Dedicated to serving the African American community, this landscape architecture program fits everyone around the drawing board.
By Susan Hines
What would the American landscape look like if more African Americans were involved in its design? Would the urban renewal efforts of the 1960s and 1970s, for example, have been a successful moment
in the country’s history instead of a tale of displacement and neglect?
We can’t retrodict the past, but the absence of the African
American perspective is disturbing in a field dedicated to the environment we
share. Look back through the pages of this magazine and you will find that
little has changed since Vernon Mays took up the topic of African Americans in
landscape architecture almost 15 years ago (see “Getting Ahead,” Landscape Architecture, February 1992).
Mays noted that drawing minorities into the profession had been an “on again,
off again” theme since the 1960s.
African Americans constitute less than 3 percent of
landscape architects in practice today, and the numbers are not growing
rapidly. ASLA’s 2006 graduating student survey reveals that of the 292
respondents to the survey, only eight students, or 2.7 percent, identified
themselves as black.
There is one landscape architecture program that is
consistently successful in recruiting African American students. Ron Leighton,
Honorary ASLA, ASLA’s director of education and academic affairs, estimates
that the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (NCA&T)
program graduates nearly one-third of all African American landscape architects
moving into the field today.
Housed within NCA&T’s School of Agriculture and
Environmental Sciences Department of Natural Resources, the program offers the
only undergraduate landscape architecture degree at a historically black
college and university (HBCU) and is the sole accredited BLA program in North
To find out what works at NCA&T, Landscape Architecture visited the campus in the spring of 2005 and
a few weeks into the 2006 academic year to explore the reasons behind its
success in minority recruitment.
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