KOKOMO, Ind. – Indiana University Kokomo earned Tree Campus Higher Education recognition by the Arbor Day Foundation for the second year in a row, recognizing its continued commitment to caring for its trees.
Andy Tuholski, visiting lecturer in political science and director of the Office of Sustainability, said the accomplishment is a credit to founding director Leda Casey, her steering committee and interns, and everyone who participated in sustainability projects.
“This designation represents a commitment that we all make to ‘leave it better than we found it,’” he said. “That is the heart of our sustainability mission. Our students recognize the challenges before us, and how important it is that we all become better stewards of our environment.”
He said the Office of Sustainability plans to continue its work by adding native species of plants and trees to campus, providing experiential learning opportunities, supporting research, and leading efforts to make the campus more sustainable for future generations.
To earn the designation, IU Kokomo had to meet five standards: Establish and maintain a tree advisory committee, create and follow a tree-care plan, have a budget items for trees, and host an Arbor Day observance that includes student service-learning projects.
Casey, senior lecturer of geology, said as part of the project, interns Gabby Rahrar and Emma Watson completed a tree survey during the summer, and the campus also hosted an Arbor Day celebration with tree planting as part of its Sustainability Day in April.
“The one thing I really love about Tree Campus designation is that it pulls in students through service learning, faculty through helping with research, and staff in facilities,” she said. “It really demonstrates that you have to work as a team to achieve the goal.”
IU Kokomo is considered to be a woodland campus, she noted, with 30 percent of it forested. The tree canopy includes white maple, sweetgum, white pine and pin oak trees, among others.
Casey said the Office works with John Sarber, director of physical facilities, and Louie Wagner, grounds manager, to manage campus trees, removing those that have died and planting new. Students, faculty, and staff planted about 25 trees in the last year.
“This shows that we are good stewards of our environment, and we care about our tree canopy,” she said. “It plays into our climate resiliency plans as well, because the canopy helps mitigate or offset our carbon dioxide emissions.”
The Tree Campus Higher Education program honors colleges and universities for effective campus forest management, and for engaging staff and students in conservation goals. Currently there are 403 campuses across the United States with this recognition.