Greener Pastures – Interning with the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society

by ryan dawson, outreach specialist, temple university career center

The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society is a non-profit organization located in downtown Philadelphia that has been leading urban farming, gardening, and environmental protection initiatives since 1827. Their programs focus on connecting people with horticulture has immensely helped maintain some of the most beautiful green spaces in across Philadelphia and beyond. The career center recently had the opportunity to hear from a Temple student who interned with PHS throughout Spring & Summer of 2019. Ritapa Neogi is a Geography & Urban Studies major who spent time working alongside of the great people of PHS. She was kind enough to share her experience!











Major/Graduation year: Geography & Urban Studies, 2020

What organization is your internship with? Pennsylvania Horticultural Society in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

What semester did you do this internship? Spring/Summer 2019

What is/was your job function and what does a typical day entail? I was an Urban Forestry Intern with the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society from April through late July.

Since the Tree Team works with volunteers and organizations around the city, it was typical to spend days outside the office. Most of the time, I would come in at 9am, wait for assignments from my supervisors, and stay until 5pm. Occasionally, I’d participate in other events, including tree plantings, classes, conferences, and summer camps.

My job function was dynamic. Regular office tasks included exporting GIS data, putting informational packets together, and fixing up Tree Tenders documents (training guides, presentations, etc.) I handled other assignments as needed. For example, I had the opportunity to produce a 5-page comic book about our Tree Tenders program for Marketing!

By July, I took responsibility for our Urban Forest Cloud, a publicly-accessible map created to track tree health through citizen science. After leading a demonstration at the annual PHS Tree Checkers class, I walked volunteers through any questions they might have about mapping trees. As the primary contact for the Urban Forest Cloud, my daily tasks shifted to making phone calls, replying to emails, and helping volunteers loan equipment.

How did you find out about this opportunity, and what was the interview process like?

I followed the PHS website for a month after I became familiar with their programs – specifically Rain Check and LandCare. Marketing internships were posted in December 2018, in preparation for the 2019 Flower Show. As a lifelong artist and writer, I decided to apply, even though the position had little to do with my major.

After my initial online application, I was contacted via email by my future Social Media supervisor. The interview was nerve-wracking, but it’s hard to feel too out-of-place when you’re already as excited about an organization as its current employees! I was offered the internship within the next week.

During my Social Media internship, I met the Urban Forestry Program Manager at PHS. She mentioned that the Tree Team would be looking for a summer intern soon. Days later, when I was awarded Temple’s CLA Pathways to Professions stipend, I decided to reach out to her for more information.

How has your internship related to your course work?

It’s been life-changing to learn how an interest in environmental studies could shape my career. Tree Tenders is a wonderful program that combines science and community development to improve livability in Philadelphia. It’s an application of urban solutions I’d only encountered in the classroom (i.e. planting trees to reduce heat and manage storm water).

What is the most important thing you’ve learned during your internship/job experience?

The people you work with can make or break your work environment. I grew very close to my coworkers, whether they were on the Tree Team, in a different department, or fellow interns. Most of my favorite memories from my internship were moments I was able to bond with the people around me. I may not have been so ecstatic to volunteer at early weekend plantings if I weren’t spending that time with PHS friends.

I also learned how to plant, prune, and identify trees… so that’s been pretty handy!

What piece of advice would you give to current students embarking on an internship/job search?

Don’t look for a position, look for organizations you admire. I was set on finding a GIS internship before I landed a totally unexpected role as Social Media Intern with PHS. Not only did I build valuable skills in photography and marketing, I also got my foot in the door a second internship, for which I was able to pitch my background in geography. If I hadn’t actively followed postings on the PHS website, I would have missed both opportunities entirely.

Did the career center assist you in any way, whether it was identifying the opportunity, applying to it, interviewing for it, or preparing for it?

I wouldn’t have been able to pursue a second internship with PHS if not for the CLA Pathways to Professions stipend.

Have you learned any valuable lessons about obtaining jobs/internships during your time at Temple?

Take every opportunity to hear the stories of professionals in your field. Not everyone gets to the same place through the same route. Also, sign-up for interesting classes outside your major! Having knowledge outside your area of study is always a good thing. My interview for the Social Media internship made me thankful I’d taken time to glean skills outside geography, i.e. using Adobe Creative Suite and manual settings in photography.

Make sure to Favorite The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society on Handshake to get up to date information on positions and events they will be posting for Temple students of all majors!

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