I get a tremendous amount of personal satisfaction and even a sense of spiritual renewal from the great outdoors – including hiking, yardwork, and gardening. Part of that comes from just being in nature; it’s always been a big part of my life. As a kid, I loved hiking and camping. My first jobs included doing yard work at our house and for my relatives. By high school I had a job at a local nursery, and during the summer after college, I was doing landscaping, including pouring concrete pool decks and light construction. So, you could say I’ve always liked helping build and beautify the environment around me.
While I won’t say I have a green thumb, I did get the gardening “bug” from my father, who could really make just about anything thrive outdoors. He loved to tend to our yard, and I learned a lot just by watching him while playing outside. Since I’ve owned my own home, gardening and landscaping has always been a part of my life, particularly during the spring and summer months.
When I look at my yard today, we actually have a bunch of fruits growing, such as pears, figs, blueberry, blackberry, raspberry, and concord grapes. Annually, we also plant tomatoes, squash, eggplant, and a few types of herbs. While I don’t always have the same luck as my dad, thinking about how I can help these crops thrive has become a big part of my summer.
The opportunity to be in the yard a lot in the final weeks of summer started me thinking more about what it takes to nurture and develop our student community the same way I tend to my garden. As we embark on the academic year, I’ve been contemplating how we truly help our community thrive. Let’s ask ourselves: what are we putting into the environment to support and sustain our community, allowing it to bloom?
In Student Affairs, our work is integral in helping students learn and grow. Are we prepared for the responsibility to help students tend to their development like a gardener would tend to their plants? Do we realize our capacity to nurture and support – both to ground students and to provide support as they begin to flourish? What fertilizer or weed prevention do we offer that helps them grow vigorously?
As I’ve watched my own garden grow this summer I know it’s taken lots of attention, water, TLC, and time - but now things are flourishing. While I’ve had to nurture some plants more than others, while some plants are thriving, others have withered and wilted. Despite that day-to-day challenge, for plants and students alike, our work can play a big part in helping our students truly bloom through careful, thoughtful execution of our work. I’m hopeful that as you begin to settle into the fall semester, a time when we normally think of the harvest, you, too, have found some ways to see the vital role you play in helping our students reap the benefits that come from our support.