fbpx Monthly Tree Ambassador | The Morton Arboretum

Monthly Tree Ambassador

June 2019

José Melendez Jaime, Building Services Technician II

José Melendez Jaime standing in grove of trees by Meadow Lake, smiling.

 

What is your favorite season at the Arboretum and why?

José enjoys both fall and summer at the Arboretum.  In the fall, he enjoys seeing the colors and the weather change, and it’s football season as well!  In the summer, José sees the green grass like a plush carpet, and he is energized by seeing more people coming to the Arboretum to visit.  
 

What is the best part of your job?

Helping people and making them happy is the best part of José’s job.  Prior to his employment, José worked for a contractor that provided services to the Arboretum and, according to José, getting this job was a dream come true.  He appreciates not only getting to help people, but where he gets to do it: a perfect combination for José.  He loves to hear people say thank you!
 

Do you have a favorite location on the grounds or a favorite tree?

Lake Marmo is one of José’s favorite locations, because there he feels like he is in a jungle.  He also enjoys the Meadow Lake peninsula with its cluster of tall trees.  As far a favorite tree, José takes a picture of the Japanese maple every time he sees it.   
 

What do you want our visitors to know about The Morton Arboretum and our mission?

José wants our visitors to know why trees are important for everybody.  The entire world depends on trees, not just scientists or those in the horticulture industry.   There is more to the Arboretum than meets the eye. 
 

When thinking of our Employee Core Values, which one resonates with you and why?

José was quick to answer that Taking Ownership resonates most with him, because he likes to get things done.  He knows that if he does it, it will get done.  José like to solve problems and to jump in right away.  He also appreciates the Core Value to Keep Learning; José wants to learn more about the Arboretum, his job, and everything he can.  
 

What’s an insider tip that you’d like to share with visitors?

Explore the entire Arboretum and take advantage of all the different events we offer.  There is something for everyone to do.    
 

Share an interesting fun fact about you:

José likes to watch sports, and sometimes even play them, especially soccer.  He also loved to watch Power Rangers as a kid, and he is still a fan to this day. He enjoys sharing this show with his own two kids. 

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May 2019

Rebecca (Becca) Van Loan, Building Monitor

Becca Van Loan standing outside the Administration Building smiling

 

What is your favorite season at the Arboretum and why?

Unable to pick just one, Becca named summer and fall as her two favorite seasons.  They were her favorite seasons anyway, not just at the Arboretum.  Both seasons are colorful, and everyone is outside and happier.  Becca works later shifts in her role, and she enjoys that in both seasons the days are longer.  She appreciates the warm days of summer, but she finds that in the cooler days in fall she can run and not struggle completing her course in the heat.  Those two seasons bring the best of both worlds.  
 

What is the best part of your job?

Becca named the people as one of the best parts of her job.  Everyone with whom she works has a good attitude and is friendly and welcoming.  She wonders who wouldn’t want to work here!  Another aspect she enjoys is being surrounded by the outdoors. She appreciates learning something new about the outdoors in this environment that she didn’t know before. 
 

Do you have a favorite location on the grounds or a favorite tree?

Becca has not one or two favorite locations on the grounds, but several favorite locations.  Frost Hill on the East Side is a spot at the Arboretum where Becca doesn’t feel  like she is at the Arboretum, or even in Illinois.  Becca spends a lot of time on the West Side in the Thornhill Education Center, and she enjoys the Fragrance Garden, the Four Seasons Garden, and the Thornhill patio where she can watch the sunset on the evenings that she works.  Some of her other favorite haunts are Crabapple Lake, Lake Marmo, and the top of the berm where Joe the Guardian is perched. She has brought her dog Trixie here during Dog Days to have her picture taken with the troll.  Finally, when Becca is positioned in the Administration Building at the front desk, Becca appreciates seeing the sunny view or the sun setting from the best desk location at the Arboretum. 
 

What do you want our visitors to know about The Morton Arboretum and our mission?

Becca wants our visitors to enjoy the natural surroundings, and to understand our mission and  to learn while they are here.  Appreciate the history, how we got started on a basic level, and what we’re doing now.
 

When thinking of our Employee Core Values, which one resonates with you and why?

