Jacob Walter Kendrick: On this week's episode, The Greenhouse at EMU opens following the COVID-19 pandemic, and Eastern Michigan University making history by welcoming their first African American chair. I am your host Jacob Walter Kendrick and this is the Eastern Echo Podcast.
The greenhouse at Eastern Michigan University is back to regular hours and welcomes the community to take a look at the plants they offer, after closing off to the public during the COVID-19 pandemic.
When the pandemic was at its height the doors of the greenhouse weren’t open for their regular hours, classes and clubs weren’t in there either. The plants kept growing, but no one was there to see their growth.
The greenhouse is back to the familiarity of being open on most days from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Last year nearly every activity on campus was diminished in size and that included the availability to visit the greenhouse. While the greenhouse was still open for classes, not many visited.
Brad Cross, the greenhouse facilitator, said to the Echo: “It’s nice to have visitors again. Class visits have already doubled just this past month.”
The ability to open the greenhouse doors has not only let classes work in the greenhouse again, but the Botany Club is able to resume their club activities.
The greenhouse was built in 1997 by Ludy Greenhouses, and Brad Cross has been the facilitator since 2016. The greenhouse has hundreds of different plants from all kinds of places. From various types of tradescantia to huge varieties of monsteras, commonly called Swiss cheese plants. There are hundreds of potted plants on tables and plants growing all along the floor, and even up the walls.
The greenhouse has several rooms, each having a different function. The first room is an area where you can sign the guest log and look at plants that are being grown for different classes. As well in the front room, there is an informal plant sale that sells plants anywhere from $1 to $15, the plants on the table vary, depending on what’s been growing.
The back room of the greenhouse is the conservatory which is where the bulk of the plants are located. As soon as guests walk in they’ll be greeted by an enormous rubber tree over their heads and aisles of different plants in front of them. The conservatory has a study table where people can relax and do homework or look at hundreds of amazing plants.
Just like any indoor location at EMU, masks are required at all times in the greenhouse and a COVID entry form should be filled out prior to entering.
There’s no time like the present to start caring for a plant, Cross said. Caring for plants only takes a small amount of research and it has the potential to liven up a space and someone's mood, he said.
Those interested can follow the greenhouse on their Facebook page at EMU Greenhouse, as well as check-in at the greenhouse during their hours of operation to see all their available plants.
Next, Eastern makes history by welcoming its first African American woman as board chair.
The Eastern Michigan University Foundation of Trustees elected Dara Munson as board chair in late September.
Munson’s main responsibility as board chair of the EMU Foundation is to oversee and grow the endowment to provide financial support to current and future students. This is in partnership with the Board of Regents to further ensure sustainable financial conditions.
As a former undergraduate of EMU, Munson is the first Black woman to serve as board chair, and she feels that it’s an awesome responsibility to hold a position as board chair.
Munson said to the Echo: “It’s a personal accomplishment to serve students at EMU with a world-class, higher education,”
Munson graduated in 1991 from Cass Tech High School, located on the west side of Detroit and a part of Detroit Public Schools.
Munson knew she wanted to attend a university that wasn’t too big for her personality. She decided that Eastern’s mid-size was perfect to start her academic career. With the university only 45 minutes away from home, located on a beautiful campus, and friends from Cass Tech by her side, Munson felt EMU was the place where she could fit in and connect with her peers.
Munson was torn between law and justice degrees as both were careers that had the ability to impact communities from the perspective of social justice. Munson obtained a bachelor’s in criminal justice from EMU after she had taken a tour of a juvenile detention facility in high school which piqued her interest in the justice system.
Through her time at EMU from 1991-1996, Munson was a member of the first Black sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha, in which she experienced two major opportunities to kick-start her career: leadership skills within her chapter and the creation of life-sustaining friendships, she said.
Building on her experience from her sorority, Munson went on to acquire her master’s in public administration. Both her degrees, the bachelor’s from EMU and master’s from Central Michigan University, allowed her to help her career flourish as well as the broader community.
With her work in the criminal and juvenile justice field, she started to have a keen interest in the nonprofit sector.
Her leadership skills allowed Munson to hone in on the nonprofit sector and work long-term within the communities that look like her and to further serve impacted families.
Munson has made a name for herself with many achievements as senior director at United Way, president and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit, her current position of president and CEO of Family Focus, and her recent election as board chair of EMU Foundation Board of Trustees.
Reported: Tori Walz and Mari White
Scripted: Tre Briscoe
Produced: Cameron Santangelo
Host: Jacob Walter Kendrick