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If you have any questions contact: Curt Millay
I first want to thank the Nominating Committee for allowing me to pursue this amazing opportunity. It is a great honor to be considered for the role of president-elect and president of the American Society of Landscape Architects.
ASLA and the profession of landscape architecture are entering an exciting time on many key national issues. They include our changing climate, licensure advocacy, increased public relations and public awareness of the profession, leadership development, career discovery, Sustainable SITES, and the incredible new Center for Landscape Architecture. These are all key initiatives that I fully support and will continue to do so in the future. As ASLA president, it will be my job to assure the profession works hard on advancing these issues as we move forward in the future. Today, I want to take a few minutes to think a little bigger; a little broader and more holistically.
When President-Elect Vaughn Rinner called me to say I had been nominated, I of course told her I had to think about it. Later that day, I found a post online that caught my eye. Not atypical, but this one was something different, something special. It could have been just dumb luck or a simple coincidence, but I watched and listened to this clip over and over again. By the end of the day, I had made up mind.
The link was about a good friend and colleague of mine, Professor William Cronon, who teaches an American Environmental History class. His last lecture of the semester is well known to be one of those life changing moments for many of his students. One of Bill’s goals is to change the way his students look at the world, how they view their world every day and how they walk through their landscapes in time. He wants them to see things they otherwise wouldn’t see. He talks about “the power of the bird’s-eye view” and looking at the landscape from a few hundred feet in the air, something we landscape architects all too often take for granted. Professor Cronon wants his students to look at how the various connections of the world work, and to think about the interconnectedness of everything that we do across place and time.
In his semester ending lecture, Professor Cronon suggests to his students to… “Never forget the people and creatures that are in those landscapes that the bird’s-eye view gives you, so that no matter how faceless or far away those people may seem, that it is part of our obligation to the people and other creatures of the world, as we live in the present, to remember that they have faces like us, that they are like all other living creatures of this world, and that they live at the center of some material, moral, and spiritual universe. If you are not willing to grant and engage the live reality of their beings, in the places that are dear to them, you will not understand the world.”
Pretty profound stuff.
He goes on to say… “Seeking to tame the earth, as we have, we have taken upon ourselves the burden of attending and caring for the garden we have sought to make of this planet. We’ve become responsible for the earth, and we have to assume the moral consequences of that responsibility for our planet. In caring for the earth and its creatures we have to learn to care for ourselves. In taming nature, with respect and love, it means taming ourselves as well.”
Like many of his students, I was transformed. Now I know why they come out of that class crying. Sobbing!! Let me repeat that last line. “In taming the earth with respect and love, it means taming ourselves as well.”
I couldn't agree more wholeheartedly. As passionate landscape architects who design and redesign this earth, we sometimes must step back and remember why we do what we do. It indeed is, and as it should be, about the land, the people and the creatures that inhabit these places we call Earth. We often seek to improve upon nature, or actually, improve upon ourselves as we rework a prior use (or misuse) of the land. We must keep the ultimate goal in mind that we are creating a succession of history in all that we do. We often seek to have our landscape designs be timeless, but we all know they change and grow over time. That is the best part of what we do. Everything changes and grows over time. And so must we.
Over my career, I have served ASLA as a member-at-large, chapter secretary, eventually a chapter president-elect, president and past president. I have volunteered for many local and national committees, eventually serving as national Vice President for Professional Practice. In 2004, I was recognized as a Fellow for my administrative works and have now spent the last three years as a Chapter Trustee. I learned how to be a passionate leader in this profession by being a continuous, long time member of ASLA. But why, you ask, do I bring all this up now as I run for this important leadership position? It’s because I don’t ever want to forget your faces. I do this for you, not for me. You are the creatures that inhabit the world in which I live and I want to make it better for you, as members of ASLA.
I have three goals to help make our shared world better and assure that we, together, continue to create our own history in our place and time. Those goals are to:
1. Promote our profession through all forms of education and in all stages of our careers.
2. Develop a long range plan to increase ASLA to over 20,000 members.
3. Promote leadership development for an ever diverse group of emerging professionals.
On January 4, 1899, a group of 11 individuals gathered together to "establish landscape architecture as a recognized profession in North America” to “develop educational studies in landscape architecture", and to “provide a voice of authority in this ‘new profession’.” Wow, history in the making. Did you think they knew that at that time? Of course they did! The Society’s mission today is to advance that once “new” profession through advocacy, communication, education and fellowship. We’ve grown from those original 11 members to over 15,000 strong. We are doing amazing things to promote our profession, our members, and our emerging professionals. But we can always do more. Indeed, we must do more.
We must continue to grow our membership through outreach to the many non-member landscape architects across the country. If we want the profession of landscape architecture to remain vital and relevant, we must reach out to our young, diverse emerging professionals and make sure they understand the benefits of being a member of ASLA throughout their careers. We can do that by helping them grow as leaders, just like you have helped me become a leader throughout my career. I wouldn’t be standing here today, with the passion I have for this profession, seeking your support, if it wasn’t for all of you. You have taught me so much and now it is time once again for me to give back.
Professor Cronon’s message speaks to us at whatever age we are, wherever we are in this world, and in whatever we are doing right now in our careers. I believe we must all take advantage of these small, teachable moments to help everyone understand who we are as landscape architects, what we do, and most importantly, why we do what we do. We are here to make our world a better place for all.
