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BY TIMOTHY A. SCHULER

A panel discussion hosted by the Boston Society of Landscape Architects and moderated by Jack Ahern, FASLA, offered guidance to students entering the workforce. Image courtesy Timothy A. Schuler.

The graduating class of 2020 finds itself in limbo.

 

Even before the novel coronavirus sent the world into lockdown, Afrouz Rahmati planned to finish the final semester of her master’s in landscape architecture remotely. A third-year MLA candidate at the University of Maryland (UMD), Rahmati had an internship lined up at a nonprofit parks organization in Los Angeles, where her family lives. The plan was to spend the spring working on a regional-scale greenway project and finishing her thesis, which focuses on the intersection of landscape architecture and gerontology.

To work in the United States, however, Rahmati needed authorization for what’s known as pre-completion optional practical training (OPT). OPT allows international students to accept temporary employment in their fields of study. Rahmati grew up in Isfahan, Iran. She worked as an architect before emigrating to the United States in 2017, when she enrolled in the landscape architecture program at UMD.

By March 2020, Rahmati’s OPT authorization still had not arrived. By the time it did, the country was fully in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic. The organization that had offered Rahmati the internship—which she preferred to keep confidential—e-mailed to say that things were uncertain, but that she could maybe join them in the summer. She hasn’t heard from them since. Now she is applying to full-time positions, but is finding that most employers are also unresponsive. Rahmati worries about what will happen if she can’t find a job. Foreign students have just three months following graduation to secure employment in their fields of study and apply for post-completion OPT—a timeline that now feels alarmingly short. Rahmati says the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has yet to announce any changes or updates to the OPT program’s rules.

The transition from college or graduate school into a professional landscape architecture career is one of trepidation but also buoyant possibility. But for the graduating class of 2020, it’s as if a giant pause button has been hit. As cities remain under orders to shelter in place, firms of all sizes are halting the hiring process. Summer internships have been canceled. Recruiters have gone quiet. Students on the verge of graduating now find themselves in a kind of extended intermission, a limbo in which they can neither remain in the cozy world of their universities nor make the leap into professional practice. (more…)

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Photo courtesy EPNAC.

Every year, ASLA presents a number of honors to individuals and groups for their service to the landscape architecture profession and its ideals in the public realm. They include the ASLA Medal, the highest honor conferred by the Society; the Jot D. Carpenter Teaching Medal, given to a distinguished educator; and the Landscape Architecture Firm Award, given to an office that has built a distinguished body of work. ASLA also bestows honorary membership to nonmembers nominated for their service to the profession.

The deadline for 2020 nominations is this Friday, February 7. The Society depends on its professional members and chapters to put forward nominations of potential recipients—and asks those nominating to keep nominations confidential from the persons or groups being nominated. For the Landscape Architecture Firm Award, however, firms may nominate themselves or be nominated by others. The other nominations must be made by third parties other than the nominee.

The ASLA Board of Trustees votes on the recipients at its spring meeting, and the honors will be presented at the Conference on Landscape Architecture (previously known as the ASLA Annual Meeting & EXPO) in Miami, which runs October 2–5, 2020.

If you have questions, e-mail honorsawards@asla.org, or call Makeeya Hazelton, ASLA’s honors and awards manager, at 202-216-2331.

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FEATURE: We Declare

Reformulating a historic agenda after half a century.

FROM THE MAY 2016 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

At Independence Hall in Philadelphia in June of 1966, Ian McHarg, Grady Clay, Campbell Miller, Charles R. Hammond, George E. Patton, and John O. Simonds presented “A Declaration of Concern” on behalf of landscape architecture, reproduced below. It was a statement on the growing crisis in the natural environment and the claim of landscape architects in averting the environment’s total destruction. To the degree the declaration was dramatic and self-regarding, it was also true. It preceded much of the formal regulatory protection—preventive, punitive, and remedial—of resources that we know now. The declaration’s alarm over pollution and ecological ruin speaks for itself, but it managed to be both critical and optimistic. Its hope lay in the ability of landscape architects to figure out across disciplines how to make nature and society work as a whole, healthy system.

In 2016, the Landscape Architecture Foundation marked the half century of “A Declaration of Concern” with “The New Landscape Declaration,” a gathering of landscape architects, scholars, and advocates at the University of Pennsylvania in June of that year. The foundation, which was also turning 50, asked a number of participants to write declarations of their own for the occasion as latter-day responses to the original. Five are linked to below. Landscape architects have by no means retired the threats of 50 years ago, and other threats have proliferated around them, but the moral vision of the profession conceived at the midcentury has enlarged accordingly.

“A Declaration of Concern—June 1966” 

We urge a new, collaborative effort to improve the American environment and to train a new generation of Americans equipped by education, inspiring example, and improved organizations to help create that environment.

