Georgia's MLA program aims to assure a basic professional grounding in landscape architecture, to allow individual students to develop special focus areas within the profession, and to educate and encourage them to make lasting contributions to the profession and to society.
Georgia's MLA program is one of the oldest graduate landscape architectural programs in the country, having been initiated in 1954. Among Georgia's MLA alumni are winners of national design competitions, Presidents and Fellows of the American Society of Landscape Architects, heads of prestigious university departments, senior editors of national journals, leaders of the National Park Service and other public institutions, most of the designers of the 1996 Olympic venues, and leading practitioners all over the world.
Georgia provides landscape architectural education that is distinctively broad and adaptable to the interests of individual students. Georgia employs its considerable resources and student-defined research to develop the unique professional roles of individual students, and to produce graduates who can use powers of scholarship, design and communication to discover and advocate superior solutions to landscape problems.
Georgia's MLA program is staffed by the largest full-time landscape architectural faculty in the country. All specializations within landscape architecture are represented here. Dialogs among competing viewpoints are frequent occurrences. In this large, diverse, active school, small graduate classes are supportive intellectually and socially. This is a good program for students who have the self-motivation and self-direction to explore alternative viewpoints, to define for themselves what their roles in the profession will be, and to seek out the specific resources that contribute most directly to those roles.
Students are tracked through 3-, 2- or 1-year programs depending on their educational and professional backgrounds. Students in the three-year track build upon a solid liberal arts background with their first professional degree. A structured series of initial courses disciplines these students to acquire professional fundamentals in a systematic way. These students also experience the breadth of specialties and viewpoints within the profession and related fields, through their exposure to the school's numerous faculty, the school's numerous professional speakers, and active interdisciplinary connections. Seminar courses introduce theory as a tool to penetrate practical problems, and to question conventional design assumptions and rules of thumb. Students with prior degrees in design enter Georgia's 2-year and 1-year tracks, seeking further professional development and intellectual content in their work. All advanced students define their individual roles in the profession by taking elective courses and identifying specific faculty for focused study. In the final year of study, when all students are working on specialized courses and individual research, students who discovered landscape architecture only a few years before may work side-by-side with licensed practitioners with 10 years or more of professional experience.
Careful faculty advisement is essential to effective individual discovery and planning of a course of study. The MLA Coordinator meets with each student every semester to review the prospective course of study. Selected professors suggest further refinements in the course of study and give direction toward elective courses, additional readings, and conception of thesis. In turn, the program demands of each student self-definition and self-motivation, for choosing a coherent combination of electives, orderly initiation and timely completion of thesis, and preparation for specific types of roles in practice.
In the concluding written thesis, students learn to utilize the latest published literature and rigorous design and evaluation to develop new and valid solutions to landscape problems. The approaches of some theses are artistic; some are scientific; some are historical; and some are theoretical. All respond to contemporary needs. This exercise trains students to address open-ended questions of the types posed to advanced practitioners, and to make real contributions to the field.
Recent designed thesis projects have included river greenways, parkways and trail systems including the realignment of part of the Appalachian Trail. In addition, students have worked on designs for scenic byways, rural conservation easements and urban redevelopment projects. Thesis topics range in scale from rural vegetable stands to regional vegetation analysis.
Essentially all students obtain professional experience during their last summer. In recent years internships and independent studies have placed students internationally in Scotland, Italy, Japan and Costa Rica. Recently students have interned with consulting design firms in Georgia, South Carolina, Florida, Colorado and Michigan.
Programs and events in all parts of the university campus support growth in landscape architecture. Each spring the school hosts an Alumni Weekend, which brings alumni from all parts of the country to speak on the latest work in the profession. Endowed lecture series bring distinguished practitioners of landscape architecture and historic preservation for major lectures and extended meetings with students. The Red Clay Conference is an annual environmental law conference, held each spring in the law school's facilities adjacent to the School of Environmental Design. Seminars and lectures in environmental ethics, ecology, and the humanities are held year-round. Georgia has been home to the first American conference on landscape ecology, two annual conferences of the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture, and the first two international conferences on environmental ethics.
The program is accredited by the American Society of Landscape Architects.