Dana Williamson sits on campus during her last days before graduating from Purdue University. Williamson accepted a job offer with a landscape design firm in Florida and will start her career in June.
Dana Williamson sits on campus during her last days before graduating from Purdue University. Williamson accepted a job offer with a landscape design firm in Florida and will start her career in June.
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Donning the traditional black cap and gown of Purdue University, Dana Williamson proudly accepted her degree in landscape architecture at her recent commencement ceremony.

Williamson, a senior from Cassopolis, Mich., was involved with student work, internships, undergraduate research and study-abroad programs during her undergraduate career.

Her work landed her the title of Outstanding Senior and Overall Student in Landscape Architecture this year.

But for Williamson, Purdue was much more than a school. It was a memory-packed, friend-filled home away from home.

Q: What are your plans after graduating?

A: I just got a job offer Monday. I’m going to move down to Florida to West Palm Beach in June. After this winter, I’m really looking forward to it. It’s a small design firm that pretty much works on designing mansions.

Q: What is landscape architecture?

A: I love doing outside work and being hands on, but landscape architecture is more like a desk job. You design on a computer program. It’s a lot of engineering, as well as architecture and planning. I have to be a graphic designer and be able to sell my ideas to clients.

I have to be good at science and know what plants to use and where to put them so that they survive. I’ll coordinate with clients to see what they want and design something that will look good.

Q: Why did you decide to study landscape architecture?

A: My dad. He studied landscape architecture at Purdue 20 years before me. That was something I grew up with and wanted to do, always. I love design, plants and nature. I like art. So it’s awesome because it involves all of those things.

Q: Did you enjoy your Purdue experience?

A: I think a lot of people see Purdue as school, work and long nights of studying. I’ve worked really hard to get good grades, but I’ve had a lot of life experience and fun here. This is where my life has been for more than four years. It’s more than just school.

Q: Have you had any internships?

A: Purdue’s program is really special. They built in an extra year for an internship. I went to Philadelphia 2012-2013. I also did a summer internship in California. I have a horticulture degree, as well. It’s nice to have that to lean back on.

Q: Have you studied abroad?

A: Best thing ever at Purdue. I was home schooled for eight years. Traveling abroad made me loosen up and see the world. I went to Sicily in Italy and then to England.

Traveling is my favorite thing. You go somewhere else and you realize your lifestyle doesn’t have to be the way it is. Not everyone does things like us. I just went to Guatemala last month, and it was a new experience. You get to taste different things and smell different things and see different things.

Q: Have you done any undergraduate research?

A: Yes. I worked with Purdue floriculture 2009-2012. We worked mainly with plant hormones and how to regulate plant height in poinsettias and Easter lilies.

I got to add the experience to my resume and see how greenhouses and experiments work as a freshman and sophomore. It helped me decide if I wanted to go a research route or design route.

Q: Do you feel a connection to plants and nature?

A: Definitely. Living on a farm, I would go to the woods and be alone. There was a solitude and a calm about it. I miss that.