Portfolio Workshops for Landscape Architecture Students

Portfolio Workshop:  Kathleen King (Design Workshop) and Adam Carreau (CU-Boulder ENVD, Senior) image: joni m. palmer
Portfolio Workshop: Kathleen King (Design Workshop) and Adam Carreau (CU-Boulder ENVD, Senior)
image: joni m. palmer

In my experience teaching undergraduate and graduate students, students do not find much help in their programs/departments creating a portfolio for job applications, whether it’s for a summer job, internship, or for “the job” upon graduation. The portfolio is, of course, just one part of the application process. The cover letter, resume, and list of references are also items that many students do not understand how to organize, outline, and write in a professional manner.

Most universities have a career services office but I have found that they cannot attend to the unique aspects that design job applications demand. Some design schools offer portfolio courses (1-3 credit), workshops run by renowned portfolio gurus, and portfolio review sessions. All of these are terrific opportunities for students, yet many of them are typically “one offs.” Over the years I have been involved in these offerings in various ways but am always looking for ways to improve the means by which we educate our students about creating successful and meaningful portfolios, as well as the other components of the job application.
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21st Century Teaching for GenZ

image: Jules Bruck
image: Jules Bruck

For the past year, I have been working with a committee and group of advisors to bring the first Landscape Architecture (LA) baccalaureate degree program to the University of Delaware (UD). I spend my free time looking at focus-group data, the LA Body of Knowledge Study Report, accreditation standards, university requirements, and curriculum maps. As I study this information, I realize how well landscape architecture programs support 21st century university goals, such as community engagement through the use of active studio projects. During this review, I have also began to ponder how educators keep GenerationZ students interested and engaged in the classroom – especially in the support courses that are still offered as traditional lecture classes.

In 2015, UD was one of 240 U.S. colleges and universities to attain first time, or reclassified status as a Carnegie Foundation Engaged University. During the process, I was frequently tapped to share stories of the community-based projects I run each semester. When speaking to professional educators and interested community members from diverse fields, they often point to my subject matter – landscape architecture and design – as an easy topic to embed community engagement projects and support active learning. I will admit, at first glance, it may seem easier than many subjects, like history, philosophy, or knowledge-based subjects like plant materials, but community-based active learning can become the focus of any classroom.

According to the Carnegie Foundation, “community engagement describes collaboration between institutions of higher education and their larger communities (local, regional/state, national, global) for the mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources in a context of partnership and reciprocity.” Landscape architecture programs easily lead the way in community engagement with a long-standing tradition of community outreach and projects that lend themselves to real world problems. But, as I rewrite curriculum for the new LA program I can’t help but think – what more can we do to engage the community and benefit our students?

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Connecting the Dots

image: Bergen Community College
image: Bergen Community College

I was excited when I opened the February issue of LAM and saw an article on soil biology from James Sottilo (“Life in the Dirt,” Landscape Architecture Magazine, February 2015, p. 58) where he describes what is needed in terms of healthy soil biology for projects to be ultimately healthy and successful. As a designer I have been guiding my clients on the importance of good soil biology. As a contractor, I have been custom blending and using Liquid Biological Amendments (LBAs) for the last year; I’ve been amazed by their efficacy. I have talked to a lot of people about what I’m doing, but there it was in LAM from a qualified person with serious experience and credentials to speak on the topic.

One of my essential network contacts, Leighton Morrison of Kingdom Aquaponics, had pointed me toward the article. Morrison had told me about the work Sottilo was doing on a field test for biomass. He also told me about a class on using the new field test equipment at Bergen County Community College (BCCC) in New Jersey; I wanted to know what the connection was between Sottilo and the school where the class would be held. After all, one of the important issues for us in the Education and Practice PPN is facilitating the connections between schools and practitioners and I wanted to discover how this connection happened.

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Creative Commons

Field sketch image: Jules Bruck
Field sketch
image: Jules Bruck

Fostering Collaboration & Innovation

Have you ever read a book so compelling and inspirational it becomes your go-to holiday gift? This past year I shared with many colleagues and loved ones a book I found both captivating and insightful, with the hope that they would not only enjoy the eloquent prose and educational essays, but it would also cause them to reconsider the way they perceive the world outside.

For me, The Forest Unseen: A Year’s Watch in Nature, by David George Haskell, has actually achieved a status well beyond that of a holiday gift by becoming the basis for my spring Field Sketching course at the University of Delaware. The course focuses on the power of observation to develop design-thinking habits of mind, and on freehand sketching techniques used to portray objects and landscape subjects. In addition to fine arts-based studio techniques, students have an opportunity to demonstrate their sketching and observational skills each week as they hike to the woods to sit quietly and reflect on the forest details. Insights from The Forest Unseen and instructor prompts will lead the student explorations of their own personal one square meter of space in the nearby White Clay Creek nature preserve.

In Haskell’s book, the area of observation is referred to as a mandala. In their personal mandala, students will sit quietly for 2 hours/week observing and documenting the space. In doing so, they will help me answer the questions: How might extended observation of one place change a student’s awareness, perception, or appreciation of the place? How might doing so change their perception of living and non-living things that periodically occupy the space? How might this translate to more environmentally thoughtful behavior and designs?

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Introducing the Education & Practice PPN

At the Denver Botanic Gardens image: Jules Bruck
At the Denver Botanic Gardens
image: Jules Bruck

A new Professional Practice Network has been established: Education & Practice, ASLA’s nineteenth PPN. Co-Chairs Jules Bruck, Affiliate ASLA, and Hilary Noonan, Associate ASLA, will lead the new group. The inaugural meeting of the PPN will take place during the Annual Meeting in Denver on Sunday, November 23 from 12:45-1:20 PM.

The Education & Practice PPN promotes collaboration and the sharing of ideas, issues, and trends that advance the profession, while informing undergraduate and graduate education. Building upon the significant research, innovations, and challenges happening in academic, public, and private practice, it seeks to promote a two-way dialogue that identifies needs and opportunities within education and practice. To read the PPN’s full mission statement, visit www.asla.org/education.

All ASLA members may join one PPN for free, and each additional PPN for only $15 per year. To join the Education & Practice PPN, email membership@asla.org, or call 888-999-ASLA.

In addition, there is an Education & Practice LinkedIn group that is open to all interested individuals.

A Message from the Education & Practice PPN Co-Chairs:

For this year’s Annual Meeting, we have highlighted a few sessions and events that we believe are right on target to connect academic, public, and private practitioners to better prepare students to succeed in the profession.

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