Summer of Purpose: An Environment of Self-Discovery

By Maggie Stark
Holden Arboretum

StarkThis was certainly not the summer I expected.

Road trip, backpack, plane, train or walk if I had to escape; the only thing on my mind was the six months of loan deferment I had left between graduation and entry in the real world. 

The last 10 weeks involved no escape, yet they offered me far more of a self-exploration experience than I could ever have imagined.

My placement site within the Cleveland Foundation’s Summer Intern Program was Holden Arboretum. Yes, the arboretum that, during my time there, made the decision to officially integrate with Cleveland Botanical Garden. Talk about an experience! In terms of marketing, this was a tidal wave of new processes to skillfully wade through.

But the impact of my marketing internship did not end with Holden’s integration with the botanical garden. During my internship, I literally submerged myself in a horticulturist’s world. Trees, leaves, anything green – you bet I’ve heard about it. Even things like invasive worms, impervious surfaces, riparian zones – I’ve written about it.

How do these topics relate? Well, Holden is the authority on woody plants, a living museum. With that status comes the responsibility to educate and inform the public about the environment. That was my task: to engage the public around Holden’s sustainability efforts as well as the steps we are taking to mitigate climate change.

That’s a mouthful, even simply put. Yet, this assignment was exactly what I needed to fine-tune my skills in investigating and creating content for something with which I had no previous experience. In addition, I had the opportunity to art-direct online videos that will revamp Holden’s social platform – all while preparing Holden to enter the Youtopia program of the American Public GardensAssociation, which requires an analysis of arboretum practices in relation to national guidelines.

Earlier, I mentioned self-exploration, didn’t I? After 10 weeks, I am able to identify the type of environment I prefer to work in, the skills I can bring to an organization, how I would like to make a mark on society and the steps I will take to further develop myself professionally. That’s a lot to sort through in one summer, and good news – there’s still time for a road trip.

Maggie Stark is a recent graduate of Ursuline College, with a degree in studio arts.