Board, Friends of the Arboretum

The Friend's Board membership, from 9 to 15 individuals, supports the Arboretum staff in carrying out research, conservation and public education activities. Friends focus primarily on public education, fundraising, special events, programming, and enhancing the visitor experience. 
Bylaws of the Friends of the Arboretum.

Friends of the Arboretum Board slate for 2017-2018 

Renewing board members:

Julia Cowell, Anita Grunwald, Stephanie Nielson, Alison Tassio, John Zott.

Nominees for Board Membership

Maura Connolly
     Maura received her BA from Wake Forest University in 2014 and currently works as Volunteer Coordinator for two local nonprofits (Bike Santa Cruz County and Friends Outside), where she recruits and manages both long-term and event specific volunteers, as well as providing event support, and other administrative assistance as needed.
     Maura is not new to the Arboretum, having formerly served as Volunteer Coordinator where she created volunteer infrastructure; recruited and managed volunteers; improved sustainability efforts; created and managed social media accounts; contributed to marketing efforts, including content for volunteer and membership newsletters. She also provided event support.
     Maura is looking forward to putting her knowledge of the organization to use.  She’s well plugged into the Santa Cruz County nonprofit community.  Her event planning experience and youthful energy will be a great asset.

Bill Ruskin
     Bill Is a registered professional forester who holds a BS from UC Berkeley in Conservation of Natural Resources and a MS from UC Davis in Agronomy and Range Science. He has worked for the Bureau of Land Management as a conservation planner, botanist, environmental review team member, and for Calfire as a forester, administrative, operations and camp division chief.
     Bill was rare plant coordinator for the California Native Plant Society, Sanhedrin chapter, and a private forestry consultant in Monterey County.  He has expressed interest in leadership and board development, special events, membership development, and is equipped to advise on collections and outreach, as well as environmental education and internship development.  We are delighted to welcome Bill to the community.

The Board slate will be voted on at the ARBQ, the Members Annual Meeting and Appreciation Event, on September 17.

Friends Board Members, 2016-2017

Andrea Hesse, President
Stephanie Nielsen, Vice President
Julia CowellSecretary
Campus Representative
Martin Quigley
At-large members:
Lisa Bennett
Susie Bower 
Susanna Gaertner
Anita Grunwald
Janet Platin
David Sonnenberg
Alison Tassio
John Zott

Science Advisory Council Members

Dr. Linda Anderson, Chair, UC Santa Cruz 
Dr. Kat Anderson, USDA, UC Davis
Dr. Jean Langenheim, UC Santa Cruz
Dr. Michael Loik, UC Santa Cruz
Dr. Bruce Lyon, UC Santa Cruz
Dr. Todd Newberry, UC Santa Cruz
Dr. Jarmila Pittermann, UC Santa Cruz 
Dr. Matt Ritter, Cal Poly, SLO
Dr. Barry Sinervo, UC Santa Cruz
Dr. Lincoln Taiz, UC Santa Cruz  
Dr. Michael Vasey, SF State Univ.
Jim Velzy, UC Santa Cruz

Lisa Bennett is a Master Gardener Member and active member of the California Rare Fruit Growers Hybridizers Group Project.  She has served the Friends of the Sunnyvale Library as Vice President and in advertising.  Lisa is presently on the Board of Directors for the Grey Bears and hopes to help spread passion about our beautiful and rare garden, to engage the broader community and get kids and adults excited its wonders.

Susie Bower 
Susie Bower is a retired UCSC staff member and had worked in both Student Affairs and the Arboretum during her decades of employment. She and her husband own a business designing and making quirky stuff. She enjoys retirement by sewing, yardening (no, that's not a typo), music, hiking, playing Chinese Mah Jongg, and taking adventures. She also volunteers weekly at the SC County Animal Shelter and at the Arboretum.

Julia Muennich Cowell, Secretary
Julia and her husband moved to Santa Cruz from Chicago in June, 2010. Gardening there was quite the challenge with a 100 degree range in temperature over a year. The Cowells learned to appreciate the structure of dormant plants in winter, thrilled with the first plants of spring, enjoyed many prairie natives all summer and admired the brilliant colors of the Midwestern autumn. She is the executive editor of The Journal of School Nursing, the research journal of the National Association of School Nurses. Her volunteer services have included chairing the Board of Directors of the Visiting Nurse Association Foundation of Chicago, a $50 million foundation dedicated to community health services, to volunteering at the Morton Arboretum in Chicago. While her professional life has been in nursing practice and nursing education and research, her love of gardening comes from childhood. Growing up in Southwestern Ohio, her father was an avid gardener and some of the happiest days of her youth were mowing a 30 acre field of bluegrass. She participated in the volunteer training at the UCSC Arboretum in 2010 and has been weeding in the California Native Garden. She has chaired or the Arboretum Events Committee and participates in the Meet & Greet on week-ends. She has a BSN from the University of Cincinnati, a MSN in public health nursing from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and a PhD in public policy analysis from UIC. She reports that while an amateur in gardening, she has organizational skills that can contribute to the arboretum

