By: Stacie Sikora
Throughout the years sustainability has become an increasingly important issue on campuses nationwide. With the increased concern comes an increase in opportunities for students to get involved in making their campus – and the world – a more sustainable place. Delaware State University, the only historically black university and only recognized Tree Campus USA® school in Delaware, is one of those campuses that has made sure sustainability education and hands-on experience are accessible to its students.
“I didn’t have these types of opportunities when I was in college,” DSU alumnus and Toyota Financial Services Corporate Manager John Ridgeway said. “I walk around the campus today, which I graduated from in 1975, and it’s exciting for me and very inspirational to see this type of commitment.”
When it comes to education, the Claude E. Phillips Herbarium offers classes on plants, trees and sustainability, including master gardener training.
Beyond courses, students can get involved in the herbarium and arboretum by becoming a student worker or a student representative on the Campus Tree Advisory Committee.
“They’re doing hard work and learning a lot at the same time,” herbarium professor Susan Yost said.
Hands-on learning through the Tree Campus USA program is one of the main goals of the partnership between the Arbor Day Foundation and Toyota.
“The values (of DSU’s president, Dr. Williams, and Toyota) are aligned. One of the goals Dr. Williams said that stuck with me is to make lives easier in the environment that we serve and the environment we reside. That’s one of our core values as well and one of my corporate responsibilities,” Ridgeway said.
Tree education can go outside of traditional sustainability and horticultural learning. Yost has led tours through the herbarium and arboretum for literature classes learning about romantic poets. Nature inspired the romantics’ writings and continues to inspire writers today. Yost stresses the importance of tree conservation and preservation for literary growth.
“Campuses should be a part of Tree Campus USA because everyone has more involvement,” Yost said. “Their hearts are really in it. There are more people planting every year, which will lead to more programs.”