Since 2008, The University of Maryland campus has been recognized as an Arboretum and Botanical Garden. This process created the Enhancement Team at UMD. Its mission is to create, improve, and maintain the landscape management of perennial plants and annual flowers in the most visible places and essential areas of the University. Luis Alfonzo was the first horticulturist to lead the Enhancement Team, and continues to guide its operation.
Notable projects the Enhancement Team has contributed to are the North Gate plantings, the Memorial Chapel’s Garden of Reflection & Remembrance, and Topiary Testudo Plaza. Spaces on campus that were created by the Enhancement Team include the Peace & Friendship Garden in 2003 and the Denton Garden in 2010. These powerful spaces are important to community members who feel nostalgic when admiring the beauty of campus. Larger remodelings have been facilitated by the team at the Chemistry Courtyard Garden in 2008, the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center Garden in 2009, and the new garden at the McKeldin Library in 2017, which features many native plants. New opportunities for campus development often serve as learning opportunities for employees to gain new skills.
All the Spanish-speaking employees at the Arboretum have been guided by the Enhancement Team in herbicide application and are registered applicators for the University, in accordance with our Sustainability Standards. This is part of larger educational programs for the Enhancement Team which Karen Petroff, the Assistant Director of the Arboretum and Botanical Garden, has been supportive of.
As a land grant institution, Maryland is committed to accessible agricultural education, and the Enhancement Team’s many development opportunities support that mission. Employees have opportunities to attend seminars on topics ranging from landscape design to native plants and pollinators. Increasing the number of horticultural educational events on campus and Spanish language courses can move the training of the enhancement team to a new level in the future. The team has recently partnered with the Spanish Language department to offer a lecture on the Arboretum in Spanish, followed by a Spanish-language service opportunity in a pollinator garden.
Career development opportunities for Landscape Technicians on the Enhancement Team allow those who established their foundations at the UMD Arboretum to stay with the University as their skills expand. Michael Ellis, who began as a Landscape Technician, now works as a Horticulturist and Manager. Bleriot Kuiken, a founding member of the Enhancement Team, started as a temporary worker C1 and now is a full-time Landscape Technician for the Enhancement Team. Jean Nana, also a founding member of the Enhancement Team is the Clarice Smith MT Supervisor I. These Arboretum careers which began with the Enhancement Team show how the Team has been able to create long-term benefits for Maryland Community members.
This dedication to the Maryland community has been expanded through working with Gloria Aparicio Blackwell, Founder and Director of the Office of Community Engagement. Since the start of Good Neighbor Day in 2012 the Enhancement Team has directed all the beautification projects for schools and plazas. If you would like to support the Enhancement Team and connect with the campus, consider participating in Good Neighbor Day! Luis Alfonzo of the Enhancement team has led thousands of volunteers through campus beautification projects such as pollinator garden installations.
Written by Education Programming Intern, Esther Pereira Trostler Feron