Kene Okigbo

Omaha, NE

Asking Me

How did you decide to go into the field of landscape architecture? 

I resonated with the prospect of designing the public realm for the benefit of a community. I love that you don’t need to own or work in a park, plaza, or public space for you to have the complete agency to make use of it. I wanted to design those places.


What geographic regions do you work in and how did you land in Omaha?

I’ve touched projects in 12 states, but the projects which I have contributed the most to have been in Nebraska and Iowa. 

After graduation, I lived in Fargo for a year. I then had the opportunity to participate in ASLA’s Advocacy Day in Washington D.C. While there, a firm in Omaha invited me to interview for an entry-level position, which I was fortunate enough to garner.


In one or two sentences, what is the focus of your typical work?

Most of the projects which I’ve been involved with have been in the college/university sector. I enjoy urban design projects and am really excited by community wayfinding projects, which are a new and exciting challenge for me. 


Can you give students some insight into ASLA and your experience as a student and now professional? 

ASLA has been a huge part of my career. I joined NDSU’s Student ASLA chapter in 2012 and was fairly involved through graduation in 2015. During my final year, I was vice president. Over the years I worked on mixers, portfolio reviews, the mentorship program, and getting students to different conferences like LABash and the National Conference on Landscape Architecture. After graduating I served in the Nebraska/Dakotas chapter as the emerging professional chair. I participated in the National ASLA Diversity Summit, on the Associate Advisory Committee, on the Board of Trustees, the Honors and Awards Committee, the Climate Action Committee, and the Government Affairs Committee. I’m really proud that my contributions led to the Emerging Professional Medal, which just saw its first recipient in June 2020. I can honestly say that the first impressions that I made with my current office and the last team I was a part of were completely because of participation in ASLA. But beyond networking, ASLA is where I feel like I can make the most impact on the profession. I’m contributing to political affairs, I’m influencing how the organization responds to climate change, and most importantly I’m hopefully creating space for new members to shape the organization and the profession the way they see fit. 


How did your education at NDSU prepare you to be a landscape architect? 

Leaving NDSU I had the toolset to support the project teams I joined after leaving. The presentation skills I honed, the ability to research, and the expectation to produce under pressure have been skills which I fall back on frequently. Even with that, I am genuinely envious of the students that are attending the program after me because the curriculum and program quality have steadily improved year after year. 


What were some of the most valuable lessons you learned here? 

I learned design thinking, drafting, how to research, how to present, and how to deliver under pressure – but I think one of the most valuable lessons I walked away with was the ability to advocate for what I believe in. 


What advice do you have for current landscape architecture students? 

Go beyond the curriculum. There are so many project typologies. There are so many political and social impacts of landscape architecture. There are so many opportunities for both scholarly and personal research. I strongly advise that you engage with landscape architecture ubiquitously. Join ASLA and look at what full-chapters and student-chapters around the country are doing to advocate for the profession. Keep track of legislative agendas and how they will impact the work we’re all doing. Look for new ways to improve the public realm and don’t ever think of yourself as “too young.” Most importantly, if you’re passionate about something, take the steps to make a difference and ask your peers, alumni, and the faculty for help. If it’s something you really want to do, I bet you will never hear a flat out, “No.”

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