Committee Looks to Beautify Campus in Big and Small Ways

By Samuel Lopez, staff writer; images contributed by Mike Addington
Photo of a flowerbed alongside the entrance to a building

Building 376 is one of the spots on campus to receive a new flowerbed through the committee’s work.

Pockets of the NCI at Frederick campus have popped with color the past few months. Staff working on-site may have noticed landscaped flowerbeds boasting arrays of annuals and files of ferns as they passed by larger buildings.

The plants were installed thanks to the Campus Improvement Committee, a small group passionate about making a big impact. For several years, their mission has been to beautify the facility’s rustic appearance, enhance the work environment, and boost employees’ spirits.

“I’m a big believer in improving your environment. We spend so much time at work,” said Mike Addington, the committee’s chair and the manager of the Operations and Maintenance department. He added that a better campus “improves morale, and when your morale is improved, everything else follows.”

The committee worked with Ruppert Landscaping, the groundskeeping and landscaping company that Operations and Maintenance subcontracts to help tend the campus, to install the flowerbeds. The committee has a handful of flowerbeds it would still like to plant, but that’s only one of the numerous projects in its portfolio.

In fact, many staff working on campus over the past few years have likely used or encountered one of those projects daily, especially if they’ve ridden a bike or eaten lunch outside. The committee previously installed several of the campus’ bike racks as well as its approximately 35 picnic tables on concrete pads.

“That was a nice enhancement. You walk around at lunchtime, you can see people using [the tables]. It kind of warms my heart,” Addington said.

The projects often aim to improve visual aesthetics or employee quality of life in small but meaningful ways, but the committee executes larger projects too. One of its goals is to remove a widespread eyesore by building enclosures around the many trash dumpster emplacements on campus.

However, its biggest effort is a trio of upcoming projects: construction of a trellis over the Building 549 Discovery Café patio, installation of a bistro-style coffee shop in the Discovery Café, and construction of an outdoor pavilion for dining and meetings. All three have been designed. The committee is working to obtain funding through and in cooperation with the Project Operations group in Facilities Maintenance and Engineering.

“We have a lot of cooperation from NCI,” Addington said. “Without NCI support, of course, none of it would be possible.”

Diversity Makes a Difference

The support is one key to the committee’s success. NCI at Frederick has offered steady funding and empowered the group to complete its goals.

Addington believes the other key is the diversity, creativity, and resourcefulness of his fellow committee members. They come from many areas: scientific programs, facilities management, environmental safety, and others. Government and contractor staff work side-by-side. There’s no hierarchy, and they cooperate to balance committee duties with their day jobs. The employee community can submit ideas to the members, and members can bring their own ideas. Everything gets an honest and fair discussion.

“We’re like-minded in our passionate approach to the mission, but we all come from it at different angles, and that’s how you arrive at the best product. That’s what makes it work,” Addington said.

The diversity also positions the committee to complete improvements efficiently and responsibly. For instance, committee member John Bell represents the Project Operations department. His group are experts in managing large-scale projects like the trellis, coffee shop, and pavilion, so they take the lead on executing those. Addington’s Operations and Maintenance staff, meanwhile, excel at working with Ruppert Landscaping on smaller-scale improvements like the flowerbeds.

Other committee members bring professional and extracurricular expertise. Rose Aurigemma, Ph.D., has an extraordinary knowledge of plant species. She flagged the initial flowerbed plans for containing plants that presented a potential environmental hazard. On her recommendation, the designs were reworked with more appropriate shrubs. In the past, she has also advised on pollinator-friendly flowers.

Ted Witte, of the Environment, Health, and Safety Directorate, shares his knowledge of campus safety and regulations, along with his love of nature and the outdoors. Chris Bell and Mike Moles help liaise with NCI. Adam Leaman contributes his facilities and project management expertise. Helene Highbarger, Ph.D., and Joel Schneider, Ph.D., offer a scientist’s perspective. Everyone gets to play to their strengths, and the result is a well-rounded group.

“It’s fun. It makes it fun to do when you’re with people like that and when you’re actually making a difference. We think we’re making a difference,” Addington said. “It’s worked wonderfully.”

If you’re in the bustle of working on campus, stop a moment and smell the flowers. Then tell the committee about it. They’ll appreciate hearing from you.

The committee can be reached via Mike Addington at


Samuel Lopez is a technical editor in Scientific Publications, Graphics & Media (SPGM), where he writes for NCI at Frederick and Frederick National Laboratory’s news outlets; manages the day-to-day operations of the Poster newsletter; informally serves as an institutional historian; and edits scientific manuscripts, corporate documentation, and a slew of other written media. SPGM is the facilities’ creative services department and hub for editing, illustration, graphic design, formatting, and multimedia training and support.

The flowerbed at 376 wraps around the building. The landscaping creates an inviting path for those passing toward the center of campus.