Journeys of Dr. G at Tyler Arboretum

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

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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!


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.