My New Normal: Jennie Ciborowski

The Arboretum Program Coordinator describes her work on campus during the College’s closure in the spring, and how it relates to Haverford’s sense of community.

Jennie Ciborowski is the program coordinator at the Haverford College Arboretum. She oversees Arboretum outreach, including events and volunteers, and is involved in campus sustainability initiatives. This is her story, as told to Aidan York ’24.

My time on campus during lockdown was both interesting and enriching. I initially left the campus on March 11, and then worked from home until June. During the lockdown the Arboretum staff was completely remote with the exception of our horticulturists who would take turns coming in two hours a day to water plants in the greenhouse.

When I returned to campus in June, I started having unique requests made of me by students. Multiple people contacted me [once it became clear that they wouldn’t be returning to campus], asking if I could move their plants from their dorms to the greenhouse, where they could be taken care of by our horticulturists. I was more than happy to help students with this process, as I am a plant-lover myself, and I know I was very concerned about my office plants while I was working from home.

I was lucky enough that all of my office plants survived, but unfortunately, not all of the students’ plants met that same fate. Three months is a long time for plants not to have a drink, but I was surprised by just how many plants survived the drought. The most resilient plants were the snake plants (Dracaena trifasciata) who looked good as new when I found them in dorm rooms. There were also students who had me deliver their plants from their abandoned dorm rooms to other students who were still living on campus. Regardless of the delivery method, I was happy to help save the plants!

Nature has always been an essential part of Haverford since the College’s founding. At the Arboretum, we’ve always tried to foster that connection, particularly by promoting horticulture on campus, from the tiniest succulents to the largest houseplants. [Note: Since 1988, the Arboretum has gifted each member of the first-year class a plant, which many Fords keep for years and even decades. This means that many folks on campus have at least one plant in their dorm room.] The fact that students thought to reach out to ensure that their plant didn’t perish, in the midst of all that was going on in the world, really solidifies how important nature is to everyone on campus, and how important seemingly small things can be to our greater campus community.

Programming at the Arboretum has looked very different during the pandemic. It was really disappointing to have to cancel a lot of the events we had planned for the community. The one that impacted me the most was the cancellation of our annual Arbor Day tree planting, something the community has done since 1902. While this year looks different, we here at the Arboretum are confident that programming will pick back up when it is safe to do so, and we are excited to find new ways to engage all members of our community virtually until then.

Aside from my typical Arboretum assignments, my main job while back on campus was to help with student move-out. We are in the process of creating a (RE)use Store on campus with the goal of reducing the amount of waste produced at the end of each year. During my time on campus, I was able to collect donations for the (RE)use Store. We hope to have the store up and fully running by the end of this school year!

Working during the pandemic has proven to me that Haverford is somewhere that I am truly thankful to be able to call my home away from home. As a staff member, I have felt extremely supported by our community and encouraged by everything the College has done to keep everyone on campus as safe as possible. This entire experience has also taught me not to take nature for granted. I have always had a love for our environment, but in this time of uncertainty, it is reassuring to me to see the natural world continue to move on. We may have left campus in March, but the campus didn’t stop. The cherries still bloomed in April, and the weeds still continued to grow. Now that I am back on campus I am trying to make sure to enjoy every time I get a chance to immerse myself in our Arboretum’s beauty.

My New Normal is a series of first-person blog posts, sharing the experiences of the Haverford community in the time of COVID-19.