What can be done to improve the ASLA…

Landscape Architecture for Landscape Architects Forums GENERAL DISCUSSION What can be done to improve the ASLA…

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    Christopher Patzke

    …or should we just start over with a new professional organization?

    Christopher Patzke

    So I recently e-mailed the executive committee of the ASLA and said “Hey…Land8Lounge has a decent cross section of the profession.  You may want to check it out to get an idea of what landscape architects and designers are saying about the profession and about the ASLA.”  Many of us see ways the ASLA and the profession can be improved.  Many of us are also talking about relevant topics that the ASLA does not really address.


    Let’s see if they are paying attention.

    Christopher Patzke

    Here is the response from ASLA:


    Your note was forwarded to me, and I wanted to take a moment to thank you for your time and interest. We routinely monitor Land8 but don’t think it is effective or even appropriate for ASLA to step into such conversations among members and nonmembers. We are, however, noting the comments, separating fact from fiction, and taking steps to correct the misperceptions out there. Happily, our membership numbers, an indicator of the value landscape architects see in ASLA, have remained relatively strong during these trying times when compared to other allied professions. We will continue to keep an eye on the discussions, be sensitive to substantive issues that arise, and do our best within our means to address them.


    Again, thanks.




    Terence Poltrack

    Director, Public Relations and Communications

    American Society of Landscape Architects

    636 Eye St., NW

    Washington, DC 20001




    Christopher Patzke

    Sounds like it really doesn’t matter what people think because membership is steady and the checks are coming in right?


    Here is more of the correspondence:

    Good afternoon Terrance.
    Thanks for the response.  I am trying to read through the lines of what you have written.  It’s a very politically savy response, but I think it demonstrates why those in the profession are so frustrated with the ASLA.  There appears to be no genuine response to very critical concerns.  ASLA is not reaching its audience.  In response the ASLA is losing a level of respect.  You mentioned member numbers as an indication of how the ASLA is perceived by the profession.  I wonder if the ASLA monitors the number of members that chose to cancel their membership (as I have), those who can no longer afford membership fees and those in the profession that chose not to join the ASLA in the first place.
    I think it would behoove the ASLA to engage members and non-members in a forum such as Land8Lounge.  Not only would the ASLA more effectively represent the profession, but it would be more effectively promote positive change.  If social media can give rise to the recent “Arab Spring,” I am sure it can raise the esteem of the profession and address a lot of the concerns we have for the future of the profession.
    Finally, I would be interested in hearing from a leadership team member at ASLA in lieu of a public relations person.  Could you please pass my comment along.
    Thanks so much.

    Christopher D. Patzke


    The response is more moderate but still a bit of a blow-off:


    There is nothing politically savvy about my response, I fear. It’s simply a fact. Any attempt to address members through such forums just brands us as defensive and, as you seem to have interpreted by response, spinning rather than addressing issues. It’s the nature of the platform. That doesn’t mean that we are not paying attention. And we have many outlets to speak to and have members, and nonmembers, comment on our activities, including The Dirt blog, LAND, Facebook and LinkedIn groups, and letters to LAM, among others.


    As director, I am a part of the leadership team here. I report directly to the CEO. I will, however, send you comments along to elected leadership.




    Christopher Patzke

    I don’t believe Terence to be a landscape architect.  I could be wrong in that assumption.  A quick web search seems to indicate that he is a career non-profit staff member.


    On a different note, if one looks at the Board of Trustees for the ASLA it is decidedly an aged group of people.  There are few young professionals.  This begs the question: Is the Board of Trustees in touch with those entering the profession and do they understand the needs of young professionals?  Since membership fees are high and salaries are low, are young professionals kept out of the dialogue that the ASLA could engage in?  For instance licensure (older professionals did not take the same exam we currently take), work place culture (do they remember the struggle to establish a career) and innovation (how many of these people use CAD and understand the changing needs of a digital office)…and so, so many other topics.


    We will inherit this organization (if we choose to) and what will we want it to be?

    Jason T. Radice

    The trustees are elected by their chapters, and the executives are elected by national ballot (you should have just received yours) You do have to run to be elected. Its a tough job…you have to go to a lot meeting/webinars…you have to read a ton, and there is the meeting @ the convention when everybody else is out whoopin’ it up.It takes a great deal of time. I’m younger(ish) and am considering running if my chapter trustee decides he doesn’t want to do it anymore. If you are younger and complaining, do something about it! Run for a seat on your local board, then maybe run for a seat on the National board!

    Tanya Olson

    Great thread Christopher – and very enlightening responses from ASLA….cold, self important, insular, disinterested, we’re doing just fine without you here in DC responses. I would have thought that ASLA would want as members every landscape architect in the country. Guess not.

    It would be interesting to hear from people who are very active in their local chapters – what are you doing to reach out to non-member LAs? Or to those in related professions? What are the chapter relationships with the mothership like now that they dumped web hosting for all of you?

    As far as communicating with them via LAM letters – I’ve sent in several with 0 response – no ASLA behind my name I guess….. Oh and you can’t participate in their chat groups unless you are a (paid) member. They have no outreach whatsoever – our local (regional, really) chapter shows no interest in increasing the number of members. I see the president elect regularly and he has never even asked why I’m not a member. They were barely a presence while I was in school – we just got the mag for free for a year after graduation.

    I think there are a huge number of non-member LAs who can’t afford the membership fees or don’t think they’re a good value for the money and that represents a loss for ASLA. Or SHOULD represent a loss, but from the responses you got, they feel like they’re doing just fine. I don’t get it at all.


