This time of year, college campuses are truly at their best. Grounds crews have spruced up the grass and mulched gardens for recently-conducted graduation ceremonies and in anticipation of summertime alumni events often scheduled for just after the school year ends. With a little cooperation from Mother Nature, flowers are blooming and trees are in their full leafy glory.
But beyond wanting to look attractive, a handful of colleges and universities have deepened their commitment to campus tree management and forestry. These schools have earned special distinction in the Tree Campus USA program sponsored by the Arbor Day Foundation.
Tree Campus USA is a national program created in 2008 to honor colleges and universities for effective forest management and for engaging staff and students in conservation goals.
Out of well over 4,000 degree-granting colleges and universities in the U.S., only 296 have earned Tree Campus recognition for their efforts to sustain healthy community forests both for students and residents of surrounding communities.
To earn the title, college campuses must meet five standards, which include:
- Appointment of a Campus Tree Advisory Committee
- Submission of a campus tree care plan
- Existence of a campus tree program with dedicated annual expenditures
- An Arbor Day observance
- Student service-learning projects related to trees
Details are provided on the Tree Campus website. And for those who are interested, an example of a good “tree care plan” is the one submitted by Virginia Tech, which is also posted on the website. It covers everything from pruning practices to preservation plans. By the way, Virginia Tech counts 4800 trees on campus, representing 145 species and cultivated varieties.
In general, it is the sincere hope that colleges will develop connections with the local communities to foster healthy, urban forests and involve students in projects to support this effort.
Locally, only 12 colleges and universities have earned this distinction. These include
- Allegany College (Maryland)
- American University
- Catholic University
- Frostburg State University
- Old Dominion University
- Salisbury University
- St. Mary’s College of Maryland
- University of Maryland Baltimore County
- University of Maryland—College Park
- University of Mary Washington
- Virginia State University
- Virginia Tech
"The Arbor Day Foundation has been a great partner for us as we continue to develop our tree planting and care efforts on campus,” said Matthew Gart, recently-retired landscape architect for Virginia Tech’s Office of University Planning. “We were one of the first schools recognized as a Tree Campus USA and view our re-certification as a critical part of our commitment to trees on the Virginia Tech Campus."
Other institutions on the Tree Campus list boasting of nationally-recognized arboretums include Cornell University, Louisiana State University, Ohio State University, Oregon State University, University of Kentucky, the University of Pennsylvania, University of Utah, UC Davis, Haverford College, University of Michigan, Clemson University and Wake Forest University. When touring colleges, you might go out of your way to spend a little time visiting these amazing campus resources.
So for those students who take pleasure in leafy environments, invest a few minutes investigating the complete list of colleges earning the title of Tree Campus USA. These are some of the most beautiful college campuses in America.