Seeds of Success

Russell Anderson M’17 has set a record for graduate certificates earned by one student, including four in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences that he added to his master’s in sustainable development and practice. Yet, he has still found time to launch his own enterprises in sustainable gardening, including a new vertical gardening product, Annual Explosion.

young man in blue stands next to wall of foliage
Russell Anderson M’17 has worked with local businesses, including Boca Fiesta restaurant in downtown Gainesville, Fla., to implement vertical gardening. Robert Landry

What’s your interdisciplinary education experience been like?
I started in the master’s program in summer 2015 and quickly was pulled into the Tropical Conservation and Development grad certificate. Getting into the climate science side of it, I realized what I wanted to do long-term: multinational consultancy. That gave me an opportunity to look at other schools at UF. Although, it’s been 18 hours a semester. I don’t recommend people doing that and also working full time. But that time is going to pass regardless, so you should capitalize on the resources and space you have when you have it. You never know what tomorrow brings.

What do graduate certificates provide beyond a standard degree?
It wasn’t until I got those certificates that I realized how much more I needed to know to get a holistic understanding of sustainability. For some of my graduating peers, they’re having trouble finding offers because they don’t have as much of a well-rounded experience. I’m feeling confident that I can go out there and if I don’t have the skills, I can network and coordinate to make things happen. There are a lot of opportunities coming down the pipe that are now in the realm of possibility.

How did you conceive your latest project?
I am working with Natalia Pegg, a local teacher. We were discussing horticulture and vertical gardening and lots of things about current products we didn’t like — material, expense, inefficiency. We developed a design that is lightweight, ergonomic, and easily transportable. It’s really cool to be working with a school teacher and refining those connections and capitalizing on our respective skill sets to make this thing work. Teamwork makes the dream work.

Why the name Annual Explosion?
This is a modular gardening system, so it is best used with annuals, replaced on a seasonal basis. So, you’ll have your fall splash and your spring splash — an explosion of color on your fence line or handrail. We can turn any grey thumb green. I think the market’s right for it.

Creating a Dorm-Room Business

Alinda Saintval ’19 is a zoology and visual arts studies major, who has parlayed her passion and talent for art into an enterprise painting personalized backpacks.

How did the backpack business begin?

Completely by accident. I was new to campus, didn’t know anybody, and wanted a way to express myself. I will paint anything. I painted an empty iced-tea can for fun and looked at my backpack and thought, why not? My cousin’s girlfriend saw my backpack and asked if I would make her one too. Another friend convinced me to post my work on social media. I never thought it would go anywhere, then suddenly I had 10,000 likes, 1,000 shares, and requests from other people for bags of their own.

Do you stick to one theme, or will you paint a customer’s request?

Most of my art has an African American theme to it because that’s what I’m interested in, but I will paint whatever inspires me at the moment. I do commissions of all kinds, as long as I know exactly what the customer has in mind.

Why do your backpacks resonate with your customers?

People are drawn to backpacks because they’re a portable means of expression. You’re not going to carry a framed painting around, but you can take your backpack anywhere and make a statement. I’ve been told that my work is inspiring, or helpful. It makes people feel better and gives them a push to do something of their own. Thanks to this feedback, I named my line “duende,” which means, “the ability to deeply move a person through art.”

Will you grow this business when you graduate?

I’m reluctant to call this a business. It’s more of a paid hobby. My intention after graduation is to enter the zoology program at Santa Fe college, which has a teaching zoo. I will get hands-on work with animals.

What will you take forward?

If there’s one piece of advice I would give another student, or could go back in time and tell myself, it’s to take the chance. Yes, something you try might not work out. But then again, it might. I’ve learned that that’s the beauty of it all.
– Terri Peterson

Other Interviews with Alinda

This Gator hits the books on the film set

Taylor Rouviere ’18 is a biology and psychology double major who plans to become a doctor. What sets her apart from her fellow pre-med students is that she does much of her studying from a film set. Rouviere is a recurring cast member of the Netflix original series Bloodline set and shot in the Florida Keys. She made time out of her busy schedule to chat with us about what it’s like to be a Gator and an actor.

Taylor Rouviere in front of backdrop reading "Netflix" and "Bloodline"Taylor Rouviere attends the Season 2 premiere of the Netflix original series, Bloodline, at Landmark Regent Theatre on Tuesday, May 24, 2016, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Steve Cohn/Invision for Netflix/AP Images)


“[Psychology] has enabled me to read the scripts in a different way since I now have a better understanding of why certain actions result in certain types of reactions.”

How do you feel your psychology studies affect or inform your acting, and vice versa?

Learning about how different people act in certain situations has enabled me to read the scripts in a different way since I now have a better understanding of why certain actions result in certain types of reactions.

Considering your academic goals, would you like to act on a medical drama?

Absolutely. I actually just binge-watched most of Grey’s Anatomy this summer, and it would be so fun to be able to do the two things that I love all at once. Plus, it would be a really unique way to learn a lot about medicine rather than just reading everything from a book.

As someone with a busy and exciting life, how do manage your time and energy in balancing your studies with your work on Bloodline?

I spend a lot of time studying while traveling and on set, and when I’m in Gainesville, I try my best to be diligent about my schoolwork and spend a great deal of time at the library. I also have really great professors and friends who help me out when I miss class.

Which of your celebrity co-stars were you most excited to meet/work with?

I grew up watching so many of the shows and movies that they were all in, such as Carrie, Scooby Doo, Legally Blonde, Friday Night Lights, The Dark Knight Rises, Wicked, etc., that it was just so overwhelming — in a good way! — to meet everyone at once.

– Rachel Wayne