A Trip to Cornell

Photography: Longwood Graduate Fellows

At the peak of fall color in mid-October, all ten Longwood Graduate Fellows and our Director, Dr. Lyons, journeyed to Ithaca, New York for a field trip to Cornell Plantations. Before sunrise on the first day, we set out from Townsend Hall.

Cornell Plantations at Cornell University offers a Master’s Degree of Professional Studies in Public Garden Leadership not unlike Longwood Gardens and the University of Delaware’s Master’s of Science in Public Horticulture. Cornell’s program has four Fellows (two a year,) University of Delaware’s program has ten (five per year.) Both programs focus on leadership in public horticulture. The trip provided a wonderful opportunity for all of us to connect.

Director Don Rakow and the Cornell students planned an interesting, personalized two-day excursion. Upon arrival we enjoyed lunch and introductions. We met with various members of the Plantations staff to discuss interpretation and new signage and then participated in a small project with the Youth and Education staff. Later, we embarked on our tour of the Botanic Garden and the Arboretum. Many beautiful views, vantage points and photo ops ensued.

Day two started in a downpour. Undeterred, we walked Cornell’s picturesque campus to find our lecture hall. Professor Mike Hostetler, whose main research and teaching interests are in strategy, decision-making, leadership, and high performance, generously led us in a leadership workshop. The discussion centered on an article by John Kotter called, What Leaders Really Do. We discussed the differences between management and leadership, the importance of both and how to cultivate them. The topics were stimulating and insightful and I think I can speak for all when I say that we didn’t want the session to end.

The rain cleared, giving way to blue skies and glistening colorful foliage. Venturing into one of the many Plant Science buildings, we enjoyed a delightful lunch arranged by the Cornell Fellows. After that we visited the Hortorium and learned a bit of Cornell history. We toured the natural lands for an in depth view of deer destruction, the current methods of mitigating the problem and a grim prediction for the future of our forests if we don’t do something soon! We enjoyed an interesting late afternoon hike of Park Park with Botanist, Robert Wesley. Park Park boasts Sugar Maples, Black Maples and Eastern Hemlock that are hundreds of years old. Our final stop was the Ithaca Children’s Garden, where we met with Director and former Cornell Graduate Fellow, Erin Marteal. Ithaca Children’s garden is doing wonderfully innovative work engaging children of all ages.

We finished our trip with a delicious dinner at the Boathouse Restaurant. Armed with photographs, new friendships and new knowledge for career connections we departed, leaving behind an invite to the Cornell Fellows for a visit us at UD and Longwood gardens next year!

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