Becca selected two Core Values are important to her.  In her pursuit of higher education, Becca strongly believes in the value of Keep Learning; she feels there is always something to learn.  She appreciates learning from others, and believes that she will never be done learning.  To Take Ownership is central to Becca as she values personal responsibility.  Be responsible for the place in which you work.  Create a team environment to work together.    
 

What’s an insider tip that you’d like to share with visitors?

Once, Becca was traveling from the West Side back to the main campus, and took the alternate route for the first time.  She found Lake Marmo, a place she hadn’t seen before.  Her insider tip to visitors is to find new places you’ve never gone before.  The Arboretum has plenty of hidden spots.
 

Share an interesting fun fact about you:

Ever since playing Nancy Drew: Danger on Deception Island as a child, whales and dolphins have been Becca’s favorite animals. Her ultimate goal is to go whale watching one day.  She won’t be able to see any in Lake Marmo, so that will likely involve travel to fulfil her goal.  
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April 2019

Natalie Knight, Senior Donor Relations Manager

Natalie Knight standing with hands in pockets by blooming Magnolia tree outside of Visitor Center

What is your favorite season at the Arboretum and why?

Natalie loves summer in general, not just at the Arboretum. At the Arboretum, summer is often very busy, and Natalie appreciates the energy behind the scenes with a fully staffed team on our grounds.  Natalie will often run into members and donors during the summer months, and she is energized by the interest from the public.
 

What is the best part of your job?

Natalie is grateful for the opportunity to connect our members and donors to their interests and our mission.  She enjoys meeting our members and donors and hearing their stories about why the Arboretum is so special for them.  Natalie also finds the Arboretum’s culture to be positive,  healthy, and very familial.  She believes that if you look up the word community in a dictionary, the Arboretum should be listed as an example.
 

Do you have a favorite location on the grounds or a favorite tree?

As a runner, Natalie loves all of our paved roads.  She refers to our nine miles of paved roads as a runner’s sanctuary.  Aside from the concrete, Natalie also loves Hemlock Hill and the Sterling Pond seat wall, thanks to the generosity of Florence Hybl.
 

What do you want our visitors to know about The Morton Arboretum and our mission?

There is so much to do and explore at the Arboretum.  There is an area, activity, or program that fits each person’s  interest.  By being here, and being generous, visitors are truly hand-in-hand stakeholders with our staff on furthering our mission.  The Arboretum can only continue to thrive thanks to everyone’s support.
 

When thinking of our Employee Core Values, which one resonates with you and why?

As part of the Values Staff Team that helped to establish the Employee Core Values, Natalie is very in tune with their purpose, but specifically the core value to Make the Arboretum Exceptional.  Natalie feels strongly that every program staff member believes and lives up to that value.  Our staff deliver a high quality, meaningful experience, always keeping our visitors, members, and donors top of mind.  
 

What’s an insider tip that you’d like to share with visitors?

Again, because Natalie is a runner, her insider tip is related to her interest.  She highly recommends coming early in the morning to run or walk right when the Arboretum opens, when it is peaceful and different wildlife are at play.  Natalie often sees foxes and families of deer in the early morning hours.
 

Share an interesting fun fact about you:

The Arboretum has been special to Natalie and her family since moving to the Chicago area in the 1990s.  Moving from Minnesota, Natalie didn’t feel she had as much access to the outdoors, so the Arboretum became a positive point of access for her and her family.  Natalie and her mom spent many hours here in the summer, and then she remembers visiting here while in middle school and listening to a presentation by our current librarian.  Coming to work here six years ago was almost coming full circle for her; she regularly watched the Arboretum’s website for opportunities for two years until her position became available.  She feels lucky to be part of the Arboretum family. 
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March 2019

Ashley Donisch, Graphic Designer

Ashley Donisch smiling, standing in Little Arturs' mouth, one of the Trolls on the West Side

What is your favorite season at the Arboretum and why?

That’s an easy question for Ashley to answer.  Definitely the fall for the color, but also due in part to some of the events.  Many of the fall color activities have become a tradition for Ashley and her friends.  One friend has a birthday that they celebrate at the Craft Beer Fest every year, and the 5K run was the first race that Ashley ever ran, and what got her into running in the first place.  The 5K has become a staple for her and for a friend who runs marathons.
 

What is the best part of your job?

