Like most people who are passionate about plants, Dr. Sheri Dorn was influenced as a child by grandparents and a lovely next-door-neighbor who loved plants. She likes to think it was a given that she would enjoy a profession in horticulture. After all, she won her fifth-grade spelling contest with “forsythia”! When Sheri was 12, she began mowing grass for neighbors and that progressed into pruning shrubs and opportunities to renovate landscapes. She had her first interaction with Extension in middle school when she asked the local agent for information about how to start Hawaiian wood rose seeds that her parents brought back from a trip to the islands. All throughout middle and high school, Sheri pursued science projects involving African violets, Kalanchoe, and plant tissue culture. As a senior in high school, she interned with a local landscape retail nursery and proceeded to apply early decision to Virginia Tech’s undergraduate horticulture program.
Immediately following graduation, Sheri was hired by VT’s Consumer Horticulture Extension Specialist, Dr. Diane Relf. She introduced Sheri to the human dimension of horticulture, tasking her with support to the People-Plant Council and eventually coordinating the Virginia Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Program. Relf’s strong influence on Sheri is seen in Sheri’s history with Extension and Master Gardeners, her work with the National Initiative for Consumer Horticulture, and her current research interests. Sheri completed a Master’s program in Horticulture under Relf’s direction before leaving VT to pursue business opportunities. Following nearly 10 years in landscape contracting and retail nursery management, Sheri returned to Extension as an Agriculture and Natural Resources agent in Roanoke, Virginia, serving both commercial and residential audiences and coordinating a medium-sized Master Gardener program.
In 2012, Sheri was hired by UGA to coordinate the Georgia Master Gardener Extension Volunteer (MGEV) Program. She also serves as an Extension Specialist for Consumer Ornamentals. She works with agents all over the state who address consumer horticulture programming with MGEVs. Her signature training is a three-part webinar series, GROUNDWORKS, which guides agents in MGEV program coordination, in addition to other trainings related to program coordination. Sheri also offers trainings in ornamental plant identification and landscape use and answers ornamental plant questions through DDDI. Each year, agents can find a listing of her trainings (typically webinars) in the ETS guide.
In 2019, Sheri completed a PhD in Horticulture at UGA, under the direction of Dr. Bodie Pennisi. Her dissertation chronicled the findings of a national study of Extension Master Gardeners and their motivations for supporting Extension programming. Sheri is most interested in the human dimension of horticulture, why people garden, and the community and health benefits they receive from gardening. She values opportunities to collaborate with agents and MGEVs in exploring not only the value of plants to people, but the meaningful act of gardening and tending plants. She delights in introducing people (even agents!) to plants and gardening and helping them to develop an “I can do this!” attitude toward plants and gardening.