VSU Earns Fourth ‘Tree Campus USA’ Award

(From left to right) VSU Provost, Dr. Donald E. Palm; VA Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry, Bettina Ring; Special Asst. to the President, Osubi Craig; Virginia Senator Rosalyn Dance; VP for Finance, Kevin Davenport; VP for Research and Economic Development, Dr. Dale Wesson; Asst. VP Capital Outlay and Facilities, Jane Harris; VA Commissioner of Agriculture, Dr. Jewel Bronaugh; (behind) VSU College of Agriculture Dean/1890 Administrator, Dr. M. Ray McKinnie

(From left to right) VSU Provost, Dr. Donald E. Palm; VA Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry, Bettina Ring; Special Asst. to the President, Osubi Craig; Virginia Senator Rosalyn Dance; VP for Finance, Kevin Davenport; VP for Research and Economic Development, Dr. Dale Wesson; Asst. VP Capital Outlay and Facilities, Jane Harris; VA Commissioner of Agriculture, Dr. Jewel Bronaugh; (behind) VSU College of Agriculture Dean/1890 Administrator, Dr. M. Ray McKinnie

VSU campus on April 17 to celebrate receiving the 2017 Tree Campus USA Award. The recertification award is in recognition of the university’s commitment to its campus forest management and environmental stewardship. It is the fourth consecutive year that VSU has been recognized by the Arbor Day Foundation.

Distinguished guests included Virginia’s Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring and Virginia Senator Rosalyn Dance. “I’d like to recognize the great leadership that has made this possible. It really does take all of us working together, the commitment that you have to this campus, to your green spaces and to trees,” Ring said. “Keep up the great work and thank you for all that you continue to do to support students and learning in agriculture and forestry.”

“I’m proud of all the great stuff that’s happening here,” said Dance, a VSU alumna. “Tree Campus USA, VSU, all the way!” VSU was first named a “Tree Campus USA University” in 2015 and has been recertified annually. The university is only one of four post-secondary institutions in Virginia to be recognized—along with Old Dominion University, the University of Mary Washington and Virginia Tech.

Joel Koci holding VSU Tree Campus USA plaque.

Joel Koci holding VSU Tree Campus USA plaque.

“On this day, being honored and recertified is very special to us,” said VSU Provost Dr. Donald E. Palm. “Not only does it bring the community together, it brings the campus together, especially for our students to learn, our faculty to do research. It’s an awesome day.”

Joel Koci, associate Extension specialist in urban forestry with the College of Agriculture, spearheads the initiative annually. Each year he works with a committee comprising faculty, students and campus staff. To receive the designation, a university must meet five core standards: establish an advisory committee; develop a campus tree-care plan; allocate annual dedicated expenses of $3 per full-time student; hold a service-learning project; and host an Arbor Day celebration.

The recertification ceremony was held beside a sycamore tree planted in 2015. The sycamore was selected because it grows large and has a long lifespan. The ceremony ended with the dedication of a plaque to recognize the march in Selma, Alabama, during the Civil Rights movement. Events were held during the morning, including the creation of a living wall of flowers and strawberries. There were also presentations on water quality, sustainable food and goatscaping, an environmentally friendly alternative to property clearing and weed removal.

The Arbor Day Foundation is a million-member nonprofit conservation and education organization dedicated to inspiring people to plant, nurture and celebrate trees. J. Sterling Morton, a Nebraska newspaper editor who served as secretary of agriculture under President Grover Cleveland, initiated the Arbor Day holiday in Nebraska in 1872. He is considered the father of Arbor Day nationally. Virginia celebrates Arbor Day on the last Friday in April.

Erica Shambley