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7/20/2015

ASLA Diversity Summit Convenes

In year three of the ASLA Diversity Summit, held in Washington, D.C., July 11 and 12, the participants, a mix of new and returning, were eager to capitalize on the success of previous summits and move forward with concrete action items.

While landscape architecture remains a minority profession employing just 21,600, according to estimates by the U.S. Bureau of Labor, the demographics within the profession do not match the racial and ethnic demographics of the country. This discrepancy will only become increasingly glaring as the minority population across the U.S. continues to grow.

In 2043, the U.S. is projected to become a majority-minority nation for the first time. Minorities, now 37 percent of the U.S. population, are projected to make up 57 percent of the population in 2060. The total minority population will more than double, from 116.2 million to 241.3 million over the period. To remain relevant and able to serve the country’s increasingly diverse communities, landscape architecture needs to become a more ethnically and culturally diverse profession.

The key focus areas for the 2015 summit, which are confirmed each year, were 1) raising general public awareness (with an emphasis on minority parents); 2) early exposure to the profession; and 3) mentorship, with special focus on strategies for recruiting students in grades K-12 to the profession and establishing successful MLA programs.

The majority of the summit consisted of facilitated group brainstorming, which was continually narrowed to create an action plan. Several times throughout the summit, participants were broken into three groups, each with a blend of new and returning participants. The weekend alternated between substantial time in these breakout groups and group report-back/discussion time.

During the 2015-2016 year, ASLA will further refine the 360-degree mentorship model established in year two and pursue several new initiatives that capitalize on ASLA’s existing connections to organizations with similar missions. Leveraging connections with individual chapters, universities, and other design-related nonprofits was recognized as a crucial step toward promoting diversity within the profession. Exploring the possibility of a mentorship pilot program that can be tested and documented is also a high priority for the next 12 months, as is working with individual chapters to craft a toolkit that can be used to engage K-12 students.

The full report will be shared when it is complete.

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