by Micah Wilkins, web editor
Assistant Supervisor of Landscaping Renee Fortner announced that she will be leaving the college this summer after working here for four years.
Fortner, who has a two-year-old son, Asa, plans to spend more time with her family, and has long-term plans to attend graduate school for plant ecology.
Fortner has been a supportive and encouraging crew boss, according to sophomore Emily Ehley, who has worked on Landscaping for three semesters.
“She has the best management style. She works alongside people but also instructs them,” Ehley said. “She spends more time working with us and teaching us skills, and building up that ongoing relationship with students… She’s almost always working with someone.”
Fortner nominated Ehley for a work award, which she received on Work Day, April 4.
“Anything that you come up with, [Renee and Tom LaMuraglia, Landscaping Supervisor] will hear you out,” Ehley said. “They have so much respect for their student workers. We mostly come to them with no idea what we’re doing, but they still assume we’re competent. Their students work really hard because they want to live up to that.”
Fortner has lived in the Asheville area for 15 years. She graduated from the University of North Carolina Asheville where she studied biology. After she graduated, she was offered a job working on the Botanical Gardens of Asheville, which is on UNCA’s campus. Fortner has enjoyed working with college students ever since.
“I really like being around people your age,” Fortner said. “Ten years makes a big difference in age. They just have that energy about them. They’re really excited and they’re ready to go out and tackle the world. It’s good to be around that kind of energy.”
Fortner puts a lot of time and energy into her current job; however, at times it can be taxing. One of the main reasons she’s leaving, she said, is to be able to spend more time with her son.
“[This job] requires so much of you physically and mentally and emotionally,” Fortner said. “I get home from work and I’m so physically and mentally exhausted. It’s hard to keep up with the energy of a two-year-old.”
According to Sofia Trovato, who has been on Landscaping for two semesters, Fortner is not only a mother to Asa, but she also acts as the sort of mother-figure to the Landscaping Crew.
“I think it’ll be really different to adjust to life without Renee,” Trovato said. “She’s Tom’s other half. She provides this calm counterbalance to Tom’s in-your-face, high energy attitude. She’s the mother-figure in this. She’s like your mom who’s your best friend.”
Fortner’s last day working at the college will be June 15, but she and her family will likely stay in the area for another year before they move to wherever Fortner chooses to attend graduate school in 2013.
Fortner decided to postpone graduate school during her senior year of college, when her father was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
“When I graduated I felt like I was not in the state of mind to go to graduate school,” she said. “And then I got this job here, and had a kid. Life happens. But the idea of going back to grad school and pursuing biology has never really left the back of my mind.”
Fortner has only recently begun to “understand this place and how it works,” she said. Though it may not be your “typical work situation,” Fortner says, she will miss working alongside students and teaching them as they go.
“I guess [the college will hire] someone else who performs her job,” Ehley said. “But I don’t know how we’ll find someone who does it so well, with so much passion and care as she does.”