Back To School

The end of August signals that time of year again: The end of summer vacation and the beginning of a new school year are upon us.

With the new school year at hand, let us take a moment and welcome a new crop of landscape architecture students to our great profession.

I remember my college days fondly. The freedom of living on my own in a new city was invigorating. I finally had the chance to live as an adult, make my own decisions and truly discover the things that were most important to me.

I remember the excitement of starting new classes at the university. I was shy and nervous at first. I had a difficult time meeting new people. However, it didn't take long for me to become comfortable in my new surroundings and start making new friends, many of whom I'm still friends with today.

But sometimes I wish I could go back and relive my college experience. You see, I did not major in landscape architecture in college. Instead, I majored in agricultural education.

It is quite different from what I do now.

At the time, I had a fraternity brother who majored in landscape architecture. To be perfectly honest, his stories of long nights spent in studio on deadline did not sound appealing to me.

However, 15 years later, I sometimes wish that I had had the opportunity to experience those long nights. I do not think my design skills are lacking in any way, but to have had that experience -- I sometimes wonder if it would have helped me prepare for those all-nighters spent in the office the night before that big project was due.

After graduation, while many of my colleagues were either pursuing their master’s degrees or cutting their teeth, learning the "real world" applications of landscape architecture, I was teaching high school.

After the program in which I taught was closed, I decided to pursue a career in landscape design. Little did I know at that time that I would one day become a landscape architect.

I was fortunate to live in a state that offered an option for licensure with adequate work experience in lieu of obtaining an accredited landscape architecture degree. I struggled at the time with choosing the best option for me.

The thought of working under a landscape architect for six years seemed like an eternity, although four more years of college and another undergraduate degree did not seem much more appealing. I spent the next few months learning AutoCAD and the art of landscape design and weighing my options. In the end, the choice for me was perfectly clear.

After meeting with an advisor at a local university and carefully weighing my decision, I chose the experience route. Shortly thereafter, I was extremely fortunate to meet and work with a wonderfully talented landscape architect here in Phoenix.

Before I knew it, the six years had passed and, with a great deal of studying, I passed the LARE and obtained licensure in the state of Arizona.

Eventually, I moved on to a different company, and there were times I felt as if my skills were less than adequate when compared to my colleagues who had just recently graduated with landscape architecture degrees.

However, it didn't take long to see that not only were my skills comparable to my peers, but in many instances, my skills were more advanced because I had been working in a "real world" office for six years while many of my peers were still in school.

So as we welcome not only a new crop of recent graduates into the profession, but also a new crop of first-year landscape architecture students to universities across the country, let us take a moment and remember what it was like to be a first-year student or a recent new graduate starting our first job and the nervous anticipation we felt.

More importantly, let us remember that we all should have two common goals: to learn from each other and to become better stewards of our planet.

Whether we spent four or six years in school, or studied at the "school of hard knocks," we all have something to contribute to our profession, and we should do our best to make this earth a more beautiful place.

Boyd Coleman is a landscape architect in Phoenix, Arizona. He can be reached on Twitter at @CDGLA or email: