At the onset of the global pandemic, only 4 percent of public gardens in the United States remained open. Some of these included Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum, Cornell’s Botanic Garden and — you guessed it — UC Davis’ own Arboretum and Public Garden. In a recent interview, Arboretum Director Kathleen Socolofsky and Assistant Director Carmia Feldman discussed their ongoing efforts in maintaining one of the campus’ most beloved resources.
“We’ve been able to work on a plan to keep the Arboretum, the reserve and campus open to the public,” Socolofsky said.
The pair have also managed to accommodate their internship and volunteer programs to complement a virtual format. “Before the crisis, we had these very hands-on, in-the-field internships,” Feldman explained, of the Arboretum and Public Garden’s Learning by Leading program. “How do you take this thing that was built on real-world experience, turn it virtual and still make it meaningful?”
Socolofsky and Feldman were concerned that their new virtual Learning by Leading program wouldn’t attract student participation. “We had 130 students in the program winter quarter,” Feldman said. “We thought maybe 30 students would want to do this weird, virtual thing we were inventing.”
To their delight, more than 110 students ended up joining. “Yes, we’re an environmental program,” Socolofsky said, “but we’re also a leadership program. We wanted to teach them over the course of this quarter how to lead in a crisis.”