A sense of crisis has brought us together. What is merely offensive or disturbing today threatens life itself tomorrow. We are concerned over misuse of the environment and development which has lost all contact with the basic processes of nature. Lake Erie is becoming septic, New York City is short of water, the Delaware River is infused with salt, the Potomac River with sewage and silt. Air is polluted in major cities and their citizens breathe and see with difficulty. Most urban Americans are being separated from visual and physical contact with nature in any form. All too soon life in such polluted environments will be the national human experience. (more…)

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As part of an ongoing effort to make content more accessible, LAM will be making select stories available to readers in Spanish. For a full list of translated articles, please click here.

BY BRIAN BARTH

FROM THE FEBRUARY 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) is all the rage in academia these days. STEM degrees confer significant prestige in a high-tech world, and STEM education is funded to the tune of billions of dollars by the federal government. Privileges afforded to STEM students include eligibility for the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program, which excludes non-STEM students. Minority students are incented to pursue STEM degrees by grants available to those who attend historically black colleges and universities and Latinx-serving institutions.

STEM is also deeply enmeshed in immigration policy. Out of concern that the flow of native-born STEM graduates falls short of labor market demand, the United States offers foreign graduate students in STEM fields an extension on their F-1 student visas to encourage them to remain in the country as high-skilled workers—a boon to the students, but also to firms that are seeking to retain top global talent in a country increasingly bent on tightening its borders. F-1 visa students in any field of study are eligible for 12 months of “optional practical training” (OPT), a form of temporary work authorization that may be used for jobs or internships related to their field. But in 2008, an additional 17 months was offered solely to students in STEM fields; in 2016, the OPT visa extension grew to 24 months, for a total of three years of work authorization.

The three-year OPT visa extension is no small trinket for foreign students who are eyeing U.S. degree programs. The ability to stay in the country after graduation greatly enhances their job prospects, which in turn enhances their long-term immigration prospects: The H-1B visa that typically comes with a job in an American firm is a well-worn path to a green card and, eventually, citizenship. Because STEM figures so heavily in career choices and funding streams, professions of every stripe clamor to get in its tent. But the door is heavily guarded.

The list of federally designated STEM fields is maintained not by the Department of Education but by the Department of Homeland Security—specifically by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement division, better known as ICE. (more…)

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BY WENDY GILMARTIN

Three firms discuss how their internship programs benefit both interns and staff.

From the June 2018 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

With summertime come internships, those short stints of employment when students get the chance to enrich their academic experience with the practicalities of the real world. Of course, it’s an exciting time for interns, seeing how it all works for the first time. But how are offices reciprocally enriched by their internship programs? Once on board, how do interns fit into an office structure, and how do they affect day-to-day workflow? Three design offices explain their approach to taking on summer interns and discuss the impacts on office culture and resources.

Interviews have been edited and condensed. (more…)

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BY BRADFORD MCKEE

FROM THE JUNE 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

I’m not sure how many magazines with advisory boards actually put them to work, but at LAM, we meet with ours monthly by phone and find their advice invaluable. The LAM Editorial Advisory Committee (you can see its members on our masthead, page 6) is drawn from a cross section of ASLA’s membership. Each month, a different member leads the call, along with a backup, and those two people together set the agenda and lead the conversation. The topic is entirely of their choosing. Those of us on the magazine staff occasionally chime in, but mainly we listen.

A recent call was led by two early-career professionals who focused the conversation on the ways landscape history is taught in landscape architecture schools. In particular, they wanted to address the overwhelming bend in the history curriculum toward European design traditions and values. “We don’t see a lot of landscape architecture not designed by white men,” one said. “What do we accept as ‘high design,’ and how can we challenge how these [notions] are rooted in Eurocentric design principles?”

The question expands easily beyond high design to human spatial behavior, preference, and need. In any case, it’s an especially pertinent subject given the broad recognition within landscape architecture that the profession is overdue for diversification if it is to address the issues confronting the modern world. “In the past, landscape architecture history was taught along European garden types and sprinkled in other influences such as Chinese and Japanese gardens,” noted one of several committee members who is a university educator. “Now that it’s a global profession, people are talking about other influences. A lot of people elsewhere are trying to make sense of (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

Image courtesy of Colorado State University.

Twelve Colorado State University Master of Landscape Architecture graduates are suing the school for promising to become an accredited degree program and failing to follow through, even seven years after the program began.

The lawsuit alleges that the school promised to pursue accreditation after an initial class had graduated, as Landscape Architectural Accreditation Board (LAAB) regulations require. Shelley Don, of Don, Galleher & Associates in Denver, is the attorney for all 12 plaintiffs. “The students understood that they were not getting into an accredited program,” Don said, “but were made to understand that the school was applying for accreditation, and that their role was going to be a necessary component of the accreditation process.”

E-mails transcribed in the formal complaint, and first reported by the Coloradoan, show that Brad Goetz, a Colorado State landscape architecture professor and the director of the MLA program, repeatedly assured the plaintiffs that the school was indeed seeking MLA accreditation. (more…)

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