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

Emily O'Mahoney, FALSA

How do we make our profession more attractive and accessible to a broader spectrum of society? Answering this question starts with an understanding that the profession of landscape architecture is better if we reflect the diversity of the country and communities we serve. ASLA is forging a path in conversations on diversity, equity, and inclusion conversations which started with our first Diversity Summit in 2013. Through policy direction, educational sessions, and promotional outreach, ASLA is working to provide us with tools to better understand DEI issues. ASLA has set a strong path with the newly released Racial Equity Plan of Action and must continue to raise the bar.

Increasing the diversity of the profession calls for a multifaceted approach that centers around education. Education is something we do throughout our professional lives, educating our clients, our elected officials, and our coworkers. ASLA’s work on diversity is an education. We should all look at our workplaces and our projects with renewed perspective. How can we be more inclusive and diverse?

Diversity education is a two-way street. We learn from the programs provided by ASLA which include webinars, conferences, and summits. We lead with what we do to attract a diverse population. We engage in K-12 programs, participate in community development efforts, and create strong chapter/university relationships to support the diversity of our academic institutions. In such cases we are educating others on the profession, this diverse profession, and ASLA must be there to support us in this work. ASLA’s Career Discovery program, available to landscape architects and teachers, is one such example of the Society’s support.

By introducing young people to landscape architecture, especially those in underserved communities, we can create a more diverse profession. This can be done through programs such as ACE Mentorship, Parent Teacher Associations, or groups like the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. ASLA and Future Landscape Architects of America (FLAA) have developed educational programs to assist teachers and landscape architecture volunteers. Through FLAA, I have personally had multiple opportunities to introduce a diverse population of middle school students to the profession of landscape architecture. Wherever life takes them, these students will not forget the profession. They may become our clients, our allied professionals, elected officials, or actual landscape architects themselves.

Our university programs are doing an excellent job attracting and retaining a more diverse student body. These students are the future of our profession and it is important that we welcome them with open arms on a personal, professional, and social level.

ASLA will continue to provide support on our path towards a better understanding of the equity issues facing our profession and the communities in which we live. ASLA will continue to educate by providing and sharing information we need to become a more inclusive and diverse profession and, in turn, each of us must educate others on how the diverse profession of landscape architecture improves the world around us.

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