Thesis Summary: Racial Diversity in Public Garden Internship Programs

Public horticulture is at the intersection of the horticultural sciences and the world of cultural nonprofits. Cultural nonprofits generally have difficulty attracting and retaining racially diverse staff. Public gardens are part of this group of organizations that are overwhelmingly white. As a part of the field of horticulture, public gardens are also facing a deficit of educated, skilled and experienced people entering the field. The lack of skilled horticulturalists and the lack of racial diversity in public garden staff are two issues of major concern for public gardens.

Philadelphia Area Regional Intern Outreach Day

Job pipeline programs such as internships have the potential to be important resources both in creating staff diversity as well as fostering new public horticulture employees. Young people entering the field of horticulture know how important internships are for future employment. If you count the number of internships done by the 5 current Longwood Graduate Fellows, they have done a total of 10, or an average of 2 internships per person! But could internships be part of the problem?

High-income students have more internship opportunities due to their preferences, social networks, and status, and are more likely to have paid internships. Internships are also tied to colleges and wealthier high schools. For the 70 percent of Americans who do not graduate from college, internships are rarely on the radar. A typical white family in the USA has 16 times the wealth of a typical black family. Due to this disparity in wealth that falls along racial lines, if the internship system favors richer students, it also favors whiter students. Since participation in one or more internships is one of the main factors employers consider when hiring, this inequity has serious consequences for who is considered employable.

Fellow Alice Edgerton first gathered basic information about the internships available in the Philadelphia region. The second part of her research consisted of qualitative narrative interviews with internship administrators and people of color who had done a public garden internship. Her final thesis will help illuminate the issues surrounding diversity and public garden internships and offer suggestions for internship administrators to build stronger and more racially diverse programs.

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