Not many know about her. She, and her headquarters, are a hidden secret within Stony Brook. Through the mysterious not-morning-not-night hours of the day, she works unseen by the students and even by faculty. She protects and saves lives. She makes Stony Brook University a better place. She is… the Landscaping Manager, Andrea Petterson.
The Landscaping Manager is in charge of the greenhouse at the Research and Development Park and she is in charge of maintaining some of the gardens on campus. The greenhouse, while open to everyone, rarely receives visitors since not many know where it is. Her days begin at 6 a.m. Two years ago, she started a nursery for plants, and brings in a couple hundred plants from the Department of Environmental Conservation. As a certified arborist, she makes sure these plants are well cared for and well tended to.
In short, Petterson is the one who makes sure the campus is beautiful. “We are aggressively planting on campus. We are aware [of] how much construction we do. As the campus grows, obviously, we need to clear more spaces to accommodate the students and the programs that we want, so in clearing more space, we’re obviously removing trees… We’re really trying to mitigate the losses… If not balance it [out], maybe even add a little bit [more trees],” Petterson said.
Petterson’s landscaping career began when she was in college. She was a fine arts student with a focus on watercolor and stone sculptures, and in her third year of college, she realized that all her inspiration came from the plant life around her. One of her teachers, Roy Nicholson, an artist whose work was featured in the Stony Brook Art Gallery a few months ago, suggested she go into the field of horticulture. Petterson started off working in nurseries and greenhouses. She then worked for SavATree and eventually came to Stony Brook. As soon as she saw the greenhouse she would be working with at Stony Brook, she was sold.
Although she has been with Stony Brook for almost four years now, Petterson just celebrated her first year in the position of Landscaping Manager. And ever since, she has been implementing big changes on campus. Some of her projects include the SBU Planting Program, Research and Development Park Greenhouse and Stony Brook Composting. The SBU Planting Program ties into the Department of Environmental Conservation. Petterson also works with sustainability students through EcoLeaders on the vegetable garden, also at the greenhouse. The fruits of her efforts in the vegetable garden also go to Campus Dining. She also hopes to donate the vegetables grown from the vegetable garden to the food pantry at Stony Brook, so that students may have healthier food than canned and packaged foods. “One way or another, it’s going to be available for the students on campus,” she said.
Particularly noteworthy is Stony Brook University’s application for Tree Campus USA status this year. “[The Tree Campus USA program] recognizes excellence in campus tree management, as well as student and community involvement across the nation,” she said. “Not only are we doing it [plant preservation and care], we’re getting recognition for it.” While there is no official notification until March 2014, Stony Brook has been unofficially accepted. She hopes to have Stony Brook host the Tree Campus USA convention this year.
With so much on her hands, one wonders how she manages to do it all. “It’s true what they say: when you love what you do, it’s really not work… I really am very passionate about plants, and growing, and sustainability, and making this campus a place that is both educational and enjoyable for students and for staff,” Petterson said.