Planting Her Future

Student Olivia Loyack creates gardens to protect pollinators


Ask Olivia Loyack what her career plans are and she responds without hesitation.

“I want to work with bees,” says the Cary, N.C., native.

And she’s wasting no time getting started.

This first-year student at NC State is busy protecting bees through the planting of pollinator-friendly gardens. She started in high school by planning and planting pollinator gardens at her house and church. Then ‒ before she became an NC State student ‒ she began work on a pollinator garden on campus.

Downstream from Lake Raleigh on Centennial Campus, a group of students operate SOUL (Students for Organic United Living) Garden. In October 2016, the garden flooded during Hurricane Matthew and the existing pollinator garden was destroyed.

Loyack jumped at the opportunity to rebuild the garden. She designed the garden’s structure, selected pollinator-friendly plants and organized an August planting day with student volunteers.

“That’s the biggest garden I’ve done,” she says.

With those plants in soil, Loyack moved on to developing a pollinator garden at Lake Johnson Park, a City of Raleigh park located near campus. As an intern with the Young Adult Leadership Project, Loyack coordinated with City of Raleigh Parks and Recreation to select a garden site. She also organized an online fundraising campaign to finance purchase of plants and recruited student volunteers. Students helped plant the garden in mid-October, and Loyack has continued to coordinate volunteers who have weeded and watered the garden this fall.

“It was a more intensive project. It took a lot of planning,” she says. “This project made me more confident to know what I can do, what I’m able to do.”

These opportunities for real-world experience are one of the reasons Loyack chose NC State. In addition to her studies as a Biological Sciences major, she’s already involved in bee-related research and hopes soon to learn more about beekeeping.

“NC State stood out as a place that helps you,” she says. “They want you to succeed and go out of their way to help you do it.”