Susanna Gaertner
Susanna is already a valued member the UCSC Arboretum volunteer community. She brings exuberance, energy and both entrepreneurial and nonprofit experience in public relations, communications, special events, fundraising and membership development. As a free-lance writer, Susanna has written about everything from medicine to massage, from art to wine travel for Smithsonian, New York Magazine, the Christian Science Monitor, New Woman (Australia), the Sydney Morning Herald, the Santa Cruz Sentinel, and Epicurean Traveler. She writes about food, wine, and recipes for Earlier in her career, Susanna was an advertising executive at GEO and Architectural Digest as well as Associate Publisher of nest magazine. Susanna is a graduate of Bryn Mawr College and holds a PhD in Comparative Literature from Princeton University. She has also become a popular and sought-after Pilates instructor. (

Anita Grunwald
Anita Grunwald has held a range of technical and managerial positions in large high tech enterprises such as Apple and eBay. Her expertise is in Operational Excellence and providing thought leadership to help companies scale and meet their quality and delivery goals. She was a founding member of California Coast Music Camp (CCMC),  a summer residential music camp for adults, with a focus on acoustic music education. Anita has an acute sensitivity to the Arboretum’s sense of place and would like to lend her skills in administration, management, program evaluation, fundraising, and technology to help the Arboretum meet its revenue and fundraising goals.

Andrea Hesse, President
Andrea Hesse currently works as Academic Divisional Computing Director in Information Technology Services at UC Santa Cruz where she oversees the local IT staff and operations embedded in the campus's five academic divisions.  She is additionally responsible for managing the delivery of IT services to the Humanities Division and representing the division in campuswide IT initiatives, planning and governance.  Prior to joining ITS, Andrea worked as Associate Director for UC College Prep Online, a UC Systemwide equity in access demonstration project and laboratory for the development media rich academic content and its delivery via the Internet.  Leading up to that were various roles in a range of educational settings including university art gallery director, charter school administrator, healthy start coordinator and outdoor education director. She has a B.A. in Art History from UCSC and a Masters in Public Administration from San Jose State University.

Stephanie Nielsen, Vice President
Stephanie Nielsen has been an Arboretum volunteer for several years. She is currently working on enabling members to join the organization via an online process. She is very interested in creating a mobile web tour that enables visitors to find out about the plants they enjoy at the Arboretum. Stephanie has worked at UCSC in the Information Technology Services Division for seven years. She has extensive experience in project and records management, business systems analysis, and software and web development. She has a B.A. in Economics. Stephanie is on the Board of the UCSC Women’s Club and the Santa Cruz Knitting Guild. She and her husband, a physics professor at UCSC, live at Ranch View Terrace, overlooking the Arboretum and its eucalyptus grove.

Janet Platin
Janet is a long-standing member of the Santa Cruz business community.  In addition to operating her thriving business, she serves on the Open Studios Board and has served on the board of the Cabrillo College Culinary Department for over ten years. She is an experienced event planner interested in helping to promote the UCSC Arboretum as a unique and wonderful asset in our community. 

David Sonnenberg is Assistant Dean, Planning and Resources Management, University of California, Santa Cruz, Division of Social Sciences where he is responsible for long-term resource planning, staff human resources, labor relations, space, facilities, media, divisional management issues, management of research administration and information technology. He recognizes the Arboretum is a critical puzzle piece in the re-invigoration of the south campus.  He works very closely with CASFS as part of his duties, and is interested in developing and supporting cooperation and collaboration between CASFS and the Arboretum.

Alison Tassio has been a frequent visitor to the Arboretum since moving to Santa Cruz twelve years ago. Her professional experience includes work at multiple retail/commercial nurseries in Berkeley, Oakland and Los Gatos, managing the Smith and Hawken Berkeley nursery, which focused on unusual, hard-to-find plants and California native plants. Alison plans to continue her valuable work on the Arboretum Marketing committee.

John Zott is a CFO consultant, advising and serving as a CFO for firms such as NextSpace CoWorking, West Marine and Mi Pueblo Foods. He has a doctorate in business administration and is a senior adjunct at Golden Gate University, with a strong background in finance, accounting, retail management, administration, management, and education.  He is an avid gardener, with a wealth of connections to the community to support the Arboretum’s outreach and development objectives.