Overall, Ashley feels that her ability to work with a lot of departments and learn all about their projects is the best part of her job.  She is able to work with staff in events, exhibits, and science.  She also learned about the Chicago Region Trees Initiative master plan that extends to 2050.  In fact, Ashley learned so much about the plan that she could almost recite the entire plan by heart! She also loves seeing the product of her work; for example, seeing a Troll Hunt billboard and knowing that she designed it.  She also designed the interpretation panels and the program and map for Troll Hunt, and she enjoys going to see the trolls in their natural environment.
 

Do you have a favorite location on the grounds or a favorite tree?

By P14 on the East Side, on an open hill by the maple and beech collection, there is a sugar maple that has two trunks.  That tree were an iconic fall image that was used in promotional materials when Ashley first joined the Arboretum.  When Ashley saw the tree in person, she thought it was beautiful in every season, not just fall.  She also likes the hiking trails near Willoway Brook.  It’s an underrated location that has a cool spillway with a bench.  
 

What do you want our visitors to know about The Morton Arboretum and our mission?

Ashley immediately thinks science!  Most visitors don’t realize that they are supporting our work just by visiting.  Visitors don’t see our scientists traveling overseas and making these connections with other gardens.  Even Ashley didn’t know all the work the Arboretum was doing until she started going to the internal training opportunities, Know Your Arboretum.  
 

When thinking of our Employee Core Values, which one resonates with you and why?

The value that states “Work Together” resonates the most with Ashley for sure.  She feels that some of the best work that she or her department has done has come out of collaborating with each other and with other departments.  She values receiving input on her work that she may not have even thought to try.  When staff works together, the best work happens, and it’s fun! Ashley’s work space is in a basement, so she enjoys seeing other people!
 

What’s an insider tip that you’d like to share with visitors?

Short and simple: Ashley loves the Arboretum Club at the Ginkgo Restaurant.  She encourages visitors to give it a try.  It is really good!
 

Share an interesting fun fact about you:

Ashley considers her hobby a little nerdy, but she has been doing cosplay for two years.  Cosplay is costuming for comic cons.  Ashley makes wigs, armor, props, weapons, and designs lighting.  Her characters are mostly Star Wars and Marvel characters.  Ashley competed last year in the biggest global cosplay competition held here in Chicago.  Over 400 applicants applied to compete, and only 30 were selected.  Even though Ashley didn’t place, she felt just being accepted to compete was a win in her books.  As a result, her work was published in a cosplay magazine.  Ashley is going to another convention at the end of March, and she has been spending her free time and late nights working on her designs.  

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February 2019
Nancy Porte, Visitor Services Operations Supervisor

Nancy Porte, smiling, and leaning out of the Gatehouse holding a visitor map

What is your favorite season at the Arboretum and why?

Nancy likes every season so it’s hard for her to pick just one.  In the past, she wouldn’t have said winter was one of her favorite seasons, but at the Arboretum, winter is beautiful because it’s quiet, calm, and peaceful. Spring would probably be her number one season though.  Spring brings new hope, tons of colors, and lots of blooms.  Nancy has found that she appreciates seasons in a new way since she started working here.  She also appreciates trees more. 
 

What is the best part of your job?

The best part of Nancy’s job is the people, both visitors and staff .  She finds that everyone is overwhelmingly positive and inspirational.  In her role, Nancy sees people of all different ages and walks of life, coming here in all sorts of crazy weather conditions.  These are the people that embrace life; they are an active  population and they inspire her.  Nancy is also inspired by our volunteers in their many varied roles. 
 

Do you have a favorite location on the grounds or a favorite tree?

Much like her favorite season, it changes all the time.  At the top of her list is the tulip tree, which she never knew about before working here.  The leaves have beautiful shapes that look just like tulips.  And in June, the tree produces a creamy lime blossom with sherbet-colored center.  It’s a nice surprise when most of the other trees have stopped blooming.  Two of the most prominent tulip trees are in Arbor Court, adjacent to the Maze Garden, and at the top of Joy Path.  She discovered the one on Joy Path in 2004 when the new Visitor Center was being built and provisional facilities were on the West Side near Thornhill, as she would walk down that path often during the day. 
 

What do you want our visitors to know about The Morton Arboretum and our mission?

