2016 Landscape Architecture Alumni Survey

The 2016 Landscape Architecture Alumni Survey was sent to 1081 email addresses provided by the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. This article address the structure of the survey and talks about it's key findings.

February 23, 2017 - Author: Trish Machemer

Landscape Architecture students in studio.
Landscape Architecture students in studio.

Survey Purpose

The 2016 Landscape Architecture Alumni Survey was conducted for several purposes: to better understand the skills landscape architect (LA) professionals look for when they hire; to inform alumni about, and set expectations for, the Landscape Architecture Alumni and Advisory Board (LAAAB); to assess the role of the MSU LA study abroad program; and to identify mechanisms for connecting with alumni. The survey was sent to 1081 email addresses provided by the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. There were 253 respondents who started the survey and 190 completed surveys.

Survey Structure

The first set of survey questions assessed the importance of a variety of skills in the LA profession, including communication, people, evaluation, and design. The second set of questions focused on new hires (within 5 years), assessing their level of preparation for the above skills and seeking information about starting salaries and degrees sought. The third set of questions related specifically to computer and technology skills. The next question inquired about trends in the LA profession, internships, and study abroad/international travel and its impact on professional development. The final set of questions provided input on the role and tasks of the LAAAB, and preferred methods of communication between the MSU program and alumni. Questions were asked using a Likert scale of 0-5, with 0 being “not at all important” and 5 being “extremely important.”

Key Findings

Skills

When asked about the importance of communication skills for a new LA hire, professional writing and professional speaking received the same mean score of 3.9. When asked about the importance of soft skills such as the ability to work in a team and independently, both had mean scores over 4 (4.6 and 4.3 respectively). Importance of evaluative skills was assessed, including the ability to analyze and critique work; to gather and synthesize information; to critically think; and to creatively problem solve. These received importance scores of 3.9, 4.3, 4.4, and 4.5. With regard to design skills, respondents scored ability to understand the design process at 4.2; ability to develop concepts at 4.0; ability to integrate functions in designs at 4.3; ability to integrate the environment in designs at 4.1; ability to integrate culture/people/history in designs at 3.6; and ability to integrate aesthetics in designs at 4.2.

An open-ended question asked respondents to provide additional skills desired. Responses included creating bid documents, public participation, ecology, horticulture, time management, and grant writing. Repeated responses included work/interact with allied professionals and working in teams; ability to be critiqued; AutoCAD; project management; rendering; site analysis; earthwork and grading; construction & engineering experience, documents, irrigation and cost estimating; regulations and zoning; critical thinking; and computer graphic skills.

Computer and Technology Skills

The specific computer skills identified included: AutoCAD, Civil 3D, Prezi, SketchUp, Adobe Creative Suites, Revit, BIM, Google Earth, Quickbooks, Lumion, Rhino, Kerkythea, AutoCAD LandFX, Hydrocad, Ecotect, 3D Max, Grasshopper. AutoCAD, Adobe Creative Suites, and SketchUp were repeatedly identified as needed and wanted skills.

LA Trends

The survey sought to identify upcoming trends in landscape architecture. Survey responses indicated environmental justice, placemaking, regenerative design, integration into urban systems, sustainable design, public health and wellness, green infrastructure, computer modeling, water access and management, biophilia, and climate change.

Internships

The MSU LA program was pleased to see that respondents valued the role of internships, and that just over 50% of respondents indicated that they would be interested in hiring an intern. Next steps for the LAAAB and LA program are to define how to strengthen student internship opportunities while connecting students with our incredibly supportive MSU LA alumni.

Study Abroad and International Travel

While 53% of respondents (81 people) indicated they participated in the MSU LA study abroad experience, just 32% of those under the mean respondent age of 50 participated in the study abroad program. If the number of open-ended comments indicates support for the study abroad or international travel, then the number of comments (89) suggests that professionals indeed see overseas travel as an important element in their professional development. For the 53% that indicated participation in the MSU LA study abroad program, the average score for impact was 4.24, while the average score for international study impact was 3.91. Respondents identified a myriad of impacts of international travel on professional development. Seeing and physically experiencing alternative cultures, design methods, approaches, construction methods, and materials allows designers to communicate, plan, design, and implement their designs in enhanced ways. Landscape architects recognize the value of the global citizen in addressing local design situations. Through international travel, respondents have a greater and deeper appreciation for the differences in history, people, and culture, and how those differences impact design and function. Greater understanding and valuation of the importance of context sensitive solutions came with international exposure. Overseas travel was identified as providing inspiration and enhancing creativity.


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