The University of Delaware Botanic Gardens (UDBG) rely on the work of student interns year-round, and especially throughout the summer, to keep the garden’s plant collections looking pristine.
Now, thanks to a generous endowment established by the Parvis family in honor of David A., Martha T., and Robert A. Parvis, the UDBG will be guaranteed to have a student intern working every summer.
Martha T. Parvis worked as a secretary for the Longwood Graduate Program for many years and the endowment is the first of its kind for the UDBG, and Robert Lyons, interim chair for the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, said that it is uncommon for a garden to receive such an endowment.
“It is a holy grail for gardens to get an endowment for student programs and we’ve been very fortunate through their generosity to make it happen,” said Lyons.
John Frett, professor of landscape horticulture in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and director of the UDBG, echoed these sentiments saying that from the UDBG’s standpoint, the endowment is truly unique and will impact students for years to come.
“Endowments for this type of work are extraordinarily difficult to come by and it’s great to have that security, to know there will always be at least that one student that comes in and has that experience,” said Frett. “The impact of this endowment on the garden and on the student population is huge and it’s through their generosity that this is going to be possible.”
The UDBG had five student interns working in the gardens over the summer. Through the program, the students worked with UDBG staff members to learn garden maintenance skills and gain experience in public horticulture while earning an hourly wage.
The students work outside performing a wide variety of maintenance tasks, such as mowing, weed control, planting, and hardscape installation. Additionally, they develop specialized skills such as curatorial work, detailed pruning, propagation, and plant identification.
Interns also assist with the annual benefit plant sales, which may include plant propagation and maintenance, labeling, set-up and plant staging and sales. Other potential activities include educational programming, marketing, web site administration, plant curation, and special event planning.
Students work individually and in groups to accomplish goals set forth for the summer. They learn by example the importance of teamwork and collaboration required to manage UDBG’s collections.
Students familiar with horticulture can use the internships to expand their horizons, discover new aspects in the diverse industry, and help build their resumes. Financial support for student interns is provided by Patrons of the Spring Plant Sale and other generous benefactors.
This endowment will now help UDBG direct their budgeted resources to other programmatic areas that support students and their research.
“It gets the UDBG a person to work there in the summer in that capacity,” Lyons said, “but it also relieves the budget of the garden and allows funds to be directed to support additional programs, so that makes it even more significant.”
Frett added that the endowment “increases the depth in the internship program.”
The first intern from the David A., Martha T., and Robert A. Parvis Fund will start in the summer of 2018.
Article by Adam Thomas
Photo by Lindsay Yeager
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