In Good Company

Making Campus Beautiful and Sustainable

Arborist Ray Magalski

Year of the Tree

Campus Operations Staff Go Beyond Being “Tree Huggers;” They’re Lifelong Learners and Certified Arborists    

By Matthew Dershowitz '20

Ray Magalski, Brady Gottman, and Josh Elliott have been studying the trees on campus—not for an undergraduate class, though they do have a textbook—but for their jobs. All three are among the newest Campus Operations members to earn an elite Arborist certification from the International Society of Arboriculture.

This, Magalski asserts, is no easy feat. “They don’t make it easy to take the test,” he illustrates. “You have to have a lot years of experience working in the field, so a lot of people get discouraged.” Magalski says that preparation for the test, however, was far more than just gaining experience. In order to achieve the certification, they studied an official arborist textbook extensively prior to attending a three-day course and taking a certification exam.

Campus Grounds Manager Melissa AckerAccording to Campus Grounds Manager Melissa Acker, the rise in the certifications can be attributed to a continual thirst for knowledge. “We’re continually learning. That, to me, is what’s critical about doing the certifications. We’re always learning what is best, and how we can create these stable little ecosystems, and if we can do that it’s going to create a healthier environment and happier people.”

“In a time when climate change is upon us,” says Gottman, “trees are important because they soak up carbon dioxide. They give us oxygen. Plus, I don’t know anyone that doesn’t like to look up and see trees.”

Arborist certifications are especially important at UNC Asheville, a campus that Acker says has a “commitment and dedication to the notion that this campus is a place graced by trees, that we understand that trees are essential to our human and environmental well-being.”

A typical day in the life of a horticulture or environmental technician involves ensuring that environmental well-being in a variety of ways, including mowing grass, planting, pulling weeds, leaf removal, tree pruning, fence building, garden construction, lumber gathering, and almost anything you can think of involving organic material on campus. On top of that, they have a hand in almost every department here at UNC Asheville; for instance, they worked closely with the Art and Art History Department, supplying them wood for their anagama kiln. UNC Asheville’s focus on interdisciplinary education doesn’t end with academics, but rather it extends into every aspect of campus life, including Campus Operations.

Arborist Josh ElliotWorking together is a must for the Campus Operations team, and Acker has nothing but appreciation for her dedicated co-workers. “We’re trying to push more and more towards that sustainable approach,” she says, “and that takes everybody going, wait a minute, are you sure that’s the best thing here? That’s why these guys getting the time to really sit down and study these trees helps the campus as a whole.”

Acker believes that “the more we can create these environments where all the plants are working together and the more we can relieve the plants of pressure from weeds and toxic herbicides, the less our campus will impact the environment.”

“In a time when climate change is upon us,” says Gottman, “trees are important because they soak up carbon dioxide. They give us oxygen. Plus, I don’t know anyone that doesn’t like to look up and see trees.”

As for why proper tree care is important, Magalski says, “it’s almost a spiritual thing... it just brings me comfort to be around trees.”


Energizing Campus

Electrical Team Leader Tony Delaurentis Creates One-Of-A-Kind Art Installations for UNC Asheville

By Hannah Epperson '11

Reaching out from the stone wall along the walkway from Owen Hall to Belk Theatre, a large hand constructed of twisted metal bars points visitors toward the theater building. This helping hand was created by Tony Delaurentis, UNC Asheville’s team lead of the electrical department, and current art student.

“That sculpture is a gesture of the campus itself being welcoming,” Delaurentis explained, “the hand coming from the campus, showing the way.”

Tony DelaurentisDelaurentis has been working in UNC Asheville’s campus operations department for just over 10 years, and also is currently working toward his bachelor’s degree in art. Though he initially studied painting, it wasn’t until Megan Wolfe, associate professor of art, suggested he try working in three-dimensional art that he really found his element. With guidance from Department of Art faculty Brent Skidmore, Jackson Martin and Matt West, Delaurentis went from working in ceramics to sculpture in a variety of mediums—steel, plaster and wood.

“I like the presence of it,” Delaurentis said. “You can control the size of the artwork. It can be something that fits in your hand, or it can be as large as this room or a building…plus the freedom of different materials.”

Delaurentis’ artwork can be spied in various places around campus, including a map made of wood and shells depicting currents surrounding the Marshall Islands on display in an art classroom in Owen Hall, and a large hanging mobile in the TD Bank Atrium in Rhoades Hall. For several days his installation piece made of burlap coffee bags covering his Toyota pick-up truck was parked in front of Owen Hall.

Delaurentis splits his time between work, classes and studio time—some of which is in the studios in Owen Hall, some at his own home studio, and some at UNC Asheville’s STEAM Studio at The RAMP. It’s a balancing act that he’s well accustomed to.

“We’re taught how to weld and work in wood and metal, and now we’re being taught to work with a program for a water jet metal cutter in STEAM Studio. So you get an education that’s very interdisciplinary.”

“Being an art student, you have to keep a schedule and be creative, and that’s very much so with my regular work, too,” Delaurentis said. “Actually my electrical job helped immensely with my artwork, because I knew how to maintain a schedule, or how to dedicate time to a project.”

His artistic eye has become a benefit to his job as well.

“The other interesting thing that came out of this as a side effect of sculpture is they teach a lot of trades that are not taught much anymore,” Delaurentis said. “We’re taught how to weld and work in wood and metal, and now we’re being taught to work with a program for a water jet metal cutter in STEAM Studio. So you get an education that’s very interdisciplinary.”

Delaurentis has other ideas about projects he’d like to complete for campus in the future. And while he’s not interested in pursuing art as a career—“I already have a job,” he said—he enjoys the opportunity to create artwork that is functional and useful for campus.

“It’s nice when people say, ‘well, what do you do?’” he said of his work on campus. “Well, turn around. Here it is!”