Strengths of MLA Program

Current Strengths and Opportunities

1. Location.

The surrounding landscape includes significant seacoast, mountain and desert environments. The southern California metropolitan region is one of the most complex and diverse urban regions in the world with a population of over sixteen million people. The location offers a challenging variety of ecological and social issues for study by students and faculty. The proximity of several major libraries, museums, botanical gardens, recreation areas, and many executed works of landscape architecture is also an important asset for the program. This context has been an important catalyst in the development of the Department's vision statement, "Regenerating Los Angeles," which challenges faculty and students to address issues facing human kind in the 21st century.


2. Students.

The program benefits from an energetic, active, and diverse student body, which is a reflection of the university's mission as part of the California State University system, as well as the cultural diversity of the Los Angeles region. In addition, we regularly have exchange students from other programs and/or countries participate in our curriculum. This provides tremendous opportunities for interaction and exchange of experiences and backgrounds. The department also has an internationally-recognized graduate program, composed of students from many disciplines and universities, including a number of international students. Interaction between students in the two programs is strong, due to joint courses and the proximity of studio spaces.


3. Faculty.

The faculty, including full and part-time members, has a diverse range of interests, knowledge, experience and expertise to offer to the program. Despite teaching loads that are greater than most other teaching and research institutions, the faculty has maintained vibrant scholarly and creative careers, involving notable book and article publications, participation in competitions, exhibitions, conferences, and professional practice. The California State University system places a clear emphasis on teaching through a student-centered approach; faculty members at Cal Poly reflect this emphasis in their availability to students as well as their awareness and concern for individual students' progress.


4. Community Service.

The program has a tradition of emphasizing community service projects as case studies for studio inquiry and other courses. In the tradition of Cal Poly's "Learn by doing" philosophy, students frequently engage real-world problems in studio, often in the context of serving communities in need. The University has an official designation for service-learning courses through the Center for Community Service-Learning. A number of the program's courses are routinely designated as service-learning courses. In addition to officially designated service-learning projects, a number of informal community engagement projects are pursued in core and elective courses within the program. Evidence of this can be seen in the ASLA student awards in community service that the department has received.


5. Opportunities to Study Abroad.

The Department's Italy program offers the opportunity for students to live and study abroad for one quarter, exposing them to other landscapes, cultures, and students from other design schools. This program is now 18 years old and is heavily subscribed by seniors and graduate students in the Department, as well as students from a number of other landscape architecture programs in California. A faculty and student exchange with Kyushu Institute of Design in Japan has also been active in recent years. The department also supports the ENV Inter-disciplinary Study Broad Program in China. This is a program run by faculty of Architecture and Planning that has a major travel component as well as a collaborative studio with North China University. And finally, a travel program with a contemporary focus is being developed and has had a successful first trip in 2009. In addition to the these programs, numerous international exchange programs in other parts of the world are available through the University's International Center and allow similar opportunities for Cal Poly students, while earning academic credit. The Department continues to support international travel (for individuals and our coordinated programs above) as a priority and is offering a number of student scholarships to support such travel.


6. Distinctive Curriculum Features.

In addition to study-abroad options, the program offers two distinct features that represent substantial strengths of the program. Extensive field study has been a vital component of the curriculum for years. Students study natural, cultural and social processes, as well as witness several notable works of design and nature in a number of venues, including Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada, Santa Barbara, San Diego, a transect through Arizona, and San Francisco. These extensive field studies are complimented by a number of day trips within the Los Angeles region. In 2001, the Department offered its first "Modules Week" which has become an annual tradition every spring (except 2009-2010). This is a week-long program which offers students the opportunity to study emerging trends in landscape architecture which may not fit well into the program's core curriculum. Module courses are vertically integrated, combining undergraduate and graduate students in all years of the program. Courses are taught by a mixture of Cal Poly Pomona faculty and invited guests. A number of notable academics and practitioners within landscape architecture and related disciplines have participated as instructors. Unfortunately this program has been suspended since 2009 due to funding issues, but it is likely to be reintroduced as a core component of the curriculum once again.

