Students volunteering at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia are doing far more than just checking off their UGA-mandated experiential learning opportunity, they are using what they learn to teach other students who follow in their footsteps.
As a Public Service and Outreach Faculty Fellow, James C. Anderson II created mentor leadership training materials for the State Botanical Garden’s Learning by LeadingTM program, aimed at empowering students and helping them become career-ready. The program starts with freshmen, bringing them into the garden to complete a series of leadership development activities and completing service projects over two semesters.
The next year, they coordinate the activities for the new incoming students. During the third semester they develop a signature project at the garden and connect with a mentor. Finally, they spend their last year as an apprentice or intern at the garden.
The PSO Faculty Fellowship has been a welcome change for Anderson, a faculty member in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
“A lot of what I do is very theoretical-based and academic,” he says. “Being able to tap into the experiential learning and service mission of the university is so important.”
Upon completion of Learning by Leading, students will have a vast experiential learning transcript—and feel more prepared to pursue science careers.
Projects vary. Students in the education department designed activities for different stations in the Alice H. Richards Children’s Garden. Volunteers lead children through the activities at each station as they tour the garden. At one station they dress up like birds and create bird nests.
The ultimate goal of Learning by Leading is to retain students in the areas in which they work in the garden so that they will consider pursuing careers in that field.
“By getting these experiences while they’re still learning, they will connect to mentors and want to pursue these careers,” Anderson says.
In his position at CAES, Anderson researches effective mentorship. At the State Botanical Garden he led staff through six leadership modules, to help them become capable and confident mentors. He plans to adapt these modules and present them as a faculty learning series across campus.
“It’s so critical we have student-faculty mentorships that are strong and effective,” said Leslie Edgar, department head of the Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communication Department in CAES, where Anderson works. “Everything he’s doing at the garden fits beautifully into his research agenda. I think he’s able to use his focus and leadership abilities in ways he hadn’t thought of before—it leverages him to be an even better faculty member.”
The Public Service and Outreach (PSO) Fellowship Program provides departmental support for tenure-track and tenured professors to immerse themselves in the work of a PSO unit for one semester. The experience offers opportunities for fellows to enhance their academic courses, conduct research and apply their academic expertise to outreach initiatives. An anticipated outcome of the fellowship experience is the sustained involvement with Public Service and Outreach after the semester ends.
Leah Moss Public Relations Coordinator