Mentorship Programs for Landscape Architects

by Alison Kennedy, ASLA

A coffee break in Grand Park during the 2017 Women in Landscape Architecture Walk in Los Angeles / image: EPNAC

ASLA’s Women in Landscape Architecture Professional Practice Network (WILA PPN) has heard that many of our members are interested in a mentorship program. We are in the process of pulling together resources to help you find a program you can join, or give you inspiration to start your own program.

Here are few we’ve put together or located so far:

Mentorship Resources:
Women in Design: How to Find a Network of Other Women Designers
Lessons Learned from Mentors
Guidance on Networking & Mentoring for Emerging Professionals
Landscape Architecture Mentoring Programs (2011 report)
Wanted: Examples of Landscape Architecture Mentor Programs

ASLA Chapter Mentorship Programs:
Colorado
Iowa
Minnesota
Northern California
Potomac

Does Your Chapter Support or Work with a Local Mentorship Program?

If you don’t see your chapter’s local mentorship program listed above, please send the link to propractice@asla.org so we can add it to our list. And if you, or someone from your chapter, is interested in writing a short description of the program, please let us know. We’d love to hear from members across the country, especially from areas where landscape architects may be few and far between, and finding a mentor may be more of a challenge. Share your landscape architecture mentorship story!

To help get you started, or perhaps serve as inspiration, here are two mentorship programs we’ve heard about recently from members:

Susan Newman, Affiliate ASLA, Executive Director, ASLA Potomac Chapter:

The Potomac Chapter is proud of our new mentorship program, which we created in conjunction with our student chapter. Here’s an overview:

The WAAC/Potomac ASLA Mentor Chain is a mentoring program that provides student-to-student and professional-to-student learning and support from the beginning of a student’s academic career on into professional life. The program is open to all Washington-Alexandria Architecture Center (WAAC) MLA students.

In its first year (2017-2018), the program pilot will cover two full mentor chains. Two first-year students will be paired with two second-year students. These same second-year students will be paired with two third-year students. These same third-year students will be paired with two professional members of the Potomac Chapter.

Rather than matching new students and professionals with new mentors each year, this program seeks to build longer-term relationships between individuals and the two organizations by retaining mentors and mentees in a continuous ‘chain’ from year to year. If members choose to exit the program or switch chains, accommodations can then be made to fill that link in the chain while the rest remain intact.

WILA PPN members meet during the 2016 ASLA Annual Meeting and EXPO / image: EPNAC

Saiedeh Teymouri, Associate ASLA, WILA PPN officer and NCSU graduate:

Here is an overview that is adapted from Handbook for the Master of Landscape Architecture, which was prepared by the North Carolina State University (NCSU) Department of Landscape Architecture:

The Student Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (SASLA) and Women in Landscape Architecture (WILA) are two student organizations at NCSU.

Women in Landscape Architecture (WILA) is a student group in association with Student American Society of Landscape Architects (SASLA) that reaches out to the professional community to strengthen networking opportunities for women in the profession. WILA hosts networking events regularly throughout the school year attended by NCSU students and faculty, and with local professionals.

SASLA, in cooperation with the external Landscape Architecture Advisory Council (LARAC), manages the Department’s Professional Development Mentor Program and the Peer to Peer program, and plans a number of technical workshops, social events, brown bag seminars with practitioners, and provides important input and advice to the faculty about the curriculum, courses and the overall quality of the program.

The SASLA and WILA Leadership team changes every year. The team members are typically selected from the second year students, who are volunteered or nominated for these positions. The list of positions includes President, Vice President, Council, Peer-to-Peer Coordinator, Professional Mentor Coordinator, and Treasurer.

Peer-to-Peer Buddies (P2P):
To help our new incoming students transition to the department, SASLA will implement a buddy system wherein each new student is paired with one of our continuing second or third year students. This program is intended to connect you with someone who may be able to answer your questions and help you learn the “ropes” during your first semester in the department.

Professional Mentors:
Not to be out done by the students, practicing landscape architects in the area will “buddy up” with you. The intent is to connect you with a practitioner having firsthand knowledge of the profession. Pairing new students with new mentors is planned for early November. If you are a returning student and have already been paired with a mentor, please continue communicating with your mentor.

Membership in the ASLA Student Chapter (SASLA):
All students are encouraged to join the Student NCSU ASLA Chapter. Two years ago, with a significant donation from a local firm, we initiated an incentive program in which the NCSU LAR Fund for Excellence paid the ASLA National Student Membership fee for those students who paid the local chapter fee. Students will receive more information on this annually at the first SASLA meeting of the semester.

Finally, as a personal experience through our mentor/mentee program, I can say the organization is very open to new students, as my contribution started at my first year. It was really helpful for me to connect to people and learn from them. Then, in the second year, I was able to serve as a peer-to-peer mentor. I think in the near future, I would like to serve as the professional mentor to pay my duties to these organizations.

Alison Kennedy, ASLA, is co-chair of the ASLA Women in Landscape Architecture Professional Practice Network (WILA PPN) and member of the ASLA Archives & Collections Committee.

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