Landis Portraits: Steven Cushing

By Nolan Marciniec

Stephen Cushing was driving to classes at SUNY Oneonta when he noticed the sign for the Landis Arboretum. Something clicked: he was looking for a place for a summer internship. Could Landis be a possibility? And it was: Stephen will be working at the Arboretum throughout the summer!

After a productive meeting with Executive Director Fred Breglia, Stephen started his internship during the week of the Spring Plant Sale. He was most impressed by the “army of volunteers” and the “community spirit” he found. Most of all, he loved the “welcoming atmosphere.” Stephen quickly noted that all levels of ability and knowledge, from the formidable expertise of Ed Miller, curator of the Native Plant Trail, to the dedicated efforts of the amateur gardener, were accommodated in making that event a success.

Stephen admitted that at first he was confronted by the question, “What is an arboretum?” So far, his experience at Landis has challenged his expectations. He remarked that, unlike some other arboreta, Landis had no concession stands, no zip-line, no glamorous manicured plantings. “This place was ‘wildernessy’—that was my initial reaction. Here is perfect,” he said, a place that combines pristine nature with planned specimens.

The goal of Stephen’s internship is to achieve a “holistic” understanding of the Arboretum: “what makes Landis run?” He will work with the director, the office manager, the grounds crew, the Board, the various committees, and, most importantly, the volunteers. He’ll also talk with visitors to the Arboretum. He’ll be attending meetings, classes, and events as well. He anticipated a writing workshop, Science Educator George Steele’s bird walk, and at least one star party.

Stephen grew up in New London, CT, close to the ocean and, with his four brothers, “always outdoors.” After graduating from high school, he did a stint in the military, where his experience ranged from infantry to tank mechanic. Since then, he has held a series of odd jobs and is currently working nights at a chemical plant in Waterford, NY. He is also pursuing a degree in biology and anthropology at SUNY Oneonta, and he felt that his internship at Landis will enrich his understand of both fields, focusing on the relationship between man and nature.

His interests range from sports (“how sports mimic a culture”) to the study of religions (its impact on how we structure our lives), those aspects of experience that lead us to see beyond the literal.

Having had a previous internship with the NYS Museum in Albany, he is convinced of the value of learning outside the formal classroom. The Arboretum’s bog gardens are a case in point, he said. Not only are they interactive, but they also alter one’s perspective.

Stephen has had time to rethink his notion of an arboretum. “It’s an organic museum, a living, breathing museum,” he said. A visit to the Arboretum, he insisted, will fulfill a very human need. “Come here and think about things,” he advised. The things that matter.

Stephen can attest that Landis will offer you food for thought.


Summer 2017

Volume 35 , Number 3

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