Institutional landscapes: U.S. colleges compete in beauty contest

Ole Miss is one of the 20 college campuses competing to be one of USA Today’s top 10 most beautiful campuses. Photo:Robert Jordan/Ole Miss CommunicationsOle Miss is one of the 20 college campuses competing to be one of USA Today’s top 10 most beautiful campuses.
Photo:Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

College and university grounds require a lot of care and those whose landscapers go above and beyond are competing to be in USA Today’s top 10 most beautiful campuses across the nation.

Historic buildings are part of the attraction for some of the 20 nominated campuses, such as Princeton University and Yale University, but breathtaking green spaces are the common denominator.

The University of Mississippi, in Oxford, has been recognized several times in the past for its well-manicured campus, with accolades from The Princeton Review, Newsweek, and the Professional Grounds Management Society.

“We take a lot of pride in what we do, and it’s great because the whole campus takes pride in it …,” assistant superintendent of landscaping Nathan Lazinsky told The Daily Mississippian.

Ole Miss employs 32 full-time landscapers to care for the 1,000-acre campus, making sure each worker goes through Landscape University – a series of classes instituted by the Landscape Services Department at Ole Miss – to ensure the quality of work is maintained.

Landscaping is a constantly changing vocation, Lazinsky says, “so we are always trying to look for better ways, more efficient ways to do stuff, and we use a lot of input from our workers.”

The landscaping team divides its $1.8 million operating budget over the four seasons so there is year-round interest on campus. Focal points such as major signage and entrance areas get special attention, as these locations are more noticeable.

While most colleges focus on impressive facilities to up the wow factor for recruiting students, Ole Miss believes a gorgeous landscape leaves quite an impression on potential students.

“When a student comes on campus to visit, they are already interested in the curriculum, so they are going to make their decision in the first five minutes based on appearance and how safe they feel,” Lazinksy said, “and if the parents see that the campus is taken care of, they know that their child will be, too.”

Ole Miss is currently No. 7 in USA Today’s contest, but it can still move up the rankings. Voting will be open until noon EDT on Sept. 26.

The other colleges in the top 10 are as follows: Indiana University Bloomington, Sewanee: The University of the South, Furman University, Lewis & Clark, Kenyon College, University of Virginia, Colgate University, University of Notre Dame, and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Click here to see all the nominees and vote for your favorite college landscape.

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