DECATUR, Ga. — Tucked in the back of Georgia State University’s Decatur Campus is a 4-acre botanical garden, home to more than 4,000 species of native and rare Southern plants and flowers. It’s a place of quiet refuge and natural wonder, yet it’s often overlooked by students and the college community.
That’s something Christine Patrum wants to change. As the new manager of the Georgia State University Perimeter College Native Plant Botanical Garden, Patrum will be enhancing the garden’s educational mission, creating more connections with students, faculty and staff through programming and curriculum. Prior to Patrum’s appointment, the garden had no full-time manager.
Patrum will build on the original “teaching garden” mission set by the garden’s founder and former Perimeter professor, George Sanko. Sanko, now a professor emeritus for the college, cleared a briar-infested patch of property on the Decatur Campus in 1990 to create the DeKalb College Botanical Garden, featuring sun, wetlands and shade gardens. The garden regularly offers fall and spring lunch wildflower “talks and walks” and plant sales and is popular with plant enthusiasts, but has not developed a strong connection with students in recent years.
“We want to make sure we are serving our students better, across all campuses,” said Patrum.
Patrum’ s goal is to create a curriculum that ties classes to the garden — for example, students coming to learn about pollinators and seed propagation for environmental science. She wants to increase the awareness of Perimeter’s faculty members about what the garden offers.
“We can figure out ways to connect the garden with their classroom work,” she said.
Patrum alrady has begun partnerships with the Georgia State Office of Civic Engagement and Phi Theta Kappa, the student honor society. As part of these partnerships, students soon will begin planting native plants on the Decatur Campus as well as the Atlanta Campus.
Dr. Carl McAllister, Perimeter’s Life and Earth Sciences Department chair, supports Patrum’s goals.
“With the hiring of Christine Patrum, there will be renewed effort to increase the utilization of the garden in our science curriculum,” he said. “She will work with our faculty and staff to better incorporate the garden into such courses as our environmental sciences and biology courses.
“The garden’s resources lend themselves to such salient topics as the importance of native plant species and the problems created by invasive species,”McAllister said. “We’re also working to bring students and faculty from other disciplines into the garden, for events like Poetry in the Garden. And in March, the National Science Teachers Association will be holding their annual conference in Atlanta, and one of their field trips will visit our botanical garden.”
A graduate of Auburn University with a master’s in microbiology, Patrum has been a Perimeter College microbiology lab staff member since 2009. Her interest in the Native Plant Botanical Garden blossomed as a volunteer and as a staff member on the Decatur Campus. As a volunteer, she has propagated plants, cleared and planted garden beds and coordinated other volunteers for work days at the garden. She also worked with fellow Decatur Campus science professor Dan Bulger on student projects for the garden, and is a member of the garden’s advisory board.
She is looking forward to “digging into” her new position.
“I’ve always enjoyed plants,” she said. “When I was looking at professional development opportunities, I happened to stumble across the native plants courses at the State Botanical Gardens in Athens, and I loved taking those courses.”
She recently finished her native plant certification at the Mimsie Lanier Center for Native Plant Studies at the State Botanical Gardens.
Find out more about the Georgia State University Perimeter College Native Plant Botanical Garden .