Strategic Plan

“MBGNA is committed to catalyzing equity and justice, and will continue to reckon with itself and the history of living collections to do so. This strategic plan is our road map for how that commitment is turned into action; how MBGNA will continue to thoroughly examine and combat its participation in systemic injustices, and how we will co-create new ways forward with historically excluded communities through the years ahead.”   Read the full letter here.

Anthony Kolenic, PhD

Director, Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum


Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum is a transformative force for social and ecological resilience through the waters and lands we steward. We turn this commitment into action by:

  • Positioning humans as active participants within the natural world and compelling the university community and our publics to negotiate the full complexity that entails
  • Advancing partnerships, programs, user experience, and all that we steward to catalyze equity and justice in a radically changing world
  • Emerging as University of Michigan’s premier partner for research, teaching, and public impact in sustainability, climate-forward practices, and biocultural diversity
  • Promoting healthier communities, cultures, and ecosystems through active care and cultivation of the gardens, fields, natural habitats, and dynamic systems that sustain our world


MBGNA’s Strategic Plan activates this mission in three thematic areas across six “pillars,” each of which is a commitment and a container for scaffolded, strategic goals. Despite being presented and nested as pillar-specific, goals within each of the six pillars operate as a web; they interarticulate and inform each other. Goal actualization is similarly cross-functional and interwoven across large-scale initiatives led by interdisciplinary staff task forces, ad hoc groups, and formal committees.

Equity, Justice + Biocultural Diversity

Catalyzing Equity and Justice through Biocultural Diversity and Polycentrism
  • Institutionalize shared vision and co-liberatory futures with Indigenous partners
  • Propel access and justice through regional relationships
  • Center all forms of accessibility in organizational processes, spaces, and actions
Pursuing Social and Ecological Resilience for a Planet Under Threat
  • Prioritize climate resilience, carbon neutrality, and regenerative land-water stewardship
  • Broaden regenerative and justice-oriented food-agriculture impact
  • Establish an applied research and professional development biocultural diversity “corps”
  • Integrate human, cultural, and community health and wellness

Research, Teaching + Experience Making

Amplifying Knowledge Making and Learner-Centered Experience
  • Develop a unified, learner-centered education department
  • Prioritize polycentrism across education-driven spaces, programs, and processes
  • Grow existing and establish new research partnerships
Instituting a New Communications, Engagement, and User Experience Paradigm
  • Develop a unified user-centered experiential design strategy
  • Renew strategic communications and digital infrastructure
  • Foreground biocultural diversity in place and print
  • Placemake for experience and impact

Organizational Evolution

Propelling Organizational Culture toward Equity, Efficiency, and Impact
  • Evolve internal systems and governance for transparency and efficiency
  • Scaffold equitable and effective staffing structures
  • Increase organizational legibility and impact
  • Strengthen volunteer infrastructure and systems of engagement
Energizing Resources for Strategic Impact
  • Engage in a focused rebranding and identity-building campaign
  • Develop a future-facing budgetary allocation model
  • Establish a comprehensive sponsored research and activities infrastructure
  • Expand development strategy
  • Innovate revenue generation modalities


In 1907, the University created a Botanical Garden and Arboretum on the land between Geddes Road and the Huron River, just a few blocks from Central Campus on the site now known as Nichols Arboretum. At the time, the property consisted of approximately 80 acres. Today, more than 100 years later, the University of Michigan Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum manages over 700 acres of gardens, research areas, and natural preserves around the Ann Arbor area with a complex of conservatory, greenhouses, laboratory, teaching and meeting spaces at Matthaei Botanical Gardens and the James D. Reader, Jr. Center for Urban Environmental Education at Nichols Arboretum.

Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum now includes four properties in different locations operating as one unit within the University of Michigan: Matthaei Botanical Gardens, Nichols Arboretum, Mud Lake Bog, and Horner-McLaughlin Woods.

DEI Plan

Diversity: We commit to increasing diversity, which is expressed in myriad forms, including race and ethnicity, gender and gender identity, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, language, culture, national origin, religious commitments, age, (dis)ability status, and political perspective.

Equity: We commit to working actively to challenge and respond to bias, harassment, and discrimination. We are committed to a policy of equal opportunity for all persons and do not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, disability, religion, height, weight, or veteran status.

Inclusion: We commit to pursuing deliberate efforts to ensure that our campus is a place where differences are welcomed, different perspectives are respectfully heard and where every individual feels a sense of belonging and inclusion. We know that by building a critical mass of diverse groups on campus and creating a vibrant climate of inclusiveness, we can more effectively leverage the resources of diversity to advance our collective capabilities.

DEI 5-Year Highlights