Tusculum students and faculty members teamed up on Friday, March 26, to clean a portion of College Creek and the adjacent wooded area in another project that demonstrates the university’s commitment to its mission.

About 20 participants picked up a variety of items in and around the section of the creek that runs from the Paul E. Hayden Educational Wetland to the Doak House Museum on the edge of the Greeneville campus. The students and faculty members collected items ranging from standard fare, such as soft drink bottles and tires, to more obscure items, such as a tricycle, a pay phone, couch parts and car seats. The items weighed a total of more than 350 pounds.

“It is important to raise awareness about environmental protection and citizens taking an active role in that effort,” said Dr. Susan Monteleone, associate professor of biology, who organized the event.

“Because it is close to Earth Day, I wanted to have an event to support that annual celebration and our planet. In our mission statement, Tusculum emphasizes civic engagement and the provision of an active and experiential education, and this cleanup day was an excellent way to put those principles into action,” she said.

The university is in the early stages of establishing a nature preserve in the area, and Dr. Monteleone said Friday’s initiative was a great avenue to prepare it for future visitors. Other benefits of the event were to give students an opportunity to interact with faculty members outside the classroom and meet other classmates. In addition, it gave all the participants a feeling of achievement to see the difference it made to the appearance of the area.

Anjilena Robinson, a freshman chemistry major, enjoyed joining faculty members and fellow students, in this endeavor. She has participated in these types of activities before and considered Friday’s event an excellent example of mutualism.

“This is a nice way to help the plants grow in this area without interference from other things that do not need to be there,” Robinson said. “Plants do a lot of things for us, and if we protect them, they will be able to continue helping us. Most of the trash was put by humans, so I think it is wise for us to remove it and keep this area clean so the plants can continue to thrive and provide for us the way they do.”

Dr. Heather Henson-Ramsey, dean of the College of Science, Technology and Math, said the cleanup was a wonderful activity to enhance the health of College Creek. Andrew Medeck, a sophomore majoring in biology with a medical pre-professional concentration, viewed Friday’s activity as environmental stewardship. He enjoys service work and wants the area to look nice.

“Any way I can help people or make the community better in any way, it just makes the campus look even better to others,” Medeck said. “Others will also feel good about us and show us respect when they know we are taking care of the community.”

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency backed the cleanup with a $1,000 grant for the supplies, T-shirts and other elements of the event.

Tusculum has taken an active role in strengthening College Creek in other ways as well. Using another TWRA grant, the university planted about 400 trees and shrubs on the bank of another section of College Creek in 2020. That work and the growth of grass along the bank might have created the environment for the recent arrival of at least one beaver in that area.

The university also spent a work service day in the fall cleaning out unneeded vegetation in the wetland.

To learn more about Tusculum, visit www.tusculum.edu.