Shasta College won the Team Spirit Photo Contest.
Photo: Leimone Waite


The 45th National Collegiate Landscape Competition (NCLC) wrapped up last week and more than 1,000 people participated in the event including 600 students from 40 schools and 347 industry professionals.

This was the second year NCLC was not held in-person due to the pandemic, but this did not stop students and professionals from networking, attending workshops and competing in individual challenges.

“At first, I was a little skeptical about the idea of a strictly virtual NCLC because it’s a really hands-on event and I was worried it wouldn’t be any fun, but I was wrong it’s been fantastic so far and the platform is really smooth and doesn’t have any hiccups,” says James Cunningham, a sophomore landscape development major from SUNY Cobleskill.

A huge thank you to the 19 major partners who helped make this event a reality, including STIHL, John Deere, Caterpillar, Gravely, Hunter/FX Luminaire, Husqvarna and many more.

NCLC offered 21 student challenges modeled after the 30 competitive events held during the in-person event. These challenges are on the ‘honor-system’ and are individually scored. Cunningham says this is his first NCLC as he missed out attending last year and he wanted to compete in the events.

“I planned on only competing in the hardscape event and business management event, but all of the events are open to anyone, so I have been competing in about 75 percent of the events so far,” Cunningham says. “It has been a lot of fun because you have 12 hours and the events don’t overlap in time this year, so you have the opportunity to try them all.”

While points from individual challenges didn’t roll up to a team score this year, NALP did offer a Team Competition in the platform. Students could earn a point for their team by participating in at least 3 interviews at the career fair; viewing at least 3 workshop presentations; visiting at least 3 partner pages.

Each winning school/team receives a custom NCLC-branded YETI Rambler bottle for each student and a $500 STIHL Equipment Certificate for the school/program.

The Team Competition winners are:

  • Less than 10 students: North Dakota State University
  • 10 – 24 students: Auburn University
  • 25 or more students: Mississippi State University

The NCLC Scoring Team is working to tabulate the individual challenge results, which will be posted on the NCLC website,, this week.

Also in place of the traditional Best Cheer competition, NALP celebrated school spirit with the Team Spirit Photo Contest. Students were encouraged to gather in-person or virtually wearing school colors and take a picture. The winning school is Shasta College in Redding, California and they will receive a $1,000 check from John Deere.

The NCLC platform also had gamification to encourage participation. Individuals could win points by watching partner videos, scheduling interviews at the career fair, watching student workshops, participating in student challenges, building out their profile, and more. The top three students, each receiving an Amazon gift card and NALP swag, are: Noah Stoner, BYU-Provo, Andrew White, Cuyahoga Community College, and Ashley Beazer, BYU-Provo.

“I welcomed the virtual format,” says Traci Carr, a senior horticulture and landscaping major at Shasta College. “The platform allowed 24-hour accessibility, it was well organized, and provided great gamification.”

Also on the NCLC platform was the career fair where students could schedule interviews with the 58 companies participating. Carr says she made a follow-up connection with Para Space Landscaping Inc. and also made connections with Medxcel, Grunder Landscaping Company and Vectorworks. She has a meeting next week with R.P. Marzilli & Company.

“Attending NCLC enables learners (students) to gain in-depth knowledge in smaller chunks of information, participation develops online communication skills, and gives opportunities to meet with and learn about others living and working throughout the world (USA, Europe, Canada),” Carr says.

Cunningham agrees the networking is an important part of NCLC. He says he spoke with James Wilson of Skyview Landscapes Inc., who is a member of the WIT collaborative. Wilson is also a SUNY Cobleskill alumnus.

For Martin Landscape Inc. based in Port Royal, South Carolina, this was their first year participating in NCLC.

“The NCLC was a great opportunity to get our feet wet with the competition and career fair,” says Wade Martin, owner and president of Martin Landscape. “We hope to be able to attend in person in the near future and are grateful for this virtual opportunity.”    

Martin says they believe it’s critical to be continuously in front of students.

“We value the education and success of the future leaders of the industry and want to contribute,” he says.

Another way NALP is supporting the future of the industry is through scholarships. This year NALP’s Foundation, through the generous support of its donors, funded 80 scholarships for a total of $111,635 this year.

Johnathan Hampton from Auburn University won the President’s Scholarship, which is the largest scholarship received – for $3,000. For the full list of scholarship recipients click here.