    Contrast that to the local chapter of the AIA – not only was I invited personally to their conference, but they are taking a shot at making the conference a little more multidisciplinary – selecting sites for conference visits that include LA, interior design and architecture – asking LAs to lead portions of the tours! Admittedly, I think one reason for this is that I started a women in design monthly gathering for local women in all of the design professions and the architects responsible for the conference are part of that group….(so get active, like Jason said!)


    Lastly, I was the chair of a statewide organization for several years and we did everything we could to increase membership – from reducing membership fees, volunteer time in lieu of fees, invite and communicate with people in aligned professions, make tshirts, put on mini-conferences on both ends of the state and in the middle, booths at state and county fairs, the list goes on. If they think they are too good for all of that, I suggest they just let it slide for 10 more years and see what happens. I did notice that the ASLA conference fee is much less this year than several years ago…


    What can be done? Remember when a bunch of the GSD LAs put on LandForum as an alternative to ASLA? What ever happened to that? It was a blast and a good alternative – Walker, Miss, Hargreaves, Hood, Delaney, Schwartz –  but I think it just fizzled out because its too much work to do for people who are also trying to run their firms….

    Tanya Olson

    and p.s. of the trustees / executive committee – 13 of 63 are women, and that includes the executive secretary and CEO who are honorary members – 20%. read it and weep. Only 6 of the state chapter trustees are women. 6! sick.

    Christopher Patzke

    Jason and Tanya,


    I really appreciate your “get involved” spirit.  I will probably avoid the ASLA, but I’ll definitely consider forming my own group here in Boston.

    Tanya Olson

    sorry – that was the Designed Landscape Forum conference, the first one of which was in San Francisco in Nov. 1996 – were any of you there?


    I’m somewhat involved with my state chapter and they have done quite a bit of good.  They got Alaska the stamp, work hard to market the profession, and collaborate well to promote our shared interests.


    I would just as soon dump the national ASLA, though.  LAM is alright, but it isn’t worth hundreds of dollars per year.  My state dues are 1/10th what I pay the national organization.  I’d prefer to invert those numbers.

    Frank Varro

    Echoing others-

    Bold idea: Get involved.


    Either local or national, it doesn’t matter.  Try to get elected to your state ASLA executive committee, or work on one of the local sub-committees if you have some time, but not the name recognition to get elected.  Pick a committee you think will address some of your issues, and… well… address them.  Or if you can’t muster the time to do that, then just go to you’re local chapters board meetings.  I’ve been to a few of NYASLAs meetings, and it does not matter if you are ON the board, they want to know what you think, and what needs to be changed.


    Or, if you have a bigger issue you want dealt with, join a national committee.  I’m on the national committee for public practice, where we try to find ways to promote public practice within the field, but also help outside groups recognize the value of the profession in public settings.  Don’t think ASLA does as much for its members as it should, and you have some ideas, join the Member services committee.  Want changes in licensure, join the Licensure Committee.


    Or at least contact the committee members to see if they can start addressing your concern on their next conference call.


    Long story short, there are numerous ways to contact ASLA and local chapters with your concerns.  Do you really need them to hire someone, raising all of our dues, just so you don’t have to look up an e-mail address?

    Frank Varro

    It could also be that they realize what many here do not: this is an internet forum and, as of now, is treated by the users like one.  This topic has been on the front page for a little over a day, with a decent number of responses.  Of them, Tanya is the only person to give any actual feedback in terms of what AIA does that makes it seem like a better value.  However, she is also addressing those issues in other ways, like chapter participation.  The only way the the ASLA is going to see Land8 as a positive driving force is if we are one, and stop treating discussions like a chat room.


    I’m guilty of falling into the trap as well, and its something I’m going to work on.


    Land8 has an opportunity to be a great source of outreach, and communication.  But until people stop using it as a place to post snide remarks, and act unprofessionally, the ASLA has to reason to take the time to look at what we say.


    “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have” – If you want respect, act like someone who has respect.

    Christopher Patzke

    I think there is a value in seeing viceral responses to a topic.  Particularly, when that topic is charged, and particularly when there is the level of frustration the ASLA creates.  ASLA may chose not to engage the discussions but, by their own admission, they “monitor” Land8Lounge.  If they are smart they will listen good and hard to what people are writting because “professionalism” sometimes belies the truth.  There is a call to action here that a quiet voice and a passive stance does not create.

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    Is Land8Lounge not an altenative? Think about it. There is a lot of participation and nothing seems to be off limits. I think it is a place where you can share experiences, vent frustration, and get some guidance.

    I think the frustration people get from ASLA is disappointment based on expectations. Some of those expectations may come from our professors and from ASLA itself, but I think that in the end it is of our own doing. If you don’t expect ASLA to take charge of your career (directly or indirectly) there really is nothing to be disappointed by.

    If you look at what it is and what it does, there is nothing to be disappointed with. It promotes and shares some stuff that can be very interesting. Not all of it is great for everyone, but where on the planet does the answer to all things exist?

    I’m not a member, so I’m not defending them out of a sense of belonging. I personally, don’t have a lot of interest in most of the topics they cover, but I see nothing negative about that. It is like a magazine subscription – you buy what interests you, but it does not mean that those that don’t are bad.


    Our careers are in our own hands. Don’t dwell on putting it in someone else’s hands. It is just unrealistic.


    Join ASLA if there is information and participation that you feel is beneficial – use them to your benefit if they do benefit you. Don’t join if you think you’ll all of a sudden get a competitive edge because you can put ASLA after your name because that is the kind of expectation that results in disappointment.


    The question to me is not what I want ASLA to be. It is seeing what it is and asking myself if I want to participate or not.

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