plants and raised two children, who are now 15 and 21.
In 2006 she snagged the Grand Canyon job and recently received her five-year pin. She divides her time between a home near the park and another in Flagstaff 84 miles away where her family is based.
While she doesn’t return to the Pomona campus often, Busco keeps up with university news via PolyTrends and other alumni publications.
“The projects that are coming out of Cal Poly Pomona are exciting to me. The global work and sustainability focus are wonderful,” Busco says.
These days, the world is benefiting from Busco’s expertise as she cares for one of the greatest natural wonders. “I don’t have a window that looks over the canyon, but I do get to see it every day,” she says. “I hope to be here for a long time.”
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