The Oakland University Student Congress (OUSC) has announced plans for an Arbor Initiatives Committee (AIC) with the start of the fall semester.
The committee will be chaired by OUSC Campus Health Director Alex Bertges, who created the AIC to promote the protection and conservation of trees on OU’s campus.
“This was a really cool way for me to engage one of my passions in a professional setting, which also makes a larger difference than just edifying myself and learning more,” she said. “Now I get to actually help trees, so I think it’s pretty cool. I’m really excited about it.”
Rather than competing with other student organizations for funding, the AIC will have access to OUSC funds, which Bertges hopes will allow the committee to accomplish more. Originally created as an ad hoc committee, the AIC is in the process of being approved as a standing committee in the fall, thus ensuring Bertges’ successors carry on her mission to improve tree health on campus.
“I think having something like the Arbor Initiatives Committee…matches very well with President [Ora Hirsch] Pescovitz’s vision for OU’s future, as well as working toward a better Earth,” OUSC President Ryan Fox said.
One of the ways in which the AIC will satisfy President Pescovitz’s goals for OU is its work toward a Tree Campus, U.S.A. certification, which “recognizes college and university campuses that effectively manage trees and engage students,” according to their website.
“It’s mostly just a public display of what our campus is already doing and what we can do more of—essentially, it just shows that we’re tree-friendly,” Bertges said. “By having students that are studying this, getting real experience in their field and also helping administrators to better understand what our campus needs, we’re hoping to be able to move forward in a way that’s best for not only us, but all of the other life that we’re sharing this area with.”
Among the committee’s other goals are plans to plant more trees on campus, particularly around Walton Boulevard, where the City of Auburn Hills was granted an easement to cut down the trees currently there, which are not in good health.
“As sad as it is to see those go, we get to replace those with new trees because part of the easement is that they have to contribute to us planting more trees on campus,” Bertges said.
She also hopes to utilize recreational opportunities on campus, including the high ropes course being installed on the three acres of unused land on the corner of Adams and Walton, to spark interest in the AIC’s initiatives.
“You kind of can’t ignore the trees when you’re crawling in them,” she said.
Bertges said the AIC is “really niche” and will be geared toward students with a particular expertise for tree health and environmental conservation. However, she is also in charge of the Campus Health Committee, which she described as a “broader” and more appropriate choice for students with a more general interest in on-campus conservation efforts.
But the most important thing, she said, is for students to develop a greater understanding and appreciation for the trees that make up such a large part of OU’s campus.
“I think [trees are] so easy to just kind of become a piece of the background, and they’re really so much more than that,” Bertges said.
OUSC plans to host an event in the fall to serve as the committee’s official launch, potentially by planting or dedicating a tree on campus in the AIC’s honor.
Students interested in joining the AIC can email [email protected] or stop by the OUSC office in the basement of the Oakland Center.