A new birthday gift to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln is taking root across East Campus.

Students in associate professor Kim Todd’s plant identification, plant design and introduction to landscape management classes gathered Oct. 16 and 17 to begin planting 150 trees in honor of the university’s sesquicentennial.

Over the course of both days, the variety of tree species were planted near the Animal Sciences Complex, Hardin Hall, Varner Hall, the College of Dentistry and Barkley Memorial Center. Nearly 70 were placed last week, and the group will continue the project after fall break.

“To have students put their hands on a living thing, put it in the soil and then come back five to 10 years from now with their children and say ‘I contributed to something that will last beyond me’ is truly a neat idea,” Todd said. “It becomes a simple way for students to give back to their campus for a very long time.”

Todd is running the planting project with assistance from Landscape Services. The trees are being paid for by an anonymous NU Foundation donor and came from Great Plains Nursery, owned by university alumna Heather Byers.

By engaging the campus community in the effort, Todd hopes to expand learning opportunities for those involved and demonstrate Nebraska's commitment to future generations.

“It’s a fun, teachable moment that faculty and staff and the community can take away with them. How do you choose a tree, plant a tree and care of a tree? Fifty years from now or 100 years from now, somebody else will benefit from that work,” Todd said.

The first week of the project featured students from a wide range of backgrounds. It was a new experience for Garrett Stone, a senior horticulture major who grows and sells his own produce back home in Sutton, Nebraska.

"I like working outside, and I like planting. Trees are different for me, but it's something I can learn and bring back home," he said.

As a member of the Chancellor’s Environment, Sustainability and Resilience Commission, Todd is working to bring better plant replacement, education outreach, landscape protection and species diversity to the university. She sees the East Campus tree initiative as the first of many commission-inspired projects to come.

Students, faculty or staff interested in volunteering for the rest of the project can contact her for more information at ktodd2@unl.edu.