Michele Nelson

What is your professional background/expertise?

My professional background is Environmental Science and Agricultural Education. I have a BS in Earth and Environmental Science and a Masters in Agricultural Education. I have 5 years of work experience working in the arenas of cooperative extension, Park and Planning, and all levels of Education.

How did you come to know/work with Kelley Oklesson?

I began working with Ms. Oklesson during her tenure at Neighborhood Design Center and my tenure as Urban Agriculture Coordinator at University of Maryland Extension. Kelley and I met one day as a briefing on a new community garden called, “Field of Greens.” She explained design concepts and ideas with great enthusiasm and vibrancy. I could tell that her vision and creativity aligned with the mission of the project had come alive in her work.

What was something that you learned while working with Kelley?

I learned how to map out garden plots, be patient and flexible, and every encounter was a knowledge refresher where design knowledge, plant knowledge, or life knowledge. She teaches without plans or outlines but always leaves you with something you didn’t have before!

Were there any challenges or changes in plans and how did Kelley handle it?

Field of Greens was built in Phases – often in times of staff transitions and other projects. We had Ameri Corps VISTAs so the sustainability of the project really rested in my hands at the end of the project. We also were awarded grants and working through some government processes was challenging. Kelley was honest and upfront about taking the training wheels off and letting me manage the project post design. She was also honest about what her schedule could and could not allow, she enforced boundaries in a respective manner that wasn’t offensive or off putting. Kelley was and is always patient, she remained focused on the goal (or on ensured you were helped to the goal), and optimistic that everything is just a minor bump in the road. Her passion is a constant driver in her work.

What did you enjoy about working with Kelley and how did she compare to working with other design professionals?

Kelley was my first experience with a design professional and she had multiple other certifications that rounded out her experience and credibility. She was my first and by far, my favorite! She is realistic and resourceful, she works within budget and offers multiple options. Kelley is extremely flexible and isn’t afraid to tell you when something isn’t working or when you need to regroup for a minute. That is important in collaboration, you have to be sure you’re all going in the right direction and on the right page.

What piece of advice would you give those considering hiring a design professional?

Be transparent about your vision – about what you really want with minimum constraints and then let the design professional paint the picture for you, that’s the best part! Let their creativity and passion, CREATE or DESIGN. There is always another sketch just waiting to happen in their brain.

Tell us a joke.

I’m all out of popsicle sticks, sorry 🙂

Share an inspiring quote.

“An investment in life is an investment in change to the end.”

What does the world need more of? Less of?

The world needs less fear, less perfection, more courage, and more acceptance.