Journeys of Dr. G at Tyler Arboretum

The sabbatical project continues, exploring all that Tyler Arboretum has to offer

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Fall 2015 Special Events/Communications intern Tom O’Donnell

When Penn State Brandywine senior Tom O’Donnell began his internship at Tyler Arboretum this fall, he had no idea his title of “Special Events/Communications Intern” would translate to him being “the everything guy.” I sat down and chatted with Tom after Pumpkin Days to hear more about what he’s been up to and how his internship has been progressing.

Tom ODonnellTom immediately said to me that he is having a very well-rounded internship. He gets to work on something different every day, and he thoroughly enjoys working with different people. As a senior Communications major, Tom is especially pleased that what he has been learning in class is being directly applied during his internship. He shared an example of learning about newsletter writing in one of his courses – and now, he has contributed to Tyler Topics! (he has also learned that the phrase “you are always going to be edited” rings true…)

This is Tom’s first internship, and he had no idea what to expect when he started. He didn’t know that he would be able to assist with event planning, writing press releases, checking membership lists and names…. the list goes on! Tom strongly encourages all students to consider an internship at Tyler. Although Tyler internships are not paid, Tom shared that, “you get your money’s worth.” Recently, Tom attended a career fair on campus, and one of the employers he spoke with directly pointed out his Tyler internship listed on his resume and told him that an internship at a non-profit looks really good.

In addition to the work experience, Tom said that the Tyler staff are, “really, really nice and fun to talk to.” He said the part of his internship he will miss the most is the people, but he has a strong interest in volunteering for Tyler in the future. Tom shared with me that there’s much more work going into [running] a non-profit than what he feels people realize. Certainly, Tom, Tyler will continue to benefit and grow from your passion and talents you’ll share with the organization in the future!

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Update on Tyler intern alumna Victoria Bolden

“I encourage people everywhere to get to know the people and places in their community and see what is out there!”

Back in Summer 2012, Penn State Brandywine student Victoria Bolden was named a community intern with the campus Laboratory for Civic Engagement. Funded with a generous donation by David and Majorie Rosenberg, Victoria was able to pursue a summer internship with any organization that has a mission of civic/community engagement. For Victoria, there was no question where she wanted to spend her summer – she joined the Horticulture crew at Tyler Arboretum. I wrote a one-page profile about Victoria that summer (available here as a PDF), where she described her internship and provided the quote at the top of this blog post.

img-intern-propFast forward to Fall 2015, when I recently had an opportunity to reconnect with Victoria. She has now graduated from Penn State University, completing her degree in horticulture with a minor in entomology from the University Park campus. She is currently spending her time in a year-long, full-time internship at Morris Arboretum in Philadelphia as the 2015-16 Martha J. Wallace Endowed Plant Propagation Intern (see a description of her duties). While a student, Victoria also completed internships at Longwood Gardens and Mt. Cuba, but I wanted to ask Victoria to reflect upon her experience as an intern at Tyler and how her time at Tyler has helped her as she continues in her career.

Victoria shared that she feels so fortunate that as a Tyler intern, she was able to do it all! She said her education as an intern was incredibly valuable, as this was her first introduction to a variety of plants. She also gained an introduction to how all parts of the Arboretum are run. She enjoyed meeting staff from all of the offices at Tyler and especially spending time alongside the Tyler volunteers as she performed her duties. She feels the education program at Tyler really stands out from area arboreta. Her internship was incredibly hands-on, not just “look at this” or “show and tell.” She said she still values her Tyler connections and have continued to use Tyler staff as a reference for future internships.

In summary, Victoria said that her Tyler Arboretum internship was a great introduction to public gardens and the educational opportunities and programming (especially working with families) that places like Tyler can offer. As we wrapped up our conversation, Victoria encourages anyone that has ever entered the Arboretum, “don’t forget to come back and visit your Tyler family!” Certainly, Victoria still feels that she is a part of Tyler, and I look forward to seeing her at the Arboretum on a future visit.


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Summer 2015 Horticulture intern Luqmaan Richard

“At first, I was the intern. Then I said, ‘I’m Tyler.’ In the end, I was one of them.”  —  Luq Richard, Horticulture Intern at Tyler Arboretum, March-July 2015

As a university professor, I’m always encouraging students to go out and get experience in their field through an internship. I have interviewed two of Tyler’s college interns in the past and written blog posts about their experiences (horticulture intern Emily Pennock and communications intern Jelsy Kravatz), so I’m aware of the amazing mentoring that takes place by the Tyler staff during an internship.

I recently sat down with Penn State Brandywine student Luqmaan Richard, who has just completed five months as an intern with Tyler Arboretum’s Horticulture Department. I had not met Luq before, and sometimes when I sit down with a student for the first time, he/she will hold back during a meeting. This certainly wasn’t the case with Luq! His energy and enthusiasm for talking about his experience at Tyler was a challenge for me to keep up with, and I hope I have done a good job capturing what Luq took away from the internship (when a student starts with “special” and “magical,” then you know you are in for a great conversation!).