We must remember the faces that have gone on before us. Those faces of the first landscape architects who created this entity we call “the American Society of Landscape Architects.” Olmsted, Simmons, Farrand, Manning along with all the others. They have all helped us become the leaders we are today, for tomorrow and forever. We stand on their shoulders, and those who come after us, they stand on our shoulders. We are all explicably linked through time, all looking down upon this earth from our own bird’s-eye view. We are all interconnected people with the creatures that inhabit our own world, taming nature with respect and love, as we indeed, tame ourselves.
I’m Greg Miller and I’m a landscape architect in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I get to design public parks, streetscapes, schools, residences, and therapeutic landscapes. I love being a landscape architect because it combines art with sciences like ecology, sociology, psychology, and hydrology. I create places that integrate people with the outdoors in safe, accessible, and environmentally sustainable ways.
That’s it. That’s the elevator speech. That’s all it takes to briefly tell your story. I’ve gotten to know a lot of landscape architects around the country, and we’re all pretty similar. We share the same comprehensive perspective of the world around us and have similar values and ethics. We’re also extremely proud of the work we do but are generally humble and don’t always feel comfortable telling our story. Our biggest challenge as a profession is the lack of public understanding of our expertise. It’s our biggest challenge because it can trigger a wide range of other problems. We’ve been working hard to raise public awareness, and we’re doing better than ever. The issue is that PR is a relentless effort because the audience and issues continuously change and evolve.
We’re not necessarily shy about stating our value. Fifty years ago, a bold group came together to write a Declaration of Concern that avowed the vital role of the profession as part of a collective effort to solve critical environmental problems. We’ve since established landscape architecture as an example for how to better plan, design, and care for the built and natural environment.
Fifty years later, we’re still facing some of the same environmental issues, and frankly we’ve added a whole lot more concerns to the list. But we’ve established landscape architecture as the profession that can have the most profound role in the solving these issues. Landscape architecture puts it all together. I think we’re poised for explosive growth of our influence. We’re ready to stand together as a society and move into a new era.
One of the main agenda items of this meeting is to discuss rebranding. Those discussions are causing us to take an introspective look at who we are, what we do, and how we’re positioning ourselves for the future. We’re finding that task somewhat difficult. It’s clear in our own minds, but can we find that same clarity in our external message? We see the world as a more complex set of systems, and we’ve gained additional expertise to the point that it’s hard to summarize our capabilities. That’s good, because it’s a reflection of the profession’s increased value. However, it makes it harder to articulate a succinct message.
It also makes it harder on the future of the practice. Students and early-career professionals are expected to know more and communicate in a greater variety of ways. We expect the next generation to know the basics and be experts in a wide range of other topics. We’re asking them to retain the art of the profession, while layering more sciences into the design process. In addition to geology, botany, sociology, psychology, and ecology, we’ve added epidemiology, neuro-physiology, and anthecology (study of pollinators) to the curriculum. We’ve also added transportation engineering, hydrological engineering, materials science, and macro-economics as basic components of our body of knowledge.
Our traditional skills, and emerging areas of expertise, will position landscape architects as the profession most adept at solving the problems associated with climate change, increasing urbanization, over-extended natural resources, and social injustice. We can live up to that challenge.
The way we get there is two-fold: continue successful programs that are producing results, and create complimentary programs that will build on those successes. The primary way to build on our successes is to reinforce and promote the work that our chapters are doing in support of the national agenda. We have great chapter leaders who are excited to enact their own local programs. Every chapter is different, so the support needs to be flexible. Here are the key programs areas and ways that I think we can assist chapter development and produce greater results.
ASLA has created a fantastic plan for public relations. On the national level, our honors and awards, World Landscape Architecture Month, and a whole host of other programs give us a tremendous wealth of material to promote the profession. Our biggest opportunity comes with empowering chapters to increase the effectiveness of their own PR campaigns. The public relations summit is already doing that and can continue to provide tools for chapters to use in their own efforts. We can get every state to designate April as Landscape Architecture Month. Chapters can use their resources to create visitors guide apps that highlight award-winning and notable projects. Let’s distribute the existing templates and allow chapters to build the PR network across the country.
ASLA has also created an incredibly effective advocacy network. We need to continue to reinforce state and local level advocacy. The advocacy summit has been doing a great job of teaching chapter leaders how to enact their own plans, but we need to make our efforts more proactive. Greater understanding of the profession by state legislators will reduce our need to defend licensure. The more we assist city leaders to craft policy, the greater the likelihood that landscape architecture is codified as a critical element of urban planning and development. Expanding and diversifying our collaborative efforts with allied professionals will build relationships and further establish landscape architecture as a pre-requisite to good design.
Our membership programs have established ASLA’s retention rate as one of the highest among professional associations. ASLA continues to provide critical support to chapters through the Chapter Presidents Council and membership committees. We need to continue to evaluate our programs and communications media to stay relevant to the next generation of landscape architects. We also need to help foster collaborations between professional and student chapters. Leadership development and expanding our diversity should be common themes throughout all of our efforts.
ASLA’s support of professional practice comes in many forms. One area of exciting development has been the growth of the Professional Practice Networks (PPNs). Recent changes including discussion groups on LinkedIn, publication of The Field, and the Online Learning series are making the PPNs much more effective. There may be a way to expand PPNs to include a more regional or local focus and create further interconnectivity between our members.
Renovation, restoration, rejuvenation, remediation, and reinvigoration allow us to grow within our footprint and will continue to redefine our communities. I think the golden years of the profession lie ahead of us, and I’m excited for what the future brings.
When people ask me what I do, I ask them how long they have. The long answer is long. The short answer is; I design the places that you enjoy in a way that will allow your great-grandchildren to enjoy them too.