Hospitable, a strong introvert, art lover, horticulture fan and environmentalist?
Probably not a typical combination of attributes found on a job description.
Fortunately for the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum (NSA), Christina Hoyt happens to have it all.
As Executive Director of the NSA, Christina has to have her facts straight about plants. But it was the intersection of her personality and passions that made the job the right place to be.
At first glance, she is a shy, blonde woman, decked out in whatever gear is appropriate for the weather and task at hand. Today, it’s a pair of Sorel boots she recently purchased.
“I got a great deal on them when I was home for Christmas!”
Home was originally Minnesota, a place Christina remembers as one filled with all kinds of wildness. “I lived on the edge of everything. There were wetlands, prairie, lakes, forests. And my family always loved to be out in it. We went camping all the time.”
It was this engagement with the diversity and beauty in the outdoors that launched Christina onto a winding path eventually leading to Nebraska’s doorstep.
“When I started college in Iowa (at Cornell College), I was an Environmental Studies major. I loved art too, but my mom told me I needed to make money,” she said with a smile.
While the “science geek” in her loved her classes at Cornell, she felt something missing. The art element.
In the middle of her junior year, Christina decided to make a change and moved to Nebraska to join a group of friends she had met during a summer job in Colorado. She enrolled at UNL, changing her major to Horticulture and Landscape Design.
It wasn’t until an internship with the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum that she truly began to see her passions meld together.
What she discovered was an organization that was involved in education and in beautifying communities across the state through planning and planting green spaces.
“I wanted to address environmental challenges in my work and make a mark for myself, but found my thought-process shifting.”
The changes the NSA was effecting were real. And it wasn’t on the shoulders of one individual–it was hundreds of different people with different backgrounds, working together for the sake of beautifying the communities they lived in. In the process of this beautification, they were also doing great things: finding balance for the local ecosystem, learning how to sustain clean water, addressing pollinator decline–to name a few of the myriad of positive impacts.
Christina’s love for the environment and art were coming together and were blending with the realization of her passion for people.
While her perspective expanded, her skills and knowledge developed and Christina took on many jobs throughout the organization. Beginning as an intern, she filled a variety of roles before being hired as the Executive Director.
The unique thing about Christina is that she never talks about herself as it relates to the NSA. Instead, she always directs whoever is listening to the many people she teams up with.
“They wouldn’t tell you themselves, because they are too humble, but everyone I work with does great things,” she says. “One of the first elements I loved about this organization was the high level of grassroots support.”
She points out the reach of the organization, “We have 104 affiliate sites and 1100 members throughout the state. We have worked on green spaces in the middle of Omaha and spaces in the smallest community in the sandhills of northwest Nebraska. Our horticulturist grows native Nebraska plants in our greenhouses in Mead for communities and the public. And we have our Spring Affair plant sale coming up!”
When asked about a picture of her hanging high from ropes in Fontenelle Forest, she laughs, “And I’m scared of heights!” She describes the picture, noting an event the NSA participated in during an Earth Day celebration in Omaha just before the organization’s annual plant sale.
“Yeah, I normally like to go home after work and cook or read a good book. I’ve usually used up most of my energy at work.”
Yet Christina goes on to describe a meal she has shared with a neighbor or a good yoga class she has recently taken.
“I love plants,” she comments about her job, “but I love making our communities better even more.”
This is evident in every aspect of her life.
It is the rare individual that understands the connection between the land and the people living and caring for that space. Christina seems to have an innate grasp on the importance of this relationship because it is one she highly values for her own life and the lives of those she is closest to.
“I love that Nebraska isn’t just one place. It’s many places woven together. The challenge of this prairie state is that it’s generally difficult to grow things here, but that fact does not stop people from persisting.”
Christina Hoyt is doing her part to help weave beauty into these spaces.
Sometimes the things that make us who we are, lead us to the place we are supposed to be. For Christina, so many of the things that matter to her are right here, at the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum.