Product News by Forms + Surfaces, DuMor, Victor Stanley, and Green Roofs for Healthy Cities

Product News by Forms + Surfaces, DuMor, Victor Stanley, and Green Roofs for Healthy Cities


President-Elect Candidate Speech, 2017, as Delivered by Robert J. Golde, FASLA

The following address was delivered to the Board of Trustees and the Chapter Presidents Council at their Midyear meetings. Visit the election site here

It is great to be back in this room. I would like to sincerely thank the nominating committee for granting me this incredible opportunity and all of you for being so welcoming to me. It is truly humbling to stand before you today as a candidate for president-elect.

Before I talk about us, I’d like to tell you of a few events that have influenced my journey to this point and hopefully give you a little better sense of who I am.

I am one of the lucky ones. I was fortunate to discover this wonderful profession while in high school and knew immediately that this unique blending of science, art, and nature would be a perfect career fit for me.  At SUNY ESF Professor George Curry taught me to always question “givens” in any situation. This one piece of wisdom has served me incredibly well over my more than 30 years of practice and has much to do with why I am here right now.

Upon entering the profession, again I was fortunate enough to be mentored by a skillful landscape architect named Peter Rolland. A modernist at heart Peter instilled in me the importance of simplicity and clarity in not just design but in just about everything else in life, and I’ve tried to apply philosophy to all of my work throughout my career. I have had the great benefit of working with some incredibly talented people, and those relationships have made all the difference in my career. This revelation, that it’s always the people you work with that make the difference, made me realize it was time to start paying my good fortune forward. And so, I dove headfirst into the ASLA.

In my time on the Licensure Committee, most recently as its chair, I have seen the ups and downs of our struggle for legal legitimacy.

Serving on the Finance & Investments Committee and currently on the Audit Committee I have gained great respect for the financial stewardship of our organization.

I have seen the level of excellence in our university Landscape Architecture programs as well as the current challenges they face from my participation on LAAB ROVE teams.

Two terms on the Board of Trustees have given me a comprehensive understanding of the breadth of the Society’s impact on the profession and its practitioners.

But enough about who I am. If I am fortunate enough to be elected I would like to have a broader discussion of just who are “we” as a society and as individual members of that society? And where are “we” heading as an organization?

Just who do we think we are?    

We all know that in practice we are seeing that the lines between “natural” vs. “urban” landscapes being rightfully blurred. Well to some extent so too are the boundaries between landscape architecture and other disciplines.  With the scope of our profession steadily expanding, so too is the nature of our membership. But is there such a thing as a tent that is too big? Seems doubtful, but as our base expands we must remain vigilant not to alienate the traditional core of our profession. To keep our Society relevant to our members I think it is imperative that we continually ask ourselves these questions because the more detail we know about our members the better we can serve them.

Where do we think we need to go from here?

Our strategic vision is sound; our strategic objectives are clear and measurable; our leadership has been keenly focused on these objectives; and the organization is excellently managed with a dedicated staff. We are on the right course, and we are all paddling in the same direction. Because of this the ALSA has been able to emerge as a leader on key critical issues such as climate change and stormwater management. Employing the Baldridge criteria to assess our organization is pushing ourselves to a higher level of performance. Our annual meetings consistently receive excellence ratings for educational content. Landscape Architecture Magazine has been transformed. But this does not mean that we can be complacent. We must continue to raise the bar in all the Society’s affairs.

Just like the astrophysicists who must have a deep understanding of the smallest pieces of matter in order to contemplate the largest objects in the universe we need to be continually studying the evolving structure of our own “universe,” our own profession at large, while at the same time understanding the impact of the most nuanced new developments on it.  We all know how interrelated all the various initiatives of the Society are. In reviewing the Programs & Operations Report it is clear that we have a lot going on – a lot to keep track of. But to my mind there are a few objectives that deserve particular unrelenting attention going forward. These are:

  • Welcoming our Successors
  • Looking for Common Threads to Expand Synergistic Relationships.
  • Leveraging our New Face to the World
  • Promoting the Profession – but Minding the Store.

Let me explain… We all know that a major objective of the organization has been to diversify the profession and to develop stronger ties with our Student and Emerging Professional members. All of these initiatives fall under the larger banner of “inclusiveness.” Now, looking around this room it might be argued that the ASLA is one of the more inclusive organizations. Not many organizations have a Board of this size. But inclusiveness is more than just numbers, and we still have a long way to go to on this issue. So, of course, we need to continue our efforts to diversify our profession and to bring students and emerging professionals to the management of the Society. To me, however, “inclusiveness” is also a frame of mind. Within our chapters we ALL need to make the effort to make “newcomers” and old timers alike feel as if they can make a difference in the organization, because that’s the only way they’ll want to try to.

For many years, the Society has been steadily building credible relationships with other groups having similar missions and goals, and these partnerships have been paying off. Being included by Kresge Foundation as one of the few organizations on the forefront of climate change science, for example, is something few of us would have imagined 10 years ago. To advance our profession, we need to continue to focus on these synergistic relationships that support out policies and initiatives. Coalitions can change policy, and at the moment there is a great deal of work ahead of us on this front.  

The recently completed Center for Landscape Architecture is ideally suited for use as a tool for this outreach. Together with the rebranding effort under way we have a once in a generation opportunity to leverage our new face to the world. We must ensure that this gift is used effectively as a tool for outreach, alliance building, and education.

As we’ve seen on Advocacy Day we seem to be reaching a level of maturity as an organization that proactively advocates for matters of importance to us. But having just achieved this as well as the goal of universal licensure we are now seeing a growing threat to the same hard won licensure victories in numerous states around the country. Without the rapid response by local chapters assisted by the Governmental Affairs group at national we could very well be looking at a different licensure map right now. These threats are real and persistent, and we must not let our guard down at either the national or chapter level.

These goals can be met by maintaining a clear vision and a simple execution plan. We will move forward with our eyes wide open, self-assured in who we are as a Society, with a sharp focus on our objectives and in full knowledge of the threats. The way forward involves us all seeing the same goal and paddling towards it together. I’ve got my paddle. Have you got yours? 

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