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Posts Tagged ‘landscape architecture education’

Two dots, anyway. One dot concerns general workforce needs. 3 basic skills needed in a knowledge economy, according to Tony Wagner, Harvard education expert and author of The Global Achievement Gap, summarized in a NY Times column (Nov. 21, 2010) by Thomas Friedman: “the ability to do critical thinking and problem-solving; the ability to communicate effectively; and the ability to collaborate.” This is good news for landscape architecture because the studio model of instruction does this – or at least it has the potential to do this. Can the studio model be pushed further to do this better?

Another dot concerns present opportunities for landscape architects – opportunities that are perhaps unique to the present moment. An unusual source for this dot – a YouTube video from the Future of Design conference held at Taubman College, University of Michigan in late 2009. It’s unusual because conference organizers videotaped the tables of conference attendees during a small group discussion session and posted the videos online. And it is unusual because the attendees are architects talking about landscape architecture. I think it’s helpful to see how others view us, especially those in allied fields. (Presumably, the people speaking in the video are architecture faculty members – if you recognize them, let me know.)  Some lines that caught my attention: (more…)

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In the comment section of this post on whether the economy and jobs should affect landscape architecture education (i.e., lead to changes in curricula or program emphasis), Chris asks who should sound the call for change and mentions professional organizations and clients as possibilities. While not a total laissez-faire believer, I do have a healthy respect for market forces. Market forces in higher education originate with students who have interests in particular subjects and perhaps a sense of demand for a certain set of knowledge, skills, and abilities. For many subjects taught at universities, there is no need for a connection to jobs (regardless of the often-stated college degree = job connection). (more…)

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Tough times test us. And landscape architecture students who graduated in the last 2-3 years have been tested. The bold, tenacious ones seem to have found ways to make it, even if their motivation and sense of self-worth have been challenged along the way. When they land in a job they love, it is especially sweet. That is the case for Mark Bogdan, a BLA graduate of 2010. He has found his first good career opportunity with a nonprofit organization. (As I keep hearing about new grads being employed by nonprofits, I wonder if it is a trend.) Mark generously shares his experience here in the hope that it will help other newly minted BLAs and MLAs.

I was very worried, nervous, frustrated, almost angry about graduating in this difficult economy.  I tried to make it a point to ‘stay within the industry,’ and I used my past experiences to filter through the job search.  Since I had some construction and site design experience, I applied for everything from entry-level LA, construction foreman at a construction company, residential design/build, nursery worker (to learn more about plants), etc.  Since I had no ties, I applied to big firms who had work in China, India, Dubai, Europe (anywhere and everywhere). Still I had no bites for a job. (more…)

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That is, does it matter to landscape architecture educators? To any graduate from a landscape architecture program, that question sounds crazy (or worse). My own working class roots cause me to bristle at the thought. On a personal level, an emotional level, of course, it matters very much whether or not graduates of our programs get jobs. It is really a privilege to teach highly creative people, as many of our grads are, and therefore very painful to see them leave college and not find the success they deserve. I am featuring the personal stories of some recent grads in this blog because I think their experiences are important in more ways than one.

The question really is, in what way does it matter to educators? Is it just on an emotional level, a hope that students you know personally will succeed? Or do the difficulties faced by graduates in the past couple of years suggest that parts of our curricula need to be reconsidered? The answer depends on whether you think the current economic upheaval is just a cyclical event and that we’ll eventually turn the corner and be back to “normal,” or you think that a major restructuring is underway. Educational institutions respond very slowly to change, and that is probably very appropriate in the case of the rise and fall of the national economy. If, however, a major restructuring is taking place, and new forces are shaping the profession in lasting ways, shouldn’t education respond? And, in the near term, shouldn’t we find ways to emphasize a breadth and diversity of knowledge and skills that help new grads be as flexible as possible when they embark on their careers?

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How has the economic turmoil that officially began in December of 2007 affected the profession and land use planning? I distinctly remember talking to my class in the fall of 2008 when Lehman Brothers collapsed, wondering out loud what this all meant. It felt like some kind of slow-motion train wreck. Most of those students graduated this year, in May of 2011, and they have been labeled a “lost generation.” I hate that label and the challenges that these recent graduates face.

One recent graduate in landscape architecture, J. Lyons (MLA 09) told me that she “honestly feel[s] like we’re in the midst of a very hasty and significant paradigm shift because of the combination of pressing environmental and economic concerns.” A paradigm shift is exactly right. Everything needs to be reconsidered, in my opinion, especially for those of us living in the United States. After 3 1/2 years of recession (or now “recovery”), people are starting to catch on to the fact that things have changed … probably permanently. Among other things, I’d like to explore in this blog the implications of this paradigm shift on the profession.

For now, I’ll start with my list of what I think will affect professional and academic practice.

Factors that will shape future practice:

  • the demand for interdisciplinary approaches to complex environmental and urban land use problems;
  • the need for a better understanding of urban ecological systems;
  • the importance of quantifying the value of interventions (based on monitoring of built works);
  • in a time of fiscal austerity, resource-efficient communities;
  • design in developing countries.

How should the paradigm shift be addressed in education?

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