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NJASLA Launches New Diversity Initiative

Written by Richard Alomar, RLA, Associate Professor, Department of Landscape Architecture, School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey

Greater diversity brings new perspectives, strengthens connections, and supports social equity. This year the NJASLA Annual Meeting, Design + Nature, included the launch of a new Diversity Initiative (DI). The Initiative focuses on gathering input on strategies for diversity and inclusion from NJASLA meeting attendees. The goals of the initiative are to foster equity, diversity, and inclusion at NJASLA Annual Meetings, and to raise awareness of the value of diversity in content and representation in landscape architecture.

Jennifer Souder, Kayla Weis, and Victoria Kayes formed the DI organizing committee. The Initiative’s activities for the meeting centered on the DI information table and included a discussion session led by Elizabeth Kennedy, ASLA and Robert Preston, CLA. The committee created a survey, information cards, a Facebook page, binders with ASLA Diversity resources and a brief PowerPoint presentation that framed the discussion session.

The conversations initiated at the information table followed through to the discussion session. Jen Souder structured the session around the following questions:
  • What do diversity and inclusion mean to you?
  • Why is diversity important to landscape architecture?
  • What are the barriers to diversity in landscape architecture?
The two themes came up at the DI table and session: relatability and content. The importance of relating to people in your education program, office, and projects. It is also critical to teach, share, and promote landscape architecture that represents diverse communities, professionals, and projects.

The take away from the first DI at the NJASLA meeting is that the conversation on diversity in the profession needs to continue. Impressions and opinions regarding how to move forward need to be discussed by all; landscape architect professionals, teachers, students, and community members.

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