By Sonja Skelly

To Apply: Apply here via Workday.

Department: Cornell Botanic Gardens

Mentor/Supervisor: Krissy Boys, Natural Areas Horticulturist

Term: Academic year 2023-2024

Application Deadline & Start Date: 

  • Application Deadline: Sunday, September 3rd @ 11:55 pm  
  • Ideal start date: September 18, 2023

What is Learning by Leading (LxL)?

The Learning by Leading™ (LxL) internship model at Cornell Botanic Gardens seeks to build a network of dynamic student-led teams — supported by the Gardens’ staff and resources — who are passionate about environmental issues, skilled in collaboration and communication, and capable of creative problem-solving.   

The LxL program centers on collaboration, co-creation, experiential learning, and the importance of place. LxL is built on a small team-based structure, in which a staff mentor at the gardens is paired with two student co-leaders.  Based on interest in leadership, Team Members are encouraged to apply for the paid position of Team Co-Leader the following year.  The Co-Leaders coordinate the activities of small teams of peers who will, with the guidance and support of the staff mentor, carry out student-led projects and initiatives that work toward achieving Botanic Gardens’ mission. 

OUR MISSION: Inspiring people—through cultivation, conservation, and education—to understand, appreciate and nurture plants and the cultures they sustain. 

Learning by Leading is an opportunity to experience independence, teamwork, and student leadership (similar to that of a student club), with the support of professional expertise, administrative connections, and funding of a well-established, major public facing institution – the Cornell Botanic Gardens. 

There are currently three Learning by Leading Teams at Cornell Botanic Gardens.  Applicants should apply for at least one of the following teams:  

  • Garden Ambassadors Team, dedicated to outreach, engagement, and informal education   
  • Horticultural Enterprise team, specializing in plant propagation and sales 
  • Sustainable Landscapes team, focused on stewardship of the natural areas managed by the Gardens  Please note: we are not currently recruiting for the Sustainable Landscapes Team. 

Sustainable Landscape Team

The Sustainable Landscapes Team is an alliance of mindful stewards across different disciplines.  The team goal is to strengthen the native plant community in the Mundy Wildflower Garden, a  shady floodplain forest. We begin with observation and plant identification in Mundy. As the year advances, tasks will include weeding invasives, native plant propagation and care, planting, and collecting seeds from the already established native plants. The timing, and rigor, of these tasks are based on the seasons and our observations of site conditions and individual plant health.  Please note: we are not currently recruiting for the Sustainable Landscapes Team. 

TENTATIVE Team meetings/work sessions are: on weekends. 

Garden Ambassador Team

The Garden Ambassadors team is dedicated to outreach, engagement, and non-formal education. Team members seek to connect the Botanic Gardens to both Cornell’s campus, especially students, and the Ithaca community and strengthen peoples’ relationship to the natural world around them. We plan interactive events and educational programs, and carry out ongoing projects in the Garden. In the past, Garden Ambassadors have launched the Gratitude project, Chocolatada, and the Biocultural Forum.

TENTATIVE team meetings/work sessions are: Friday afternoons. 

Horticulture Enterprise Team

The Horticultural Enterprise team’s goal is to conduct plant sales in order to earn revenue for our program as well as provide leadership experiences and opportunities to learn. Focusing on plant propagation and cultivation, each team member plays an integral role in helping plan, research and carry out these sales. In addition to understanding the full cycle of plant production, nursery and greenhouse care, team members gain experience in gardening tasks such as bed preparation, planting, watering, and other practices to learn about the Cornell Botanic Gardens’ plant collections. 

TENTATIVE Team meetings/work sessions are: on weekends.  

Details and Qualifications

  • Must be a full time, undergraduate Cornell University student. 
  • All majors and fields of study are encouraged to apply 
  • This Team Member position is unpaid. Hours may count towards volunteer hours for Cornell Tradition, APO, etc. 
  • After completing one to two semesters as a Team Member, you will be eligible to apply to be a Team co-leader, a paid position. 
  • The team member position is 3-5 hours/week. Hours will consist of weekly team meetings, programs, participating in scheduled events and time spent outside of meetings working on projects. 
  • The commitment for this role is two semesters, but team members may continue beyond that point. 
  • Specific projects and tasks will be determined by the project and discussion among team members and team leaders. 
  • Opportunity to take this for a 1 credit independent study (PLSCI 4970) in the Fall 2023 semester.  

Application Instructions: 

  • Submit application via HandshakeDEADLINE for applications: September 3rd by 11:55 p.m.
  • Include your resume and a cover letter. 
  • In your resume and cover letter, be sure to list your name, NetID, graduation year, and major.  
  • Also, in your cover letter, please indicate which Team(s) you are interested in joining. If applying for more than one Team, please specify your first choice. 
  • Please note we are not currently recruiting for the Sustainable Landscapes Team. 

Here are some questions you can feel free to use to prompt your cover letter! You do not HAVE to answer these questions, they are simply suggestions. 

  • What special skills or interests do you have that you feel would make you an asset to our team? These can be non-plant related skills.  
  • What about this program drew your interest? 
  • What other volunteer programs have you been a part of in the past? 
  • How do you feel about working in group settings? Independently?  
  • How would you describe your experience working in team settings? What would you say your role has been in these teams?  
  • What is something you’re passionate about? 
  • What is your favorite plant? 
  • How do you think your friends and family would describe you? 
  • What are your goals for the future and how do they relate to our team?  
  • Have you visited the Botanic Gardens before? 
  • What about the specific team you applied to excites you?  

To Apply: Submit application via HandshakeDEADLINE for applications: September 3rd by 11:55 p.m.