The program takes advantage of our location in a nexus of practice by inviting practitioners who enjoy teaching into the program as teachers, critics, and mentors. Studios and seminars increase in relevance when practitioners join the faculty to provide professional experience. Guest lecturers frequently visit our program and students have a budget to invite guest lecturers of their own preference. The program is increasingly attracting the notice of design firms like Walt Disney Imagineering.
Practitioner jurors also provide a critical perspective when reviewing our student work and are extensively involved in final presentations.
Practitioners also provide an invaluable pipeline for potential studio projects and case studies. Faculty regularly seek pertinent examples for student review and application, including ASLA award winning projects and other work profiled in journals and at professional conferences. In addition, a number of studio projects are received from practitioners and alumni who offer base materials, access to sites, and valuable background information.
The department has also earned respect as a source for qualified employees. The department office and faculty are frequently contacted by the professional community regarding prospective employees. In this way we maintain an awareness of what practitioners are seeking in our continuing students and graduates.
A number of faculty members are licensed and practice landscape architecture. Many others have backgrounds and practice in allied professions including planning, architecture and urban design. They directly represent practitioner perspectives with multiple points of view. Faculty participate on national committees and Professional Interest Groups, including professional awards, continuing education, strategic planning, historic preservation and LAM advisory committees, and faculty have also served as trustees and are fellows of the ASLA. These connections with the professional organization reinforce a strong link between practice and academia.
The various programs of the department maintain contact with professionals of the area, both alumni and non-alumni. ENV Career Day provides contact with practitioners and industry suppliers as potential sources of networking and employment opportunities. The Southern California Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects also has an annual meeting on campus with students and members. Student visits to local offices like AECOM provide an additional layer of interaction.
In addition, the department maintains a web site and facebook page for alumni, many of whom are also local practitioners. Included in this site is an electronic directory that allows alumni an opportunity to list their firm or organization and provide a link to their web site. While it is a challenge to keep information current, this has proven to be a valuable resource for students, providing a database of contacts at local offices and access to information about their firm or organization, including types of services offered and examples of past projects. Facebook and other forms of social media provide broad opportunity to increase contact and interaction with our alumni.