Words of Wisdom for Our 2023 Landscape Architecture Graduates

by Andrew Littlefield, Student ASLA, Jacoby Gonzales, ASLA, Yiwei Huang, ASLA, Ebru Özer, ASLA, Anuhya Konda, Associate ASLA, Allyson Mendenhall, FASLA, Kene Okigbo, ASLA, and Sarah Leaskey, ASLA

images: ASLA/Korey Davis Photography, Yiwei Huang, Anuhya Konda, Andrew Littlefield

The newly formed ASLA Student Support and Engagement Committee, chaired by Professor Yiwei Huang, ASLA, and ASLA Executive Committee liaison Vice President of Education Ebru Özer, ASLA, gathered some words of advice from committee members and close connections and would like to share them to the upcoming landscape architecture graduates. We hope graduates find it useful and remember that they can always contact ASLA for professional support and help. Happy graduation!

To the landscape architecture graduates of 2023,

On behalf of the younger landscape architecture students, I want to say thank you. Thank you for your mentorship, guidance, and friendship throughout your time as students. We are greatly appreciative of all of you that have come before us and have helped us along our journey. As you begin preparing for your life after school, as the freshman of the industry, don’t forget where you came from. We will continue to cheer you on and celebrate your successes, and pass along the wisdom that you have shared with us, to the students that will come after us. You have been our role models, and we can’t wait to work with you again someday.

Thank you for all that you have shared with us.

Your friends,
The Younger Students

Andrew Littlefield, Student ASLA
Undergraduate Landscape Architecture Student, Kansas State University

A Kansas State University Student ASLA Chapter picnic / image: Andrew Littlefield

Congratulations, you made it! Welcome to the professional world. One of the biggest changes you may notice as you transition into your full-time position is the decrease in renderings/graphics and the increase in CAD drawings and detailing. Over time, this may begin to feel monotonous as you move mindlessly through your 2D model and paper space. This can occasionally lead to an unfulfilling feeling, which is why I would highly encourage you to make site visits as often as possible! Seeing the fruits of your labor can be highly rewarding and will help remind you that your linework ends up as a beautiful built work that you helped create. As an added bonus, you’ll be outdoors instead of sitting behind a computer!

Jacoby Gonzales, ASLA
Landscape Designer, Alaback Design Associates
Former National Student Representative, American Society of Landscape Architects

Sasaki staff gathered for Green Day demonstrations on the rooftop of the firm’s new downtown Boston space (April 2023). / image: courtesy of Sasaki

My fellow graduating class of 2023,

Congratulations on graduating! You are a resilient, innovative and courageous class. Your future will not be without challenges, but your seriousness, determination, and enthusiasm today will help you step through the unevenness. I hope that in the days to come, you will continue to learn, remain enthusiastic about life and the industry, keep questioning, and continue to make innovations. Your former teachers and alma mater will always have your back. Check back often and keep in touch with us.
We’ll see you at future ASLA conferences!

Your instructor and your always friends,

Yiwei Huang, ASLA
Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture, Purdue University

Happy Graduation! / image: Yiwei Huang
ASLA 2021 Conference on Landscape Architecture / image:  Yiwei Huang

Dear graduating students,

After your graduation, I highly recommend you stay connected with your alma mater as your institution can continue to offer you valuable resources and networking opportunities beyond your education. You are encouraged to attend alumni events, offer your expertise through guest lectures, come back as a juror during studio reviews, or support students during their ASLA service activities. Consider volunteering to mentor students and sharing your experiences and insights with aspiring future landscape architects. As a recent graduate, your mentorship is often more valuable as your experiences are current and recent. Also, stay connected with your classmates and extend help to those who need it. Remember, the field thrives when we collaborate and support one another. By staying connected, giving back, and helping others, you will not only enhance your own professional growth but also contribute to the broader landscape architecture community.

Ebru Özer, ASLA
Associate Professor, Landscape Architecture + Environmental and Urban Design, College of Communication, Architecture + The Arts, Florida International University
Vice President of Education (2021-2024), American Society of Landscape Architects

ASLA FIU Student Chapter at ASLA 2022 Conference on Landscape Architecture in San Francisco, California / image: ASLA/Korey Davis Photography
The Alumni Tailgate at the ASLA Conference / image: Yiwei Huang

Design profession of any kind is unique because of its value. Value in this case is proportional to the exposure and passion that one holds to their profession. Landscape architecture, urban design, architecture etc., all point towards one thing, which is the end user. Proposing ideas by listening to what the user needs and modifying it to cater their needs along with many others with our design experience adds value to a project.

