Deacon Profile: Jim Mussetter

Caroline Walker, Staff Writer

University arborist Jim Mussetter has been caring for the trees that cover Wake Forest’s campus since 1992. Mussetter enjoys protecting the trees that form an important part of our campus and also the natural environment. His dedication and hard work are particularly important in light of the university’s celebration of Earth Month, during which Mussetter led a “Meet the Trees” event that increased participants’ understanding of trees on campus. He also helps coordinates the university’s Arbor Day celebrations.

What made you interested in becoming an arborist?

I love trees and there is so much to learn about them. Everything about trees is interesting to me. At times, it can be an artistic outlet.

Why did you decide to come to Wake Forest?

Looking back, it seems like Wake Forest happened by chance. I tried to get an internship at Mount Vernon, I think because of the giant trees there. It didn’t work out and time was running out to find something. An instructor contacted Preston Stockton, the director of Reynolda Gardens at the time, and that’s where I did my internship. Upon completion of the internship, there was a job opportunity on campus.

What does your day-to-day routine look like?

My day-to-day routine can vary depending on the season, weather and campus activity. It’s always different trees, locations and challenges. I may be working with the arbor team performing tree maintenance, planting, or mulching trees. I might be inspecting trees for health or maintenance issues. I could be meeting with students who are studying something tree-related. I might be looking at a proposed building site and how it will impact trees.

What’s your favorite part of the work you do?

I enjoy the time I get to walk into the forest to see if there have been any changes. The pieces of the forest away from activity where you can hear the sounds of the forest are my favorite. Watching trees we have planted flourish in an urban environment is also rewarding. It gives me hope that the tree will survive into the next century.

You recently led a “Meet the Trees” event for the university’s celebration of Earth Month. What do you hope participants gained from this experience?

The event was focused on identifying four common native trees found in the campus landscape and forest and their benefits. We also identified trees in and around Manchester Plaza.

My hope is attendees learned the common names of some trees they pass daily and a little bit about their environmental benefits.

Why do you believe caring for trees is so important?

Trees are important to the quality of our daily lives. They do so much for us and ask for so little in return. Just a little water and pruning returns hundreds of years of atmosphere and water cleaning, to name a few. My job is to make sure their quality of life is as good as it can be in a harsh environment.

What would you want students to know about trees on campus?

The biggest trees are senior citizens, and they should be treated with love and respect. It is harder for them to recover from injury and they are doing their best to survive in less than ideal conditions.