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Though her roots are far away, 2018 College of Business and Technology Distinguished Senior Christina Greer Newton has undergone significant growth at Eastern Kentucky University.

Newton photoThe Georgia native graduated summa cum laude in December 2017, with a bachelor’s degree in horticulture, concentration in landscape and nursery. She was selected from five departmental Distinguished Seniors to receive the award for her “superior achievement, and excellent leadership, character and service.”

Newton was grateful to have her hard work recognized: “It’s a bright spot after working for so long to finish my schooling with such an honor.” In addition to receiving the award and $1,000 at the EKU Scholars Assembly, she will be recognized at Spring Convocation.

For the accomplished EKU alum, plant care has always been a family affair. Newton fondly recalls summers spent gardening with her grandparents. She also remembers admiring her older sister for participating in her high school’s FFA chapter. “I thought it was the coolest thing so I decided to try it when I was in high school,” she said. After her first year, she was “hooked.” Eventually, the FFA adviser let Newton manage the greenhouse and pick plants for the chapter’s annual plant sale.

Although EKU is a six-hour trek from Newton’s hometown of McDonough, Georgia, she said that she found more opportunities here than at a larger, more local school. “It has everything I wanted from my horticultural education and more,” she marveled.

Newton credited the exceptionality of her education partially to Dr. Cody Domenghini and Carla Hagan. She had noticed positive changes in the program thanks to the two professors. “Instead of getting just a floral design education, I learned more about the industry and different aspects of horticulture overall,” she said. “I came out of EKU with more knowledge that I intended on receiving.”

According to Newton, Domenghini and Hagan were “phenomenal” mentors. “They made sure that we were aware of every opportunity that was available to us and are just amazing people in general.” The professors lavished similar praise on Newton. Domenghini characterized her as “respectful, talented, energetic, and very determined to be successful.” Hagan attests that beyond her success in the classroom, “Christina’s leadership skills and creativity make her a standout.”

Newton was also grateful to John Duvall, agriculture technician at EKU Meadowbrook Farms and her federal work-study adviser, for helping her achieve career success. She said she has “translated many methods he taught me into my current job.”

Since coming to EKU in Fall 2014, Newton has gotten involved in several student organizations and “never let up on the brakes,” as Domenghini described. She has been a member of the EKU Agriculture Club; Delta Tau Alpha, the agriculture honors society; Agriculture Ambassadors; and the EKU Horticulture Club, in which she served as an officer every year until her graduation.

In addition to being named CBT Distinguished Senior for 2018, during her time at EKU Newton also earned the Outstanding Freshman Award, Outstanding Horticulture Student Award, President’s Award, Richmond Garden Club Scholarship, and the prestigious Mosmiller Scholar Internship. Sponsored by the American Floral Endowment, the coveted national award gave Newton a $2,000 scholarship and a 10- to 16-week internship at Hall’s Flower Shop and Garden Center in Stone Mountain, Georgia. The shop was so impressed with Newton that they have since hired her full time. It appears that Domenghini’s prediction is beginning to come true: “I have no doubt that Christina will be extremely successful in the horticulture profession.”

Newton remains thankful for how she blossomed in the fertile soil at EKU. “I’m definitely not the same person who started at Eastern,” she said. “I’ve had so many opportunities that have helped me to be prepared for my career and become a better person overall.”

— by Madison Harris, student writer, EKU Communications & Brand Management