The Sustainable Campus (Trends and Innovations)

A Tree-Friendly Campus

The University of Texas at Dallas (UT Dallas) recently received the Tree Campus USA ( designation from the Arbor Day Foundation. The program helps two- and four-year accredited colleges and universities meet five standards developed to promote healthy trees and student involvement and establish and sustain community forests.

“This national designation is a part of the continuing effort to transform the environment of our campus,” says Richard Dempsey, associate vice president for Facilities Management. “It also helps ensure that our campus’ natural resources will receive continuing professional care and management.”

The UT Dallas grounds department and the Office of Sustainability earned the certification by establishing a strong tree maintenance and management program, designating a budget for trees and holding tree-related service projects and educational outreach on campus.

“Facilities Management and the Office of Sustainability work closely together to improve the livability of our landscapes, and trees play an important role in this effort,” says Thea Junt, associate director for energy conservation and sustainability. “A healthy environment contributes to our students’ success and provides a welcoming atmosphere on our campus.”

A Conscious Effort

In the past several years, UT Dallas has made significant grounds renovations through initiatives such as the campus enhancement project ( championed by philanthropist Margaret McDermott and designed by landscape architect Peter Walker. This major project brought improvements such as a larger south campus entrance, lines of magnolia trees on the central pedestrian mall and various green gathering spaces for events and study breaks. It also recently earned the Society for College and University Planning’s 2017 Excellence in Landscape Architecture Merit Award for General Design.

“Over the last decade, our entire campus has been transformed,” says Dr. Calvin Jamison, vice president for Administration. “We’ve gone from acres of concrete to a park-like environment with a true sense of place. The large addition of trees to accompany our new buildings and infrastructure mirrors the growth of the overall campus population and has enhanced the vibrancy of our community.”

Today, there are more than 6,800 trees on campus, representing more than 65 species. The latest installment includes 100 native-species trees that were planted last spring. UT Dallas worked with community partners to relocate two of the new trees — large lacebark elms — from a construction zone at Medical City Children’s Hospital in Dallas.

Looking Ahead

To maintain the Tree Campus USA designation, UT Dallas has established a Tree Advisory Committee, which is a standing subcommittee of the Campus Sustainability Committee. In addition, a detailed tree care plan has been developed and implemented by Facilities Management, which includes assigning each tree on campus a number, metal tag and GPS location to help track and analyze tree life and maintenance in an online database. Tree-planting events also take place annually on campus, and service learning events are hosted by the Office of Sustainability and the Office of Student Volunteerism, both on campus and with community partners.

Past student events have included Texas Arbor Day on-campus tree plantings, an Earth Week Urban Tree Farm Clean-Up at Texas Trees Foundation and a “RETREET Rowlett” tree planting to help the area recover from tornado damage.

UT Dallas Tree Facts

  • UT Dallas is one of only 27 schools in Texas and 344 schools in the nation to be admitted as a member of Tree Campus USA.
  • UT Dallas has more than 6,800 trees.
  • There are more than 65 species of trees on campus, including 1,619 cedar elms and 977 Southern live oaks.
  • Over 400 trees are wider than 19 inches across.
  • There is one peach and one fig tree on campus.
  • UT Dallas Facilities Management routinely transplants trees from construction zones to other areas of campus, including eight bur oaks from the Engineering Building construction site.
  • If trees must be removed because they are diseased, they are replaced with healthy trees and landscape materials.
  • The grounds team has two full-time arborists.

To learn more about UT Dallas trees and sustainably initiatives, visit

This article originally appeared in the issue of .

About the Author

M. Chase York is assistant director of Communications in the Office of Administration for The University of Texas at Dallas. She can be reached at [email protected]