Luq Richard, Penn State Brandywine student and Tyler Horticulture Intern, 2015

Luq Richard, Penn State Brandywine student and Tyler Horticulture Intern, 2015

Luq is pursuing a major in plant sciences at Penn State, but he likes to say that his passion for science and the outdoors came from growing up in the forest (and he is still growing up in the forest, where he receives a wisdom and appreciation for all life). Luq had gardening and landscaping experience in the past, but his time at Tyler Arboretum was his first true internship. And Luq was quick to point out that he did not “feel” like an intern for very long. He was able to wake up every day and know that he was going to do something fun, whether it be helping a staff member with an existing project, helping with the cross-pollination in the chestnut orchard, to working with the volunteers (who were “really fun”), to being able to take ownership of his own project. Luq embraced being part of the Tyler community, “working to contribute” and to “make something more beautiful.” Luq jokingly nicknamed his time at Tyler as the “Goldilocks Internship,” because it wasn’t just what he learned about plants, but also his interactions with the people at Tyler – “everyone’s heart was open, even on my last day… they are good people that every day helped me grow.”

I asked Luq if there was any particular project he worked on that he was most proud of, or any place in Tyler where he feels he left his mark. He said it would be the Itea plant, located on the path from the visitor’s center, on the right side across from the Storybook tree house. Luq said it was the time of Tyler at Twilight in June, and he knew this was a very important event for Tyler. As everyone on the staff was busy making the last-minute preparations, Luq saw this plant and knew it would be the last plant visitors see before turning the corner to head to the tent for TAT. He wanted the Itea to look really nice for the visitors that evening and on future visits, so he spent hours clipping the Itea to bring more life and energy into the plant. (looks great, Luq!) Be sure to take a look at the Itea on your next visit to Tyler and think of Luq!

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Luq really wanted me to emphasize to any students that might be reading this blog post that, “you will be respected and trusted as an equal, and not treated as an underling.” Luq is transitioning to getting ready for the fall semester, but he said, “if I had one more week, I would just keep working at Tyler Arboretum.” I’m going to keep an eye out for Luq at Tyler – I have a feeling I’ll be seeing him on the trails and volunteering at some of Tyler’s events!

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What a communications internship is like at Tyler Arboretum

“Tyler Arboretum goes above and beyond in providing an excellent, well-rounded internship experience to prepare you for any post-graduation opportunity.”  —  Jelsy Kravatz, Communications Intern at Tyler Arboretum, April 2014

This month, I had the pleasure of meeting with Jelsy Kravatz, the Communications Intern at Tyler Arboretum this spring.  Jelsy is a senior at Immaculata University, majoring in Communications with an emphasis in Public Relations and Journalism.  Jelsy is from the local area, and she has been visiting Tyler Arboretum since she was a kid.  Jelsy has always had a passion for volunteering and the outdoors, and her work with non-profits like Tyler Arboretum solidified her interests in pursuing a career as a communications specialist.  It was one of her communications professors that recommended Jelsy apply for the internship.

Meet Jelsy Kravatz!

Meet Jelsy Kravatz!

I was so pleased that Jelsy was willing to sit down and talk with me about her internship experience – I know that at times, undergraduate students get nervous speaking with professors that they have never had in class before.  But Jelsy was bursting with so much exciting news and stories to share about her internship, I had a hard time taking notes to capture the conversation!  Jelsy’s goal in sitting down with me was for me to help her get the word out to other college students about the full experience Tyler offers to their interns.  So, let’s see if I can convince any undergraduate students reading this post to apply for a Tyler Arboretum internship (listed on the Internships at Tyler page).

Before I could ask any questions, Jelsy wanted me to know that the number one part of her internship has been the people of Tyler Arboretum.  She said the environment at Tyler is “exciting – you get a friendly, welcoming feeling every day.”  She said the staff makes you feel included and that you are not just looked at as an intern.  In fact, Jelsy has been able to sit in on committee meetings and even be a part of committees where she can take on tasks and responsibilities!  Jelsy has contributed creative ideas for Tyler’s annual events, and she’s thrilled that she was able to come up with her own creative ideas and “run with them.”

One of the programming features I find unique to Tyler’s internship program is that the interns are encouraged to shadow staff from across all of the departments, beyond the one where students have their internship.  Jelsy certainly took advantage of this opportunity and has been shadowing staff from the education and horticulture departments, highlighting how “really cool” it was to go around the property with Director of Horticulture Mike Karkowski on a gator.  Jelsy even got to shadow Tyler’s Executive Director Rick Colbert.

Jelsy gives much credit to Tyler’s Communications Specialist Laura McPhail.  She said that Laura has been an incredible teacher and mentor, allowing Jelsy to write articles for the newsletter, update the website, write press releases, and post on Tyler’s social media accounts.  Jelsy also was required to do research to obtain facts and the background for the topics she worked on, giving her what she referred to as a “full experience.”  Jesly said she is “really proud” when she sees something get published about Tyler Arboretum.

