Faced with burnout, law students turn to gardening for rejuvenation
Washington College of Law Community Garden provides stress-free environment for preoccupied students
When Nora Greene, a third-year law student and president of the Washington College of Law Garden Council, returned to the community garden after it spent a long, lonely summer in the D.C. heat, she braced herself for the worst. Instead, Greene was astounded by the resilience of nature, discovering many of the plants were growing out of control.
Even for busy law students, the smallest amount of care can go a long way, Greene said.
During the academic year, Greene and other WCL students meet weekly to work on the garden. In return, the garden provides a much-needed mental break from the stress, commitments and competition of law school.
“I think that it actually helps me recharge so that I don’t feel burnt out on the rest of my educational responsibilities,” Greene said.
Mariah Stephens, a second-year law student and finance chair of the Garden Council, said being part of the community garden helps her to spend time in the sun instead of being cooped up in the library. This, Stephens said, helps combat the burnout that she experiences as a law student.
“Being from Wyoming, I didn't grow up in a big city with people, buses … and concrete everywhere,” Stephens said. “So, it's nice to just come back here and be transported back to Wyoming and ranches and home.”
While these commitments sometimes require a great amount of time, energy and effort, according to Ball, the community garden is unique compared to other student organizations, making her time at the garden fun and relaxing, rather than work.
Greene said she is able to set boundaries with her involvement in the garden.
“I try really hard to not treat it as extra work,” Greene said. “I will set my foot down if it’s becoming too stressful or taking up too much of my life in a way that is negatively affecting me.”
Part of this flexibility is because the garden is run entirely by students. It was established as part of a resolution passed by the Student Bar Association saying the Community Garden would be run by a council of student organizations.
According to Greene, other student groups have specific roles dictated by the bylaws of that organization and the faculty advisors.
The unique setup of the Garden Council also attracts a more diverse group of students compared to other organizations. International students and students in the Master of Laws program have been involved with the garden.
The Garden Council has varying degrees of gardening experience, consisting of nine law students representing six different student organizations. Stephens, for example, is the finance chair for the International Trade and Investment Law Society. Greene is the director of sustainability at the Student Bar Association. Haley Ball, a third-year student and Garden Council member, is the editor-in-chief of the Intellectual Property Brief.
“I hope it will continue to be a cool bridge between a lot of the WCL programs,” Greene said. “You can get a mix of all the different educational programs and I really do not get that anywhere else.”