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ASLA 2019 Professional General Design Honor Award. Glenstone, Potomac, Maryland. PWP Landscape Architecture >

ASLA Presidential Candidates Forum Question 2: Emily O’Mahoney, FASLA

How can ASLA enhance its relevance for young professionals, both for those in the early years of their careers and students in landscape architecture programs?

In my Goals and Direction Statement, I noted that we must approach changes from the inside (advocacy for the members) and outside the Society (advocacy of the profession). This question requires both.

In order to enhance relevance with young professionals, ASLA must embrace a multi-pronged approach. It begins in the classroom. Landscape architecture programs across the country are opportune places to introduce students to the important role ASLA plays in their chosen profession. To accomplish this, we need assistance and buy-in from the influencers— the instructors and professors that educate our future professionals. Unfortunately, with the research demands placed on those in academia, many are not members of ASLA.

My probing of this idea has informed me that there is quite an uphill climb to move this forward. My Pollyanna attitude tells me that if this was the culture when I went to school then we can certainly figure out how to do it today. It may require new membership categories for those in academia, higher visibility of student work (requiring ASLA membership), and it will absolutely involve positive interaction of ASLA members (secondary influencers) throughout the educational process. Increased chapter visibility, and funding of events and scholarships are some of the initiatives that can help.

The efforts to improve ASLA’s visibility in the academic realm will work from the inside of the framework of the Society, as in advocacy for membership. As we increase our tools for practice, we will be increasing the relevance for emerging professionals. But it is more. I believe our young people are looking for something different. It has to do with the Society standing up and taking a strong definitive position on current environmental and societal issues. This is part of the advocacy for the profession on the outside of the Society, a position that ASLA is beginning to embrace.

Students and emerging professionals are increasingly more involved in researching and delving into complex community, regional, and global issues through the lens of landscape architecture. These future leaders need to know that ASLA promotes the platforms and beliefs that they learned to advocate for in school and which drive their passion if they are to be members. Our profession must be seen as leaders to solve the world’s problems; to be on the cutting edge in solutions; to stand up for what we believe. With this comes opportunity to promote our profession and open new doors of business opportunities. This movement is pushing at practice and at ASLA, the representative of landscape architecture. From the results of the Student Climate Change Summit in San Diego and the 2016 LAF Call to Action, it has become apparent that ASLA must change to meet the challenge and is rising to the challenge. We must no longer try and remain neutral but speak out for what is right environmentally and socially, thereby promoting the profession as the leaders in a changing world.

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