Arboretum Director’s Message

Gardens are places where people grow plants, but gardens grow people too.  University gardens in particular are committed to the growth and development of people through education, research and community involvement. In addition to helping plants and environments thrive, we help people thrive by creating beautiful, sometimes wondrous spaces, by providing opportunities for people to pause, reflect and engage with nature, and by developing knowledge and the capacity for personal growth in our students.

The impact of the Arboretum program on students’ lives has expanded tremendously in the past few years, in no small part to the efforts of our staff, especially the dynamic duo of Program Director, Jennifer Elliott and Program Coordinator, Kelsie Johnson.  Through their tireless commitment to improve and expand Arboretum programs, we have more than doubled volunteering, which exceeded 9,000 hours last year, involving nearly 1,000 students.  We have also more than doubled the number of credits we offer through internships and independent research.  We’ve been able to accomplish all of his without any increase in support from the University, in part by increasing our reliance on student workers and interns.

We are excited to announce that we are taking our student training and development to a new level this summer as we launch our new Learning by Leading™ (LxL) program based on a model developed at the University of California (UC) Davis Arboretum and Public Garden.  Jen Elliott and I attended an immersion training experience for this program at Davis in March, where we were joined by leaders of other university gardens from around the country, including University of Georgia, Louisiana State, Cornell University, Rutgers and Humbert University in Toronto.

The LxL program is based on the premise that students learn best by leading.  The heart of the program is guiding students through a leadership ladder that includes making them co-coordinators who help create and lead program initiatives.  We are training our first cohort of co-coordinators this summer, which includes Madison Schmidt who is featured in this issue’s student spotlight.  Look for more updates in the future as we develop this program further and watch it start to bear fruit.

Our program depends on growing friendships too, and we were elated by the success of our friend-raising event at the Arboretum in March. The event would not have been possible without our sponsors, our student staff, college fundraising staff, and all our friends and supporters who showed up for the event.  We could not have asked for better weather on that beautiful March evening.  Many people suggested that we make this an annual event; I am not sure we are quite ready for that, but with friends, all things are possible!

One of the most exciting things that will focus much of our attention in the coming years is implementing our new master plan for the original Arboretum site, as detailed in this issue’s lead article.  It is exhilarating to envision the future of the site and to start to put into place the individual elements that will transform it into an extraordinary place that captures the dreams and visions of current and past directors. As our impact continues to grow, we realize that we cannot achieve our dreams without our friends and supporters, and we thank you for your continued support.

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