In 2001, the Department offered its first ¡°Modules Week¡± which has become an annual tradition every spring. This is a week-long program which offers students the opportunity to study emerging trends in landscape architecture which may not fit well into the program's core curriculum. Module courses are vertically integrated, combining undergraduate and graduate students in all years of the program. Courses are taught by a mixture of Cal Poly Pomona faculty and invited guests. A number of notable academics and practitioners with landscape architecture and related disciplines have participated as instructors, including Dr. Todd Jennings, Grant Jones, Carol Mayer Reed, Professor Brett Peters, Dr. Bob Scarfo, and Dr. Joanne Westphal.


7. Relation to Professional Community and Alumni.

Relationships with professionals and their organizations are strong, including the California State Board of Landscape Architects, the local chapter and national offices of the American Society of Landscape Architects. The close proximity of many design offices and government agencies allows students to have contact with the profession, in the form of office visits, guest lectures, internships, and employment. Since 2005, the Department has offered funding to the student club to support a lecture program that has brought many noteworthy practitioners and academics to campus. In addition, the Department maintains strong relationships with alumni through a variety of means, including part-time instructor positions, guest lectures, participation in formal University programs such as ¡°Professor for a Day¡± and College-sponsored alumni receptions, as well as through the College's Partner Circle.


8. Campus Resources.

The University has numerous resources that strengthen the program. Cal Poly has nine colleges. Course offerings are diverse and generally available to students in the landscape architecture program. In addition to courses in urban and regional planning, architecture and art, students have the opportunity to enroll in courses in geography, horticulture, irrigation science, natural sciences, business administration, the behavioral sciences, and many other disciplines. The John T. Lyle Center for Regenerative Studies is also an important resource for our program, advancing the principles of environmentally sustainable living through courses available to landscape architecture students, research, demonstration and outreach. The Center for Geographic Information Systems Research provides access to hardware, software, and GIS expertise to support education and research; the University provides an excellent information technology framework, including connectivity to all landscape architecture studio spaces, classrooms and offices. The College-owned Richard Neutra VDL house is an internationally-recognized example of modern architecture. The biotrek Learning Center and Ethnobotanical Garden provides an opportunity for students to learn about historical use of plants by native people of the region. The Jerry Voorhis Ecological Reserve serves as a resource for examining the local ecology while the entire campus serves as a lab for plant identification courses. The College of Agriculture operates a variety of agricultural facilities, a unique situation in an urbanized region. Within the College of Environmental Design, the computer-aided instruction lab, model shop, resource collection, ENV visual resource library, and archives are important resources for the program.


9. Administrative Setting.

The program benefits from its position as a department that has independent status as a full department within the College of Environmental Design. The College and University administrations take a strong and active interest in landscape architecture. The administrative and curricular relationships with the other departments and Centers in the College of Environmental Design--Architecture, Art, Regenerative Studies and Urban and Regional Planning--are strong and mutually supportive. We also share curriculum with related disciplines such as biological and geological sciences, business, horticulture, agricultural engineering and the humanities.


10. Research Setting.

The University provides support for research through the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, a unit of the Academic Affairs Division. Also, at the university level, the Cal Poly Pomona Foundation (formerly the Kellogg Foundation) and the University Faculty Center for Professional Development provide a number of opportunities for faculty research and development through assistance in obtaining information, grant-in-aid proposals, workshops, and occasional funding. The University also provides seed grant funding through its RSCA (Research Scholarship and Creative Activities) program, and support for teacher-scholars through the Provosts Teacher-Scholar Awards program. The University Faculty Center for Professional Development also provides a variety of seminars and workshops on teaching, professional development and research exchange through university-wide forums in addition to mini-grants for the scholarship of teaching. The John T. Lyle Center for Regenerative Studies offers a venue to pursue research as well as recently establishing a funded fellowship program for Cal Poly Pomona faculty. The Los Angeles region offers considerable opportunities and resources as a research setting, with stellar archives, libraries, and institutes available for student and faculty use.