Jelsy worked at Tyler three days a week and put in 15 hours per week for her internship – and then an extra 100 hours, because she loved the internship so much.  Jelsy couldn’t state enough how much it meant to her that she was able to apply what she had learned in class and even improve upon her skills, such as writing and formatting more efficiently and in AP style writing.  In her own words… “I have learned the ins and outs of the PR world, and I have been able to challenge myself with new opportunities every day.”

In a nutshell, these are the four biggest points of the internship Jelsy wants every undergraduate student to know:

(1) The people at Tyler Arboretum make it worthwhile;

(2) You will fall in love with Tyler Arboretum;

(3) The experience as a communications intern at Tyler Arboretum cannot be matched by any other organization; and

(4) Because of the internship, Jelsy feels prepared for any fast-paced PR job in the future.

Jelsy’s first volunteer event was helping out at the Pancake Breakfast and Maple Sugaring Celebration back in February.  When her internship finishes, Jelsy plans to stay on as a volunteer to help in all areas of the arboretum, and she’s hoping to grow the network of Tyler volunteers in their teens and 20’s.  I’m sure I will not only see Jelsy in person but “in the press” in connection to Tyler, as she continues to raise awareness about Tyler Arboretum being “a community treasure.”

Perhaps I should add another bullet point to Jelsy’s list from above… one comment that I as a faculty member found to be one of Jelsy’s most powerful statements – “I don’t have to be a college graduate to make a difference.”  If I was grading Jelsy on her internship experience, she would earn an A+ from me!




What an internship is like at Tyler Arboretum

I learned last month that Tyler’s Director of Horticulture Mike Karkowski had four undergraduate students join his crew as summer interns.  Some students from Penn State Brandywine have served as interns or completed independent study projects at Tyler – Abbey Dufoe was a Communications Intern and completed a Google Earth project on the Tree Houses, Victoria Bolden was a Horticulture intern, Lauren Orner and Zanya Stephenson did a GPS/Google Earth project on the Green Trail, Aimee Ralph completed a project that integrated QR codes with the 2012 Tyler Plant Sale (see the video at the end of this post) – and these are my campus students from just the past two years!  But I wanted to meet with a student interning this summer and hear more about what a typical student works on and learns during his/her time with Tyler.

Meet Emily Pennock, Summer 2013 Horticulture Intern at Tyler Arboretum.

Meet Emily Pennock, Summer 2013 Horticulture Intern at Tyler Arboretum.

It turns out that two of the summer interns are students at Penn State University (what a coincidence!), and Emily Pennock was kind enough to take the time to meet with me and share details of her summer experience.  Emily is starting her sophomore year at the Penn State – University Park campus this fall, majoring in Plant Sciences with the Horticulture option.  She is from Bryn Mawr and has known about Tyler Arboretum all of her life.  Emily started her summer with many ideas and places where she wanted spend her time.  She soon found out that with only one year of college under her belt, many places were not willing to give her a position with next-to-no experience.  She knew that an unpaid internship would give her the experience that she needed to move forward in her discipline.  When she saw on the Tyler website the posting of available internship positions, she applied and interviewed with Mike Karkowski.  Immediately, she felt Mike was very welcoming and she knew she made the right decision of where to spend her summer!

Emily shared with me that although the interns are brought into one department, all of the interns learn about everything at the Arboretum.  Even though Emily thought she would be getting an introduction just to plants and the Horticulture Department, she received a full introduction to public gardens, Tyler’s Education Department, and even had lunch with the other interns and Tyler’s Executive Director Rick Colbert.  She said she was able to get her hands and feet into everything, and her range of experiences included learning how to use the Arboretum’s machinery and how take apart and clean a chainsaw.

I asked Emily what was one of the best parts of her internship.  Without hesitation, she said, “working with the people at Tyler.”  Emily said she felt accepted immediately by everyone and never felt that she was treated any differently being a student and an intern.  She said her conversations with the Tyler staff while weeding and trimming made mundane and repetitive tasks educational and fun.  Emily also appreciated being able to work with other volunteers that joined the Horticulture Department on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

I had to put on my “faculty member hat” and ask her what she felt would me most valuable to her studies back at Penn State.  She said after spending so much time gardening and weeding with the Horticulture crew and volunteers, she has learned so many plant names and is much more familiar and confident with the identification characteristics of plants.  Of course, getting a full internship experience beyond just plant identification is something she feels very fortunate to have received this summer.  She definitely recommends that all students look at the internship possibilities at Tyler, during the summer and academic year (and I agree!).

In wrapping up our conversation, Emily said she really feels that Tyler “is a place for everybody,” that the gardens and trails and history and tree houses all provide something for everyone to enjoy.  Emily also greatly appreciates how Tyler is very focused on interacting with its visitors.  She said she is definitely coming back with her family, and I hope to see her again, too (maybe on the trails, one of Tyler’s places she personally enjoyed).  Or, maybe I’ll have to look for her at her favorite spot at the Arboretum she found while weeding near the lilacs – a tree with a low, long branch that provides plenty of shade and a great spot to read a good book.

Below: Video of the QR Code project carried out by undergraduate researcher Aimee Ralph at the 2012 Tyler Arboretum Plant Sale.