At first glance, the Arboretum is so much bigger than what you think it is.  Most visitors are not aware of the comprehensive work we do.  If visitors come here for recreation, they don’t necessarily know or see the behind-the-scenes work that happens locally and globally to further tree science.  Nancy knew that this place was beautiful, but once she started working here, she realized the Arboretum’s bigger purpose.
 

What is an insider tip that you’d like to share with visitors?

Nancy highly recommends loading the membership app on your phone so your membership card is always with you.  It’s easy to forget or misplace your membership card, but you hardly ever forget your phone!  It’s useful not only for admission at the Gatehouse, but to obtain discounts in The Arboretum Store, on tram tour rides, or for ticketed events such as Breakfast with the Bunny, Mother’s Day Brunch, and of course, Illumination. 
 

Share an interesting fun fact about you:

Nancy considers herself a better-than-average pool player.  She learned as a kid on a seven- foot table in her basement.  As a female, she often surprises others who want to take her on in a friendly game.  When Nancy met her husband, there was an instant attraction because he, too, is a pool shark.  Another interesting fact is that Curious George has been Nancy’s favorite animated character since childhood, and she had the opportunity to be Curious George in costume for a recent Arbor Day tree planting.  Nancy enjoys expressing her creative and dramatic side outside of her normal duties; you just never know where you might run into Nancy in costume! 

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January 2019
Laura Kamedulski, Coordinator of Youth and Family Programs

Laura Kamedulski standing by entrance to Children's Garden

 

What is your favorite season at the Arboretum and why?

Laura loves being asked that question!  For her, summer is her favorite season because of the energy and fun activities in the Children’s Garden, where much of her work is based.  And, she doesn’t have to wear a coat!  While she enjoys spring for blooms and fall for the colors, she notices the many shades of green that appear throughout our growing season.
 

What is the best part of your job?

Seeing her audience connecting with her or with the subject matter she is presenting is extremely gratifying for Laura.  When she sees kids spellbound by the story she is reading, she knows she is cultivating a connection with nature.  She likes seeing families enjoying their time together and relaxing during the family tram rides aboard the Acorn Express.  The same holds true as she leads Forest Therapy Walks for adults: seeing them tune in and letting things go for a few hours.  Laura also works closely with the Youth Volunteers in the Children’s Garden, and she feels a sense of pride when they graduate each year, seeing how much they have grown in their skills and confidence, knowing that she had a hand in connecting them to the Arboretum.      
 

Do you have a favorite location on the grounds or a favorite tree?

Laura’s favorite destinations are the elevated spots in the Arboretum, where she can look down and see a bigger view. Seeing the vistas from places like Frost Hill, Thornhill, or her newest location, atop the berm where Joe the Guardian stands watch, allows her a broader picture of the Arboretum.  Other favorite locations include P11 by the bluebells, and the Evergreen Lookout in the Children’s Garden.  As a Forest Therapy guide, Laura has also been connecting more with trees, and she has developed a fondness for the bur oak, persimmon, and miyabe maple.  
 

What do you want our visitors to know about The Morton Arboretum and our mission?

Like many staff members, Laura wants our visitors to know that we have a team of scientists working on advancing tree health on many different fronts.   She  also encourages visitors to notice things in nature.  Nature always has something new to notice. Using the senses is a very rewarding experience, along with slowing down and being in the frame of mind to appreciate nature and the Arboretum’s role in that.
 

What is an insider tip that you’d like to share with visitors?

When the Children’s Garden closes at the end of the day, Laura often finds herself offering tips to visitors on what else they can do.  She often suggests hiking from certain parking lots.  P29 is one of her go-to suggestions, so visitors can find the troll hideout. She recommends the prairie even in the winter, when the beauty is seen in curled and polka-dot prairie dock leaves.  
 

Share an interesting fun fact about you:

Laura is part of the Maxwell Street Foundation, a historic preservation group that worked to preserve the Maxwell Street Market neighborhood on Chicago's Near West Side.  Laura and the foundation lobbied the city and the University of Illinois at Chicago to save and relocate some of the buildings, which can be seen on the 700 block of Maxwell Street.  Laura became involved in this project through her interest in urban history. She appreciated the Maxwell Street Market as a public place with a friendly spirit and unique energy through its people, shopping, food, and music.
 
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