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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Getting a Fresh START at Tyler Arboretum

Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 6.47.56 PMBefore classes even began at Penn State Brandywine this fall, the campus provided an opportunity for incoming freshmen to “get rooted in service.” The Fresh START Day of Service, held on Friday, August 21, encouraged new students to have their first service opportunity through Penn State that would lay the foundation for them to continue service through their academic career and their lifetime.  Stephanie Jones, Associate Director of Student Affairs at Penn State Brandywine, stated, “Our hope is that, through Fresh START, new students will develop lifelong civic engagement and build leadership skills through service.”

And just where did these energetic and enthusiastic incoming freshmen get their Fresh START of service? – at Tyler Arboretum!

Stephanie worked with Julia Lo Ehrhardt, Tyler Arboretum’s Volunteer Coordinator, to offer indoor and outdoor volunteer opportunities.  Some students assisted the fall school program mailer (over 700 pieces of mail were prepared!) and helped prepare for the upcoming Butterfly Festival, while others who were more outdoor oriented and/or interested in ecology or conservation worked with Tyler’s horticulture department in invasive removal and clearing areas of weeks and unruly plants from the Chestnut Orchard to the Wister Rhododendron Garden.  I was able to pop in on the different groups and see some incredible hard work on such a warm day – with all students and Tyler staff with wide smiles on their faces!

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I think this post-event comment from Julia really summarizes what these volunteer efforts mean to Tyler Arboretum:

It is community support that helps Tyler to engage people in an outdoor setting that is joyous and beautiful while conserving our natural resources.  This wonderful outdoor space exists because people like you care enough to volunteer.

I encourage all K-12 schools, colleges and universities, and even other community groups and businesses to gather a group of people and all receive a Fresh START in “getting rooted in service” at Tyler Arboretum!


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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!