The culminating design studio experience for students completing the five year landscape architecture undergraduate program is a community land use planning assistance project. This capstone course, LA 975, has been providing service-learning opportunities for students for over a decade. In this six credit hour, semester long course, students work hand in hand with a community in Kentucky.
Typically, the students perform at least three in-county public presentations, produce a report illustrating the planning ideas, and develop media such as storyboards, brochures, and pamphlets to help the community continue to build support once the course is over. Communities across Kentucky come to our department for assistance because of the reputation of this course and the need for land planning in many parts of the commonwealth. We earned national recognition for this course with the 2008 ASLA Honor Award in Community Service for Student Projects for The Hills Project.
Three entirely student led meetings are open to all stakeholders in the community. The first interactive meeting typically involves learning more about the vision of community members and how they see the community in the decades to come. The second meeting involves working with stakeholders in one-on-one sessions to refine preliminary ideas. The third meeting is when the refined ideas and recommendations are presented to the community.
While these meetings are part of the learning process of working with the community; the classroom experience is just as important. The classroom, or studio as we refer to it, is where the data are assembled, analyzed, and potential solutions developed. One of the aspects of our students we work to improve through this studio is a greater sense of professionalism. This includes running the classroom similar to how a professional office might be run. In addition, the students are required to use the skills they have learned over the last nine semesters to help address issues in these communities.
The information sources are assembled and analyzed in a geographic information system and the students are required to model different land use scenarios. As part of the modeling process, the students have to critically evaluate the opportunities and constraints with each scenario. These results become the basis for a set of recommendations to the community.
Beyond the learning objectives for the students, the service provided to the county is very helpful in making life better for Kentuckians. During this studio, the students develop four primary products. These products include:
1. A vision statement based on the stakeholder's ideas and values as expressed during the public meetings.
2. A written and illustrated report summarizing the findings and recommendations.
3. A series of brochures for use in furthering community support for the overall project.
4. PowerPoint presentations used at each public meeting.
It is the intent of this course to provide the counties and communities in which we work with a clearer vision for the future and a foundation for establishing the path that will get them there based on our expertise and the community's own vision.