I can understand that being in design school may seem exhausting but I want to suggest that you enjoy this process. In my opinion, this is a very rewarding profession as what we plan today will shape the future of an entire generation if not more. I want to thank you for being brave and choosing a profession that speaks to your heart and soul. Happy Graduation!

Anuhya Konda, Associate ASLA
Landscape Designer, Osborn Consulting Inc., Seattle.
ASLA Student Support and Engagement Committee Member

Walking through Zilker Botanical Garden with the LA Gang (February 2020) / image: Anuhya Konda
Field trip to Fort Worth Water Gardens / image: Anuhya Konda

Graduating from your landscape architecture program may feel like a goodbye. But think of it as a hello. You are entering a diverse, intergenerational and global community of landscape architects that is ready to support you and embrace you. Whether you pursue opportunities in design practice or in academia, take care to find a place that will contribute to your professional growth and value your voice. And carve out time beyond work to volunteer with your state ASLA chapter to build your network, make an impact, and have fun!

Allyson Mendenhall, FASLA, PLA
Director of Strategic Initiatives, Landscape Architecture, Civil Engineering & Ecology (LA+CE), Sasaki

Collaboration among multidisciplinary staff at Sasaki / image: courtesy of Sasaki

With graduation around the corner, it stands as a major milestone that you should be proud of accomplishing. In a way—you’ve made it! When I, like you, was leaving university, I found myself asking if I was “good enough” to do the type of work I was most inspired by. I wanted to find myself working with an impressive team and doing impressive work so that I could prove to those around me (and myself) that I “made it.” Since then, I’ve found that the people whose work is most inspiring to me don’t think that they’ve made it. They just keep trying to do better work today than what they could do yesterday. Their best work is in refining their process and continuing to self-improve wherever they find themselves. Cheers to you on this major milestone—and here’s to hoping that we never really “make it.”

Kene Okigbo, ASLA, PLA
Landscape Architect, RDG Planning & Design, Omaha
2015 North Dakota State University Graduate

ASLA 2016 Professional Communications Honor Award. Landscape Architecture Documentation Standards: Principles, Guidelines and Best Practices. Design Workshop, Inc. / image: Design Workshop, Inc.

Congratulations seniors! While graduating is typically quite the achievement to celebrate, an extra level of commendation is in order in light of the obstacles that you have overcome through the pandemic over the last three years. It’s been a life altering period in world history that has forever changed the way we think, work, learn, and interact with each other. You are now beginning your career in landscape architecture at a point in time where our outdoors spaces have never been more important. I wish you all the best of luck as you continue to learn and grow as professionals. Work hard and let your passions and curiosities drive you to do brilliant and inspiring work. The design community is a small world, so grow your network and make the most of your connections amongst your alumni group. Don’t be afraid to reach out and seek mentorship along your journey.

Sarah Leaskey, ASLA, RLA
Associate, OLIN, Philadelphia

Cheers from the ASLA Student Support and Engagement Committee! / image: Yiwei Huang

As you transition from being a student to a professional landscape architect, we want to make sure you continue to enjoy ASLA membership benefits, and then some. As such, we want you to know about the next membership level: ASLA Associate Membership is only $65 per year. First, as you embark on your journey to become a licensed landscape architect, please know that as an Associate Member you will receive a variety of discounts on the LARE prep courses. Second, you will also receive a discount to attend the ASLA 2023 Conference on Landscape Architecture in Minneapolis.

Register for ASLA Associate Membership >

As a member of the next generation of landscape architects, you should also know about two other ASLA membership aspects. First, if you will be joining a firm, we strongly encourage you to inquire about having your firm cover your ASLA membership fee. Many large and small firms provide this benefit to their employees. Second, we know from member testimonials that they can enhance their ASLA membership experience by actively participating in their local chapter. So, please remember to select the most appropriate chapter based on your place of work or residence.

The ASLA Student Support and Engagement Committee consists of:

  • Yiwei Huang, ASLA, Committee Chair
  • Ebru Özer, ASLA, ASLA Vice President of Education
  • Paige Bernhardt, Associate ASLA
  • Kimberley Case, ASLA
  • Angel Cruz, Student ASLA
  • Jhoanna Farray, Student ASLA
  • Anuhya Konda, Associate ASLA
  • Graciela Martin, Associate ASLA
  • Adolpho Martinez, Associate ASLA
  • Brian Vaughn, Student ASLA
  • Bo Zhang, ASLA
  • Pamela Blough, FASLA
  • Chloe Gillispie, Student ASLA
  • Chester Hill, ASLA
  • Emily Pixberg, Associate ASLA

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