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“Landscape architects lead the stewardship, planning, and design of our built and natural environments.” You should recognize this as the first part of ASLA’s mission statement.
Landscape architects lead. What does it mean to lead? Seems like a simple question, and yet there are shelves of books on leadership. Let’s start with what leadership is not…
• Leadership is not dependent upon your tenure or title Leadership doesn’t spontaneously happen when you reach an advanced pay grade.
• Leadership has little to do with personality. You don’t need extroverted charismatic traits to practice leadership.
• Leadership isn’t management. Leading and managing are different. Good management is critical. Managers need to plan, measure, monitor, coordinate, solve, hire, fire, and so many other things. A key reason why ASLA has been so successful is because our professional staff are incredible managers.
I consider leadership a process of social influence, which coordinates and enhances the efforts of others towards the achievement of a common goal.
I believe that every landscape architect can, no must, develop their ability to lead. You are leaders! The fact that you are here demonstrates your desire to lead within your Chapter and our Society. So how can you become more effective?
Leaders help themselves and others to do the right things. They set direction, build an inspiring vision, and create something new. Let me share with you my vision and goals.
We must raise awareness of landscape architecture, its value and its vital contributions to our society and environment.
This is the communication and advocacy component of social influence. So what do we need to talk about and who do we need to reach?
Decision-making authorities at the state, national and even international level are a critical audience when it comes to the future of landscape architecture. For over 50 years, the profession has actively promoted licensure as the only effective regulatory tool to protect the public health, safety and welfare. This is a tried and true message that we must continue to strengthen and update to address the evolving concerns of society. Only ASLA provides the powerful institutional support required to fight legislative threats to the integrity of the profession.
But if all we talk about is health, safety and welfare, we are settling for a meagre landscape. We have to talk about the art and beauty we incorporate, the environmental performance, the sense of place we contribute to our communities. As leaders, we must educate the public on the opportunities for and benefits of working with landscape architects using a clear, common language. By sharing our understanding of the design and development process we can empower individuals and communities to affect positive change and develop them as advocates and future clients. It is to our advantage to foster citizen planners and actively participate in community organizations to demonstrate our relevance to the issues and places that affect their quality of life.
We also need to express our relevance to allied professions in both the public and private sector, and make our services more accessible and affordable to a greater proportion of society. ASLA has developed many components parts, including the Center for Landscape Architecture, our rebranding effort, annual summits on diversity, advocacy and public relations, the blue ribbon panel on climate change and resiliency. What we need is a framework to pull these resources together into a compelling family of messages.
This is a complicated message to deliver, and we need help framing it effectively. We need to bring together the language of science, art, design and social justice. This is where branding/marketing professionals can assist by evaluating our audiences, creating a comprehensive framework and developing a contemporary communication program that positions landscape architecture as vital and relevant to the public.
We must grow and diversify our membership and global capacity as a profession.
As an organization and a profession, we need to grow our community – in numbers, in diversity, and in reach. This starts with career discovery and recruiting diverse prospects into the profession. ASLA is developing new tools with a more inclusive focus on persons of color and underrepresented groups, but we need every chapter to use them to market landscape architecture to our next generation.
Once we spark their interest, we must make the road to the profession more attractive and accessible. This includes being recognized as a STEM/STEAM profession, and expanding opportunities for community college, on-line, summer and part time study to contribute to an accredited degree. We also need to support more work study and scholarships, internships, mentoring and job shadowing to improve retention and transition into the profession. And as employers and an organization we must be more accessible and inclusive to landscape architects in all types and stages of careers.
Our next generation of landscape architects already live in a complex, networked world and must adapt to a future defined by global professional practice and issues. We need to meaningfully engage in and design the built environment of not only our own community, but also of cultures dramatically different from our own — dealing with life-threatening issues related to water, food, and waste. These issues no longer fall outside a landscape architect’s scope, and many of our university programs are training the future generation of landscape architects to address these challenges.
ASLA must also expand its capacity to engage in issues that span beyond national and political boundaries. We may not think of ourselves as the global body for landscape architecture, but we represent nearly half of the planet’s landscape architects, and much of the global community looks to us as the leading voice of the profession. As a starting point we can expand our services to provide a robust international medium for the exchange of knowledge, skills, inspiration and networking. In this way we can support a growing global community of landscape architects to facilitate collaboration and seek to provide all humans with a healthy and livable environment.
We must support and incorporate research into practice to accelerate design innovation.
