I come from a long line of gardeners. My mother kept telling me throughout high school “you should become a Landscape Architect”, because my favorite subjects were science and art.

In college, I majored in Art History but took quite a few studio art classes as well as Horticulture, Biology, and Geology. My college offered a course in landscape architecture, and with much curiosity, one day I went to look at what the students were doing. I took one look at the models they were building and thought, “That looks really hard.” So, I proceeded with my art history major, feeling comfortable in my role as critic rather than creator.

After graduation, I found myself working night shifts in publishing in the concrete jungle of Manhattan. I spent many formative hours in Central Park and Prospect Park, realizing how important green spaces are to urban dwellers. With the goal of being in the art department at Time, Inc., where I was in Editorial Production, I offered to do layout from time to time. To my horror, I found I didn’t like it and didn’t see myself working in publishing for the rest of my life. So, I started to spend Saturdays at the New York Public Library researching careers.

I came across literature from the University of Michigan, Department of Landscape Architecture, and realized this was exactly what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. It was the perfect mix of art and science. It required good organizational and team building skills. It required a passion and a purpose. I cashed out my 401K, took on student loan debt to earn my MLA, and I have never regretted my decision. I continually find design, engineering, and production challenges in my work. I marvel at the ability of our profession to make a real difference in the environment of a site. Like all professions, it has its challenges, but to feel that I am part of a community of people who have a passion and want to make a difference in their world, either urban or rural, gives me a reason to work hard every day.

In five years, my hope is that we’ll see the profession of Landscape Architecture be the lead on projects as opposed to participating as a “sub”. I hope to see plants and trees get as much of the budget as bathrooms and kitchens; and not just what is left over. I hope to see Landscape Architects make a name for the profession for boldly addressing climate change and water quality issues.

To tell us your story, contact vphillipy@socal-asla.org or khuinkerasla@gmail.com