Learn your field and explore the world

landscape architecture

Sometimes your NDSU classroom is 1,400 miles away from campus, so you can be energized by new sights and experiences that help you become the person you are meant to be. 

Students in the landscape architecture program, for example, travel to cities around the country to complete class projects. Every fall, Assistant Professor Dominic Fischer leads a trip to New York City, where fourth-year students immerse themselves in creating urban design solutions and studying famous sites, such as Fort Tryon Park, Times Square and Central Park. 

Three students tell about their experience.

Q: How did you choose your major? 

Alicia Yokom, Casselton, North Dakota: For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a professional dancer or artist, which I thought meant moving away from the Fargo area. I didn’t want to do that at the time, so I tried to think of something that I could do here, which turned into landscape architecture. Before college, I worked at a landscaping company and fell in love with the job, so when I started college, I knew this was the major for me.

Austin Schmidt, Bismarck, North Dakota: Growing up, I always enjoyed the outdoors as well as being artistic in various forms. Environmental design allows me to combine the two passions into one outlet.

Kaylee Pierce, Scranton, North Dakota: I have my business teacher and Future Business Leaders of America adviser, Lynn Brown, to thank for helping me find my passion for design. In high school, she recognized my potential and encouraged me to pursue any opportunity that was available. Since I also enjoyed math, I decided to give environmental design a try and fell in love. When it was time to apply for the landscape architecture/architecture programs, I decided to go with landscape architecture because of my passion for the outdoors. I give full credit for this decision to Lynn Brown and my childhood of growing up on a farm for my passion for plants, design and the outdoors.

Q: What is it like to travel as part of your educational experience?

Alicia: Amazing. Being a homebody, I like to stay around the Fargo area, but the opportunity to go see the world and come home is ideal. Traveling to New York was an experience I won’t forget after seeing and hearing about it on TV. Actually being there was a lot of fun. Taking my first plane ride was also an experience, but I would do it again if needed.

Austin: What I appreciate the most about being able to travel for our program is the opportunity to see firsthand how people interact within a space or how design has influenced its surroundings. It is one thing to read into a case study or be lectured on a specific site and issue, but it is a completely different form of learning to experience things for yourself.

Kaylee: I was very surprised but excited! It wasn't until the end of my first year/beginning of my second year that I realized all the opportunities I would have to visit the places I was learning about. Learning about a park, plaza or building in a classroom is very limiting. You do not get the sense of scale, be able to feel the emotions or watch people use the space from an image or two. The best way to learn and remember a space is to experience it, and NDSU does a great job at providing those opportunities for students.

Q: What was your biggest takeaway from the field trip to New York?

Alicia: Before the trip, each of us were assigned a case study in Manhattan, mine being Fort Tryon Park in upper Manhattan. Doing the research, knowing the history and then being able to walk the trails of the park, seeing the Met Cloisters and enjoying the views of the river that were meant to be a part of the design was mesmerizing.

Austin: If anything, our trip to New York solidified that this is the right career choice for me. New York is a mecca of learning opportunities, having some of the best parks and public spaces in the world. There is such a variety of people there, seeing and experiencing the same thing in completely different ways.

Kaylee: Ever since I started this program, I have been saying that I cannot wait to create a space for people to enjoy and make lasting memories in. The field trip to New York solidified that dream of mine. There was nothing more inspiring than to walk through the 160-plus year-old Central Park and be able to make lasting memories. Times have changed, but Frederick Law Olmsted's goal of creating an escape from the city still exists today, and I hope someday to make an impact on people like he has. 

Q: Have you been able to apply things you learned in New York? 

Alicia: Something that I have been able to apply from the experience would be sense of scale. For the project itself, we were supposed to design for the Lower East Side of Manhattan as a district, then design for a neighborhood in the area, and then a couple city blocks. Three different scales made it a challenge as we walked, a lot, around the Lower East Side. There are so many different cultures, block designs, amenities, vegetation placements such as trees and gardens, that trying to pick a specific spot and dig deeper was very time consuming. But it was a good way to experience a site as you can see the small and larger picture of how an entire district can be affected by the design of a few city blocks.

Austin: For me, the biggest take-away from our trip to New York was to thoroughly think out all of my intentions and to creatively push myself. Is the intended space private, public or how do you want people to perceive and experience your designs? As cliche as it sounds, I would add that through the traveling done within our program, I have been able to be more open and see things differently.

Kaylee: This program has taught me to be more conscious of my surroundings. I pay more attention to what it feels like to walk down a crowded Times Square, and see how the sidewalk is being utilized next to the busy, traffic-filled street now. With every field trip, and New York was no exception, I am able to take those experiences and apply them to my design work. I have become a better designer after each trip. From creating a safe and comfortable sidewalk and street-scape experience to a large multi-use park, my experiences from field trips teach me the do's and don’ts within environmental design.

NDSU’s landscape architecture program also has study abroad options