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American Society of Landscape Architects


December 2006 Issue

Recruiting Diversity
Dedicated to serving the African American community, this landscape architecture program fits everyone around the drawing board.

By Susan Hines

Recruiting Diversity. Paul Dagys

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 Carolina.

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.

…To read the entire article, subscribe to LAM!

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