On January 31st we had the the opportunity to talk with Jane Amidon, professor and director for Urban Landscape at Northeastern University. A knowledgeable and distinguished academic, Jane’s primary interests lie in society’s impact on the environment through policy and the impact of policy design on the built environment. It was interesting to learn that, like many other practitioners in landscape Jane did not initially start in this profession. As an undergraduate she studied environmental studies before taking a summer course in design and “falling in love with it.” This ultimately lead her to pursue an MLA where she primarily focused on environmental and design policy.
Of particular interest to me was Jane’s insight and background into the academic side of landscape architecture. Jane quickly transitioned back to academia after graduating by moving to Colorado to teach and write. She also taught at Ohio State University before ultimately settling at Northeastern University. When questioned about her transition from the professional track program at OSU to the non-professional track program Jane cited the loosening influence of accreditation on modern programs as a reason not to feel bound to a traditional educational path. Another interesting point of note was the mention that many undergraduate programs in landscape design and landscape architecture are seeing decreasing registration numbers and most graduate courses are seeing increasing enrollment from students who have little to no background in landscape design or landscape architecture. This trend holds true here at the University of Tennessee where our undergraduate program has experienced significant decrease over the past five years and our graduate program only recruits one or two students from a related discipline each year. Most of our MLA students come from some form of ecology or environmental study with the occasional English or art degree sprinkled in. I will be interested to see what trends in enrollment unfurl over the next few years both at UTK and across the country.