Reaping what we sow
Since Litwin arrived at Rensselaer in 1999, after holding landscaping positions at Disney World in Florida, the campus grounds have undergone a dramatic transformation that mirrors and flows from the Institute’s “renaissance.” And others are taking notice.
The staff regularly gets calls from individuals on campus to ask them to plant flowers outside of their buildings, or to inquire about the name of a certain type of shrub they walk by on their way in to the office every morning. Sometimes they even get to see and overhear praises of their good work firsthand.
“I’ll walk around during Alumni Weekend and it’s kind of neat to see alums return to campus and look down and go ‘oh that flower bed wasn’t here last year,’ and then they’ll stop and take a picture in front of it,” Litwin says. “I love to see families taking pictures at the stone Rensselaer sign in front of the Union just seeing people using the environment is satisfying to me.”
Don Fry, vice president for Institute Advancement, connects the evolution of the physical campus with the rise of Rensselaer’s prestige as a major university. “The beauty of our campus, the care of the infrastructures, and the foresight into a master plan are all strong indicators that Rensselaer is a pre-eminent institution,” he says. “The flowers and trees bring smiles to faces of all who visit this historic campus.”
Litwin and his staff continually work together to create a unified theme to help visually connect the slightly scattered Rensselaer campus for first-time visitors and those who are returning after many years and may not be familiar with all the new construction on campus. The staff uses a repetition of certain plants and themes to fuse the campus together. The streetscape and light poles installed by the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies help join that new area of campus with the existing buildings.
For instance, round stones used in the flower beds by the Troy Building, Jonsson Engineering Center, residence halls, and the Houston Field House help to create a “popcorn trail” that draws a sort of virtual border around the Rensselaer campus.
“Rensselaer is full of beautiful buildings, high-tech labs, and cutting-edge classrooms, but so much relies on a first impression. Our job is to make sure that visitors, students, faculty, and staff are proud to be at Rensselaer from the moment they step on campus,” says Litwin. “And there’s still so much potential here, so much more that can be done.”