Ornamental horticulturalist and extension specialist tapped as next Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture head

Portrait of an asian woman with a short hair cut in front of flower bedsOn July 1, Mengmeng Gu will join the College of Agricultural Sciences as department head for the Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture. She brings experience in both horticulture and landscape design to her new leadership role, with a focus on sustainability and a career-long commitment to teaching, research and outreach, the three pillars of the land-grant mission.

“We are excited to have Dr. Gu join our team as the leader of the Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture,” said James Pritchett, Dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences and Director of the Colorado Agricultural Experiment Station. “Dr. Gu’s record of accomplishments and energetic leadership style means that she is perfectly matched with the opportunities for inspiring career trajectories for our students, elevating our engagement with communities and industry, and research to address critical challenges of society.”

Collaborative Approach

Gu currently serves as a professor in Texas A&M University’s Department of Horticultural Sciences and extension ornamental horticulturist with the Texas AgriLife Extension Service. She takes a collaborative and interdisciplinary approach to her work in ornamental horticulture, working closely with partners in other disciplines within agriculture and from the green industry. Her research focuses on using biochar, an organic charcoal-like substance made from agricultural waste, as a sustainable alternative to peat moss in potting mix and holistic management of crapemyrtle bark scale, a new insect pest in the Southeastern U.S. that affects the country’s most common flowering tree. 

She has also proudly trained and mentored award-winning students who have gone on to be industry leaders, and currently serves as Vice President for the American Society for Horticulture Science, a role that connects her to industry professionals from across the U.S. 

Gu earned her Ph.D. in plant science and horticulture from the University of Arkansas after earning a B.S. and M.S. in landscape architecture from Beijing Forestry University. She joined Texas A&M in 2012. 

Looking Ahead

Gu is arriving at Colorado State University at an exciting time. When the new Nutrien Agricultural Sciences Building opens on campus this spring, the Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture’s more than 500 students and 50 employees will have a new home that features state-of-the art research labs and technology, classrooms and studios, and increased opportunities collaboration and innovation. 

“Colorado and CSU are at the forefront of many global issues – especially sustainability – and that was a draw for me,” Gu says. “We have a good foundation, and I hope to contribute to the growth of our programs, the college, and the community as a whole.” 

In Denver, the second building at the new CSU Spur campus is set to open this spring with a focus on agriculture. The food-focused Terra building will include several programs powered by the department, including food production on display through controlled environment horticulture, and a rooftop greenhouse and greenroof showcasing and conducting research on urban agricultural techniques. 

“We are the perfect conduit between rural and urban. A lot of us may not be doing vegetable or fruit production, but we may have a peach tree in our yard, or a small garden plot where we grow,” Gu says. “Horticulture is a great way of teaching urban folks something about agriculture on a small scale. The outreach potential from horticulture is huge.” 

Connecting Colorado Communities 

As a self-described lifelong learner, Gu is eager to learn more about the state of Colorado and local agriculture and communities. 

“I look forward to reaching out to stakeholders and potential students across Colorado,” Gu says, noting that Colorado is less expansive than Texas. “I look forward to connecting communities and the stakeholders that they help serve.” 

From Western Colorado to the Arkansas Valley, the department works closely with the Colorado Agricultural Experiment Station network to serve communities and leverage scientific expertise. 

“Dr. Gu’s contributions and active engagement with industry and community stakeholders is noteworthy,” said Pritchett. “She is well known for her thoughtful and rigorous approach, and now she has the opportunity to lead a department at CSU whose legacy is the same.”