Every year, the Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF) welcomes nearly 100 up-and-coming students into our LAF Olmsted Scholars Program – an initiative designed to grow and support the next generation of landscape architects. This month, we inducted 89 new Scholars from accredited college landscape architecture programs across the U.S. and Canada into the program, including two National Olmsted Scholars and six finalists. To say these Scholars are inspiring would be an understatement.
The 2022 graduate LAF National Olmsted Scholar is Katie Finnigan, from the University of Colorado Denver. Katie plans to use her $25,000 award to undertake community-engaged research on design interventions that can create acoustically and sensorially supportive outdoor environments for neurodivergent populations. It’s a topic that is important to Katie and her family, and to us at LAF.
Our undergraduate winner is Trecia Cintron from The Ohio State University, who plans to use her $15,000 award to gather health histories from families in Black and Hispanic communities living adjacent to landfills and other contaminated sites along the Mississippi River. Trecia wants to create an Environmental Injustice Atlas of the Midwest – another innovative idea and far-reaching project for our communities.
Throughout our virtual Olmsted Scholars Induction Ceremony, we heard from dozens of students about impactful projects they’re working on, along with important areas of research, their motivations, and their big ideas. They want to change the world as landscape architects and they’re working on many ways and aspects of tackling climate change, social justice, and diversity, equity, and inclusion. All these goals align with what we’re doing at LAF: investing in landscape architects to create a healthier, more equitable, and sustainable world.
Among our six National Olmsted Scholar Finalists, graduate finalist Robert Douglass, from Cal Poly, Pomona, aims to put the power of design into the hands of Pomona’s youth. His goal is to help them perform ethnographic studies, photo or video documentation, interviews, or surveys on challenging areas in their community, and then connect them with designers. Our second graduate finalist, Kate Flaherty, from Cornell University, would like to compile a body of research on landscapes that have provoked and facilitated change within the larger disability rights and justice movements in the U.S., with the goal of publishing it as a written and design document to further landscape architecture and disability scholarly research. The third finalist, Daniel Kletzing, from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, is working to develop relationships between our nation’s collegiate landscape architecture programs and Native American organizations to facilitate an exchange of indigenous environmental and technical expertise. The graduate finalists each received a $5,000 award.
At the undergraduate level, finalist Megan Adams, from Iowa State University, is looking to better understand the correlation between therapeutic design and outcomes of social and economic improvement for students with Asperger’s Syndrome in order to advocate for people who are neurodivergent and, ultimately, design for everyone. Undergraduate finalist Avery Haynes, from Louisiana State University, aims to understand the role design plays in feelings of belonging by skateboarding through and filming designed and undesigned spaces. The third undergraduate finalist, Leigh Muldrow, from the University of Delaware, is looking to empower populations living with air, soil, and water pollution by making geolocated toxin data available to all. The undergraduates each received a $3,000 award.
More than 980 students have been named Olmsted Scholars since LAF started the program 15 years ago, including the 50 graduate students and 39 undergraduates in this year’s cohort. Next year we’ll have over 1,000 Olmsted Scholars! That’s 1,000 rising leaders shaping the world in a way that aligns with our mission and vision here at LAF.
It’s hard to put into words the excitement and inspiration I felt as I listened to our 2022 cohort talk about their projects, ideas, and inspirations. They recognize the ways innovation and sustainable design solutions can impact the world, and they want to be a part of it. In the words of graduate Olmsted Scholar Steven Shuttle, from the University of Guelph: “I envision a not-too-distant future in which we lead with landscape.” I certainly do, too. I envision a world in which our leaders call on landscape architects to help design projects – big and small – early in the planning process, and when developing policy. I envision a world with green infrastructure and equitable design. I envision a world where we can use the skills of landscape architects to their greatest potential to create a happy, healthy, and prosperous planet.
Reflecting on this year’s group of Olmsted Scholars, I feel optimistic about the future. It’s great to know these Scholars represent the next generation of landscape architects, a generation that is going to shape the world in a responsible, sustainable way. We’re in good hands! Moving forward, and I can assure you that LAF will continue to do everything we can to support and grow future generations of landscape architects.
If you’re interested in learning more about LAF’s Olmsted Scholars Program, or in watching a recording of our 2022 Induction Ceremony, visit: https://www.lafoundation.org/news/2022/08/osp-inductionPublished in Blog, Cover Story, Featured