Students Take Charge of Their Future at Temple University Ambler

Faculty and students work in the Ambler Campus Aquaponics Lab

Temple University is on the rise. Now at No. 118, Temple has risen 14 spots in U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges rankings over the past several years. Temple’s momentum is red-hot and it is a great time to be an Owl!

The energy extends well beyond Main Campus in North Philadelphia and into Montgomery County. At Temple University Ambler, students experience the best of both worlds — a Temple degree at a convenient suburban campus location with support specific to their needs and interests.

There is a reason students are choosing to make Temple University Ambler their next stop. Temple University Ambler provides the foundation to begin almost any Temple degree. With dedicated alumni support, the campus is also able to offer several educational opportunities and experiences that are special to the campus — an annual celebration of Earth Day and environmental education that welcomes 7,000 visitors, a fully accredited Aquaponics Lab, hands-on research in the Ambler Arboretum of Temple University, and specialized scholarships among them.

“It is unique experiences that truly set Temple University Ambler apart. In how many other programs would students not only help design but also build a Philadelphia Flower Show exhibit seen by hundreds of thousands of visitors?” said Dr. Vicki Lewis McGarvey, Vice Provost for University College and Acting Executive Director of Temple University Ambler. “Where else can students interested in the environment explore the future of sustainable agriculture in an accredited aquaponics lab? Temple University Ambler is a campus of great possibilities.”

Faculty also have the opportunity to conduct innovative research on campus that they might not be able to explore otherwise, McGarvey said.

“We have professors studying hydrology and seismology right on campus. Faculty and students are studying plant science in new and innovative ways thanks to the Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture’s new $100,000 Gas Chromatograph-Mass Spectrometer,” she said. “We are exploring several new programs, initiatives and partnerships that will only help our students learn and grow in the future.”

Specialized learning experiences like the aquaponics lab, the Arboretum and EarthFest, don’t happen within a vacuum. They require continual support from partnerships, sponsors and alumni in order to thrive.

EarthFest, for example, could not take place without financial and physical support from donations of every size.

“EarthFest carries a significant operating cost. Sponsorship gifts offset that cost, enabling us to enhance access to EarthFest for many students, teachers, and community residents throughout the region,” said EarthFest co-coordinator Susan Spinella-Sacks. “Most participating schools have made the event a yearly highlight of their science curricula. One reason so many schools are able to participate in EarthFest is that we have never charged attendees — schools pay nothing beyond the cost of their own transportation and we also have a fund, Transportation Angels, to assist them specifically with that. The high quality of the event and its affordability keep past participants coming back and encourage additional schools to attend each year.”

At Temple Ambler, students, faculty and staff continue to expand a fully developed — and constantly growing — aquaponics garden and research lab, which has taken root in the underutilized lower level of West Hall. The lab is accredited by the AAALAC (Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care).

One of the main goals of the aquaponics lab “is to use the system to educate our students and the public,” according to Michael Bavas, Senior Technical Support Specialist in Temple’s Computer Services Department who helped spearhead the aquaponics project at Ambler.

“We want student and community involvement to help create an awareness about aquaponics and its uses. We want to become a resource for community gardeners so that they can develop aquaponics systems of their own,” he said. “It’s organic farming that can be set up in almost any space and you can grow food year round. The plants grow faster and are healthier and there is no run-off — I think is a vital farming technique for today and the years ahead.”

The aquaponics lab, EarthFest and the Ambler Arboretum require sizable volunteer support.

“As EarthFest continues to grow, so does the need for volunteers. The same can be said for the Arboretum as we continue to add new and diverse gardens,” said Eric Rivera, who is part of the team guiding the volunteer effort for 2017. “EarthFest is a wonderful way to be a part of an event that helps educate thousands of students about the environment and the world around them. Volunteering in the arboretum is a way for alumni to give back to a location that helped develop the foundation of their lives, professionally and personally.”

Baldev Lamba, Chair of the Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture said Temple University Ambler is the “perfect setting to teach our craft,” not only to our current students but to our thousands of alumni who would like to further connect or re-connect to the campus, supporting their alma mater and providing role models for the generations that have and will follow them.

“How fortunate are we that we have this living laboratory in which to work and provide experiences for our students,” said Lamba. “Students at Temple Ambler build a true connection to this location and the history of the campus. Recently establishing the Division of Architecture and Environmental Design has opened up even more possibilities — we’re energized!”

To learn more about supporting Temple University Ambler or how to make a charitable donation that supports numerous campus initiatives, contact Angela Davis at or 267-530-2933 or Eric Rivera at or 267-468-8011.