The 171 new students enrolled in the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) were presented spider plants to care for throughout their academic careers as part of the college’s academic orientation held Aug. 31 in the Townsend Hall Commons. The plant presentations were part of CANR’s inaugural “Do More than Learn…Grow” challenge, and the individual whose plant flourishes the most will be awarded a $250 gift card at the college’s convocation in May 2019. “Recently, The Wall Street Journal cited agriculture and natural resources as a top 10 major regarding college enrollment growth nationwide,” said Mark Rieger, dean of the college. “Students come to CANR seeking a rewarding college experience that will enable them to grow in a variety of ways. Our new ‘Do More Than Learn…Grow’ challenge captures this very spirit. I am looking forward to seeing a number of new CANR students, as well as their plants, flourish and thrive over the next four years.” Kim Yackoski, senior assistant dean of student services at CANR, said that in addition to supplying the students a decorative plant for their residence hall rooms or homes, the gift and accompanying challenge also provided a way to help students feel connected to the college. “The name ties into the tagline on our college website and it’s a unique new tradition to welcome our undergraduates and help them feel connected to our college,” said Yackoski. “College is a time not only to learn but to grow, so I thought we could tie the whole plant idea into that theme.” The spider plants (Chlorophytum comosum) were donated by the University of Delaware Botanic Gardens (UDBG) through cuttings of other plants already established by Bill Bartz, greenhouse manager, and his staff during the summer in the Fischer Greenhouse. The plants are expected to grow up to two feet tall, and this increase in size may require them to be re-potted. “Once they get bigger, re-potting them will help them flourish even more,” said Yackoski. She added, “Word has definitely gotten out about the plants. I’ve already heard from an upper class plant science student who wants to help coordinate a re-potting get-together in a year or so for anyone who would want to re-pot their plants.” Yackoski said that Valann Budischak, volunteer and education coordinator at the UDBG, stopped her in the hall one day with the idea and it grew from there. “I want to especially thank Valann for stopping me with the initial idea of giving students plants and to Bill Bartz and his team in our UD Greenhouse for generously donating the plants. UDBG volunteers planted 175 plants for us and also assisted every step of the way,” said Yackoski. As for how the students reacted to the plants, Yackoski said that it was very positive. “They loved them and were excited. At first I was worried because when they left Townsend Hall, they were heading to other planned events on campus for new students before heading back to their rooms and I thought it might be a pain to carry the plant around. But they said, ‘No, we love this. This is no problem. We’re going to head back to our residence hall first and drop it off.’ They loved it,” said Yackoski. Yackoski said the challenge was a great example of the new ideas that blossom at CANR. “I love working in a college where our faculty, staff and students are down to earth — no pun intended — and are always thinking up new ideas and interesting challenges or are up for a challenge,” said Yackoski. Article by Adam Thomas Photos by Christy Mannering This article can also be viewed on UDaily.