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Firms Sought to Help Introduce Profession to Minority Students

Initial pilot effort among ASLA, the National Park Service, and the Student Conservation Association will focus on the Northeast.

The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) is working with the Student Conservation Association (SCA) and the National Park Service (NPS) to launch an initiative introducing the fields of landscape architecture and historic preservation to minority youth and recent high school graduates.  

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The collaborative initiative will increase exposure of the fields to underrepresented teens and offer a pathway to academic preparation, additional field experience and future employment.
For 2013, ASLA would like to identify members and firms willing to partner with a SCA community crew with the basic expectations of:

  • A site visit in the field with the adopted SCA crew(s)
  • Hosting a crew visit at their offices to expose the teens to the professional environment and a complete view of the landscape architecture profession in action.

Other possibilities include working with the SCA crew on site evaluation and project design or advising on plant selection and placement. The specifics of each partnership will be determined in consultation with the respective SCA Community Program coordinators. In addition to each region’s Community Program coordinators, every crew of teens has two adult crew leaders.

For 2013, ASLA seeks to match landscape architects and firms with SCA community conservation crews in five Northeast program areas: Washington, D.C.; Philadelphia; New York City; southwest Connecticut; and Boston. Initially focused in the Northeast, the 2013 pilot program will provide a model for future nationwide implementation.

While SCA and ASLA focus on exposing underrepresented, urban teens to landscape architecture and historic preservation, the SCA and NPS are expanding entry-level internships for high school graduates. SCA already offers numerous internships that require higher-level skills. Additional entry-level opportunities will help bridge the pipeline of interested candidates emerging from the ASLA-SCA collaboration at the high-school crew level to SCA’s subsequent, pre-professional opportunities.

ASLA President Tom Tavella, FASLA, has worked with students in Connecticut, and will again.

Roles and Responsibilities: Landscape Architects and L.A. Firms (ASLA members)
By collaborating with their respective crews of approximately 10 15-18-year-old teens, ASLA members will introduce underrepresented youth to the field, related skills, and career opportunities. The SCA community programs use a SCA-developed Green Jobs Readiness Curriculum that includes ecological literacy and career exposure, delivered in the context of field projects and weekly environmental education days. The crew partnership with ASLA members may support those above mentioned goals, as well as goals for understanding conservation history, leadership development, project/field skills, and project management. The specifics of each crew partnership will need to be determined with the respective SCA Community Program leadership.

The basic parameters: Specifics to be arranged with respective crew leadership.

  • July 8 - August 16 = SCA community conservation crew season
  • Environmental Education Days are weekly, typically Fridays, but can be adjusted to fit crew or ALSA members’ schedules
  • Four project days per week.
  • Field projects vary, but often include elements of trail layout and builds, constructed wood and rock features, water and erosion management, invasive plant mitigation, planting of trees and native plants.
  • Plan one or two interaction opportunities with the crew members
  • Initial contact with SCA staff by May 1.

Locations and Number of Crews to be adopted:
Boston: 4
Connecticut: 5. Bridgeport – Firm volunteer lead, ASLA President Thomas R. Tavella, FASLA, Fuss & O’Neill; New Haven; Norwalk; Stamford; Greenwich.
New York City: To be determined
Philadelphia: 4
Washington, D.C.: 5

Step up! If you are interested in learning more or being considered to join the effort, send an email to ASLA Director of Public Relations and Communications Terry Poltrack,, with a primary contact name, email, and telephone number; firm name; street and city address; and any information to be considered in matching firms to opportunities.

Comments April 2, 2013 11:37 PM
This is a fantastic initiative. The under representation of urban minorities in our field is a serious chasm. Considering the amount of design work we do in urban areas, impacting millions of youth and their families, the discipline needs more bright, urban minds to lead us in the future. From personal experience, the SCA has been a savior to our National Park lands. It was that experience that led me to enter this field. I hope that LA's can step to the plate on this initiative. April 3, 2013 11:07 AM
This is an excellent program. My family kept going in the late 30's Depression by PoP working in the WPA and his experience influenced my interest in Landscape Arch. I worked initially in the National parks as a summer landscape arch.intern in 1957 in Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, and learned the foundations for my later work. Getting out into the nation's National Parks & State Parks and as working interns is an exposure they can build upon no matter what they do later in life. Hands on in Nature with skilled group leaders is an excellent experience. Kids brought up in an urban area many times have no idea how beautiful and self restoring walking and working in the woods is. Tom Travella sure hit the best idea in a while right on the head. April 3, 2013 4:12 PM
So excited to see this type of program is expanding! It sounds like it was modeled after the Branching Out program that Charlie Pepper started with the National Park Service's Olmsted Center for Landscape Preservation in Boston. I'd love to be involved when it makes its way to the Pacific Northwest.
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