MLA – RISD or Cornell?

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    Yushan Chen


    So far I have been accepted by RISD, Cornell and WUSTL for MLA program starting this fall. I am a WUSTL undergrad so I’m deciding on going somewhere else for grad school.

    I am an environmental policy major in college and am interested in ecology/environment related landscape designs. 

    Could someone please give me some intro to either schools (RISD or Cornell) on what their programs focus more on, and what kind of career people usually step into when graduated?



    Tosh K

    I can’t give you an insider view, but the outside view in is Cornell has a good theory foundation and is horticulturally sound (being in the ag school?) and RISD very artsy (less nuts and bolts which can be a deterrent for some firms that are less presentation and competition oriented – its an art school).  Both schools have good alumni networks in their regions.

    Katie Seidenwurm

    I went to Cornell (undergrad in 1993 and MLA 1996). Lots of good Ag resources. Good theory as well. What kind of info do you need?



    I’m a recent RISD grad, and have worked in medium-sized firms that focus on public work.  I could have gone to work at a more conceptual design – focused firm, but have no desire to work 12 hour days and weekends for a low salary.  RISD prepared me as well as any MLA program in terms of computer technology, but was a little light on some of the more practical aspects of site engineering.  The design and studio culture there is outstanding, you share space and coursework with the architecture program and can take electives in the fine arts.  The downside is that it is so prohibitively expensive that the bulk of students attending the MLA program are now coming from outside of the US.  If you really are more interested in focusing on ecology and the environment I’d probably say Cornell is more in line with your desires.  However, if you are OK with being a little more self-directed in that aspect RISD could be good, too.  Go for a visit.  Ithaca and Providence are both great places for different reasons.  

    Jasmine Davis

    Hi Yushan, 

    This is totally unrelated to your question so I apologize! I was an environmental policy major as well but have so far not been accepted to any schools for an MLA (in Canada), so I was wondering if you would be willing to show me your portfolio? I’d just like to see how you incorporated your unique background as an env. politics student. Congratulations on your acceptance and good luck with choosing your school! 🙂 

    – Jasmine 

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