November 2020 Message From the UCF Arboretum Director


               Patrick Bohlen, Ph.D. 


As we enter the holiday season, people might be struggling to find things to be thankful for in a year that has proven difficult for so many.  The corona virus pandemic has put a stress on everyone’s life, and has placed particular strain on those who have lost a loved one, lost their job, or had to make other difficult adjustments in response to COVID-19.  During this difficult time, we need all the cheering up we can get, and finding ways to give thanks, and things to be thankful for, takes on special meaning.

At the Arboretum, we feel very fortunate that our program has been able to continue to thrive this fall, despite the current restrictions.  Although we have not been able to operate at anywhere near our normal capacity, we have adapted in ways that have allowed us to continue to provide exceptional opportunities for our students, and allowed them to continue to make meaningful contributions to our program.

It was not clear at the beginning of the semester how we would be able to adapt without our usual large groups of volunteers, which have been critical to our success in past years.  Thankfully, with our newly implemented Learning by Leading™ (LxL) program we now have an organizational structure that provided the staff support we needed to keep our base operations running.

Our Fall 2020 LxL cohort included eleven paid co-coordinators, who collectively supervised 20 interns.  We followed UCF’s requirements for social distancing, reducing the number of students that could be in the office at one time, wearing face masks at all times, and scheduling activities to reduce overlap of staff.  Students who were exposed to the virus self-quarantined as needed until they were given clearance from the Student Health Center to return to work.

Once we became more comfortable that we could succeed working in small groups, we started limited volunteer shifts with minimal participants in October.  Pre-corona virus we hosted up to twelve volunteer shifts per week with over a hundred volunteers per week toward the end of the semester.  Being reduced to 10 volunteers per week meant that we had to scale back our expectations and adjust our work loads.  Overall, our experience has been a COVID success story, which gives us a great reason to give thanks!

Some of our activities this fall are highlighted in this newsletter, such as hosting a very special visit by President Cartwright, his wife Melinda, and Dr. Dupras Interim Dean of the College of Sciences who toured our Arboretum Park site in October.  We hope you were able to follow us through social media to keep up with our other activities, such as our successful self-guided Pumpkin Walk hosted in lieu of our usual Halloween Spooktacular event.  Another fantastic success story this fall has been our student-run biweekly plant sales which brought in over $8,000 in revenue this semester!  We hope to continue to build on that success in the future.

There are many good causes to support and many people in need right now, but we hope that you will consider donating to our program during the UCF Giving Tuesday event occurring on Dec. 1 as advertised in this newsletter.  Fundraising is essential to the continued success of our program and our ability to fulfill our long list of “insurmountable opportunities.”  On behalf of the entire Arboretum staff I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving, and a Happy Holiday Season!

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