Engagement is Key
I intend to work in academia or in state/federal planning agencies. I realized long ago that I did not make it this far without the help and support of my family and key community members. My personal philosophy of engagement springs from these experiences and from insight gained through active discourse with mentors and contemporaries seeking to enhance their own conception of and participation in community engagement. My personal philosophy is built on principles of inclusivity, social justice, and accessibility. These key components should be considered through the lens of landscape architecture and ecology. For me, the greatest emphasis for the philosophy of community engagement includes the following four pillars: education, social responsibility, conservation, and service to the soul.
The importance of education cannot be overstated. Considering the state of higher education today, we are challenged to think of new ways of engaging with our changing local and global communities to share our unique intellectual resources. As we reach further with technology, research, and applications of knowledge, it is increasingly important to engage with younger students and offer ourselves as academics and mentors for the world’s future scholars and advocates. Along my educational journey, a handful of passionate and caring educators provided me with special learning opportunities and encouragement which helped me recognize my potential. As a future educator, I believe it is important to work with K-12 students to increase their access to resources and opportunities. I intend to familiarize young students with the merits of landscape architecture and allied disciplines through extension and outreach programs. I want to show people another way of seeing their world through built environments and natural landscapes and teach them to understand their power and influence on living and constructed systems, and especially the environment.
Social responsibility is the next pillar of my philosophy. Landscape architects are interested in the health and well-being of people and are concerned with providing great spaces and democratic design to all citizens, regardless of socio-economic status, background, or belief. Because of this, it is important to advocate for social justice. Great places are not just for the affluent. All people, regardless of income, benefit from well-designed places. Great places are the result of thoughtful consideration and planning. As a practice, one must consider the public good in design. As a future educator and past student of experiential service-learning, I plan to engage my students in studios where they will work with clients in the community on real projects in need. Design school should include opportunities to gain experience working on real projects for local people and organizations. The service-learning model can be deployed for the mutual benefit of both the students and the community. Students will then have practical on-the-ground mentored internship experience where they learn to listen, work, and be sensitive to a client’s needs and in return, the client gets a project that makes a meaningful difference in their lives.
Conservation is also learned through classroom experience and engagement with the community. Design students must be conscious of planetary limits and mindful of conservative planning and resource use. Projects must carefully consider materials, context, and potential impacts to the environment. In a world where human population and consumption is constantly rising, it is increasingly important for citizens to make thoughtful choices about consumption and resource use.
Lastly, the concept of service to the soul has two distinct meanings. First, it involves creating socially responsible, democratic spaces which support human needs and allow for citizens to move freely through an enjoyable, healthy environment. On an individual basis, service to the soul means compassion, caring, understanding, and empathy. It is both about helping fellow citizens of the world and fostering growth and curiosity within a student and making sure they too keep the spark that inspires them toward their own great achievements.