As leaders, we must embrace our changing context: new materials and technologies, new ways to learn and practice, and global environmental, cultural and social values. This is an area where partnering with our sister organizations is particularly valuable. We need more programs like the Landscape Architecture Foundation’s Case Study Investigation to document the benefits of designed landscapes as well as evaluate innovative tools and technology for applications within our profession. Working with the Accreditation Board and CLARB, we can pilot methods of incorporating remote learning, community service, and work-related research into our education palette. And ASLA should actively seek out and provide access to thought-leaders to demonstrate the capacity of landscape to meet global challenges such as water and food insecurity, climate change, conflict and migration.
Following the successful model of ASLA’s green roof, Center for Landscape Architecture and Chinatown Green Street, the Society can undertake similar public demonstration projects to advance the integration of sustainable techniques and culture in our everyday practices. We should also be encouraging more firms and organizations to undertake in-office research either on their own or in collaboration with an academic institution to expand the range of issues that can be solved with landscape architectural services.
The other half of this issue is how to recognize and share the fruits of this research and transfer this new knowledge into general practice. Partnering with LAF and CELA to broaden the scope of the research category of ASLA’s award program and providing more in-depth coverage of the award recipients would be a start. This could then grow into an interdisciplinary annual symposium on innovation in the landscape to position landscape architects as innovation leaders. This could also support greater inclusion of firm- and practice-based research in peer-reviewed publications and conferences.
Call to action.
I’m challenging each and every one of you to lead; to practice social influence, advocacy and activism to advance your career, your Society and the profession of landscape architecture. Run for office or accept opportunities to become active members of advocacy boards, governmental committees, and allied professional organizations. Support colleagues who pursue alternative career paths in government, research, technology, NGOs, or activism. Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone to apply your skills to marginalized communities, threatened environments, and orphaned places. Seek these and other unconventional projects for their ability to fuel public dialog, stimulate fresh ideas and advance the scope and depth of your chosen profession.
"This generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny."
That was the call to arms President Franklin Delano Roosevelt directed to young men and women in 1936, as our nation was engulfed in a Depression and waiting just ahead for them was a terrible war. What they accomplished in their historic rendezvous was no less than the preservation of western civilization.
I would propose that our next generation of landscape architects has their own rendezvous with destiny. The battles and our weapons may be different, but our accomplishment may be no less heroic than the preservation of our global civilization.
Hi, I am Wendy Miller, a registered landscape architect with over 30 years of public sector experience working in urban design and transportation. I am humbled to be considered for the position of President-Elect and honored to have been chosen by the Nominating Committee.
Recently, I began my second career by opening a small landscape architecture and transportation planning firm. I love what I do because I see the power in how landscape architects shape the public realm. We respect community, culture and nature. We open up a wider conversation when we create places. We are inclusive because we know how broad, varied, and challenging it is to design for both the built and natural environment. I’ve heard leadership described as requiring three things - working from a core set of values, calling on your friends and allies, and having the will to meet challenges head on. As landscape architects, our strength and moral leadership draws from this core set of values and beliefs. We have a solid foundation.
Many years of working with engineers and planners has taught me about the give and take of collaborating with other disciplines and nurturing allies. Collaboration is teamwork. I love a team effort and a sports metaphor! I like the role of the assist, orchestrating the play, finding the sweet spot in aligning issues, knowledge, and effective communication, keeping the momentum going, always with the goal of achieving a successful outcome. This is my kind of leadership.
Over the past several years, I have seen the strength and leadership of our Society in promoting our common interests and meeting the challenges we face. Foremost are the continuous attacks on licensure. Chapters are rallying to meet these licensure threats with the support of ASLA staff, the Advocacy Summit, and the updated Chapter licensure guide. Becoming licensed was my number one goal as a young professional, and my first priority always will be to defend licensure and to advocate for regulations that ensure landscape architects have the right to practice on equal footing with our allied professions.
As the guardians of environmental stewardship and the leaders in promoting sustainable design and resilient planning, our role is vital in protecting the health, safety and welfare of the public as well as the planet. Our membership identified climate change as a key issue for the profession. In response, ASLA convened a Blue Ribbon Panel on Climate Change and Resilient Design to develop policy recommendations that address the effects of natural disasters and propose sustainable solutions for resilient infrastructure. We must speak out about our mission to protect and enhance the environment while ensuring equitable treatment for all communities. With Advocacy Day and iAdvocate, ASLA has unleashed powerful tools to amplify our voices on climate change issues and to mobilize our response to legislation that endangers environmental protections and impacts funding for natural systems planning, parks and conservation, active transportation, and community health. This is the work of landscape architects. We must lead on environmental issues.
