February 24, 2009
By Patrick White
Appearance matters, and that’s especially true for colleges and universities competing against each other for students and enrollment dollars. So, it was a great source of pride for Southern Methodist University in Dallas to be honored by the Professional Grounds Management Society (www.pgms.org) in the University and College Grounds category of its 2008 Green Star Awards. The group cited the school’s efforts to overcome challenges posed by its heavy native soils, while dramatically improving the appearance of the campus by adding new plants and grasses.
“We’ve done a lot of air spading on campus,” says Kevin Dillard. In addition to fixing girdling roots on trees, the tool also helps to condition soils in shaded areas prior to installation of planting beds.
This wasn’t an overnight transformation, but rather the result of years of work and planning. Kevin Dilliard, SMU’s associate director of landscape and grounds, arrived at the school seven years ago and started maintaining the 175-acre campus.
“My position was created in response to concerns from donors and alumni,” he recalls. “When I arrived, the staff size was small; they basically raked leaves, picked up trash and trimmed hedges. Now, the staff size has doubled, to 19, and we do all the landscape design and installation, irrigation design and installation and other maintenance in-house.”
As a result of this concerted effort, the campus landscaping has been much improved and is also more consistent throughout in terms of design and plant species. Dilliard says he has had strong support from school administrators throughout the process.
“The admissions office has told us that the appearance of the campus is number three on the list of reasons why a student picks a university,” he says. “It gives students and parents a first impression as soon as they visit. I also hear from the athletics department that it also helps them in recruiting—the look of the campus ‘sells’ itself, and they can just focus on ‘selling’ the athletic program. It also helps with donors; when they give money, they want to know that it’s being used wisely and that the campus is being taken care of.”
That campus has become a source of pride in all quarters.
Read the full story.
# # #