For the eighth consecutive year, Northeastern Illinois University has received a Tree Campus Higher Education recognition from the Arbor Day Foundation for promoting healthy trees and engaging the University community in conservation efforts.
In order to earn this distinction, the University had to meet the five core standards for effective campus forest management according to Tree Campus Higher Education: a tree advisory committee, a campus tree care plan, dedicated annual expenditures for a campus tree program, an Arbor Day observance and a student service-learning project.
This award was made possible through the collaborative efforts of faculty and staff members in the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies (G&ES), the Department of Biology and Facilities Management.
Associate Professor of G&ES Melinda Storie is part of the team. Her Conservation Psychology course students prepared a tree tour around the Main Campus to celebrate Arbor Day with the University community on April 27.
“Celebrating Arbor Day every year as a campus community allows us to reconnect with our natural environment at Northeastern,” said Storie, who also serves as the graduate program advisor for G&ES. “Many of the students who participated in the tree tour were delighted to learn from each other a bit about the trees, birds and plants that they regularly encounter on campus. There is something special about being outside together that bonds us in a different way than classroom learning.”
Nicholas Voss is a senior in Northeastern’s Environmental Studies program and a student in Storie’s Conservation Psychology class. Voss is also part of the Green Conservation Group, an interdisciplinary, student-run, environmental interest organization that strives to promote sustainable thinking in the NEIU community. The group also has representatives who sit on the Green Fee Committee, which determines how students’ $3-per-semester Campus Green Fee is used to implement sustainable projects that benefit the University.
“Conservation of green spaces provides enjoyment, biodiversity, and environmental health to an area,” said Voss. “Being a designated Tree Campus means that we as members of the NEIU community recognize, support and actively look to conserve these green spaces for not only ourselves, but for the next generations of community members to enjoy.”
According to the Arbor Day Foundation, trees on campus and in urban spaces can lower energy costs by providing shade cover, cleaner air and water, and green spaces for students and faculty. In addition, trees improve students' mental and cognitive health, provide an appealing aesthetic for campuses, and create shaded areas for studying and gathering. There are 411 campuses across the United States that received this recognition.
“Trees not only play a vital role in the environment but also in our daily lives,” said Dan Lambe, chief executive of the Arbor Day Foundation. “Having trees on college and university campuses is a great way to show a commitment to students and faculty’s overall well-being.”
The Tree Campus Higher Education program honors colleges and universities and their leaders for promoting healthy trees and engaging students and staff in the spirit of conservation. With more than one million members, the Arbor Day Foundation is a nonprofit conservation and education organization with the mission to inspire people to plant, nurture and celebrate trees.
Storie, who enjoys seeing Northeastern students discover and celebrate the beauty of nature during Arbor Day festivities, is also looking forward to many continued years of celebrating trees on campus, especially as the University works toward achieving status as an arboretum. Students, like Voss, share her enthusiasm.
“NEIU has a history of students pushing for conservation and preservation of green spaces through our policies and the student-imposed Green Fee,” Voss said. “I am happy to see that the campus is striving to continuously find new ways to be environmentally sustainable.”
Top photo: Nicholas Voss wears the Tree Campus USA flag as a cape near the Solitary Oak, a swamp white oak tree on the Main Campus that is more than 200 years old. He is accompanied by other students and participants on the Arbor Day tree tour.