And as we make our voices heard, we increase the visibility of the profession to wider audiences and spread knowledge and understanding of landscape architecture - who we are, what we do, and what we believe. I believe the multitude of ways we practice landscape architecture is our true super power as a profession, but we all know that the scope of landscape architecture is still misunderstood by colleagues and the public. One of my top priorities as your President will be to champion the great work ASLA is doing to advance the image and understanding of the profession. I’m excited about the efforts underway. In addition to the success of the Center for Landscape Architecture in providing a showcase for the profession, the rebranding resources rolling out this spring, and wrapping up another extraordinary social media outreach campaign with World Landscape Architecture Month, ASLA is beginning a joint endeavor with our allied organizations to identify how to most effectively communicate what landscape architecture is and why it matters. Along with the Council of Landscape Architecture Registration Boards, the Landscape Architecture Foundation, the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture and the Landscape Architectural Accredidation Board, we will reframe our narrative for the public. I look forward to creating a powerful, unified message for our profession.
Equally important for our profession’s growth is keeping landscape architecture in the lead on critical and emerging practice areas while increasing diversity in our ranks and mentoring young professionals. What emerging practice issues are on the horizon? What are the passions and concerns of young professionals? In speaking with students, they are interested in what role landscape architects can play in revitalizing vacant spaces and brownfields, and taking unconventional approaches to shrinking cities. They are passionate about community, environmental justice and finding better methods of working holistically and sustainably for the public good over the long haul. They have incorporated innovative ideas about stormwater management, black water remediation, and green infrastructure and now they are ready to take this knowledge to another level. They are interested in making ecological processes visible in public spaces, they want to push ecological experimentation and do long term surveillance and performance measurements of landscapes. They use video animation and imagery to embrace change as a constant and do not see design and site specific solutions as static. They are citizens of the world and bring a global view to the profession that is exciting and essential. And echoing my own futurist musings on new mobility and autonomous vehicles, they are contemplating what these technologies will mean for our rights of way and other public spaces.
To be on the cutting edge of emerging issues, we need to build our team, include our allies and align people’s strengths to find solutions. New technologies are poised to reshape our built environment while robust performance data increasingly fine-tunes our work. We must link with our academic partners to educate and bring research forward, craft policy and implement best practices. Landscape Architects are innovators with profound ideas that become other disciplines’ buzzwords, let’s embrace our visionary role and take the lead.
And, as visionaries, we need to focus on a future that is multicultural. To be a valid and potent force in the communities we serve, we need to reflect the world around us. ASLA’s emphasis on career discovery and reaching out to a young and diverse population of students is a springboard for our profession to evolve and prosper. By connecting with K-12 educational communities and guidance counselors, attending career fairs, and pursuing inclusion of landscape architecture as a part of the STEM / STEAM curricula, I believe ASLA’s undertakings will bear fruit as creative high school students find landscape architecture as a career choice. But we must also explore new online educational models and pledge to expand urgently needed financial assistance to provide opportunities for underserved students. And by strengthening the connection between students and emerging professionals through ASLA involvement, we can nurture new leadership that will keep our profession strong.
Chapters! They are ideal for enlisting young, energetic professionals to participate in grass roots efforts. Chapters are the frontline where our members engage with ASLA. We must provide resources, guidance and training to keep Chapters strong. Chapters that are active and responding to membership needs are critical to serving, growing and retaining our membership.
Looking back to my own early years working in an environment where I was the only landscape architect, and usually the only woman, ASLA provided a place where I could refresh my knowledge, bond with other landscape architects, recharge and recommit. It was also where I found other professional women to share experiences and to find support and solutions for working in settings that were often intimidating and difficult. I fully embrace ASLA’s emphasis on the needs of emerging professionals and with it the exploration of new ways of working. I want us to bolster career paths that are neither straight nor narrow. We need to encourage and facilitate the ability to balance career and family for all practitioners and to foster a culture that aligns professional success with personal growth.
I’m especially excited for my own daughter as she embarks on her career in landscape architecture and finds the best fit for her in the practice of our noble profession. I feel an added responsibility to build a world that supports and values the good work she and all our young professionals hope to do. ASLA works tirelessly to support the profession on our behalf, I would be honored to have your vote and to serve as an enthusiastic team player - working with you to move the profession forward.