Aug 10, 2020  
2013-2014 General Catalog (Summer, Fall 2013) 
2013-2014 General Catalog (Summer, Fall 2013) [ARCHIVED CATALOG Please see current catalog at]

Landscape Architecture - MLA

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College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences

Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning

The department offers a three-year, first professional degree for students with a bachelor’s degree in any area of study. This option allows students having a wide range of undergraduate experience to obtain an accredited degree in landscape architecture that fulfills the educational requirement for professional registration and allows entrance into the field of landscape architecture.

The program for the Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA) emphasizes both traditional site planning and design, as well as broader areas of the profession, such as large-scale regional landscape analysis and planning, open space conservation, historic landscape preservation, and sustainable design. The MLA first professional degree is fully accredited by the Landscape Architectural Accreditation Board of the American Society of Landscape Architects.

The Master of Landscape Architecture program is designed to prepare the student for the landscape architect’s challenging role of providing a holistic approach to environmental planning and design. In order for landscape architects to contribute effectively to an interdisciplinary effort, they must be competent in the fundamentals of landscape architecture and also have an understanding of the subject matter of other professions. Landscape architects must master the communication skills necessary to achieve meaningful collaboration. In support of this philosophy, the following are the major objectives of the MLA program.

  1. To provide a well-structured curriculum in fundamental professional knowledge and skills.
  2. To research, analyze, and resolve land use and design issues related specifically to the Intermountain West. The scope of the program examines national, regional, and local issues; and their impact on the visual, physical, and cultural setting of the Intermountain West.
  3. To integrate field experience and research into major graduate studio courses structured around real-world projects.
  4. To provide opportunities for each student for exploration and development of an area of concentration as noted elsewhere.
  5. To draw upon the regional, national, and international relationships of Utah State University to facilitate a program of academic and professional excellence which will allow the student to achieve eminence in practice, research, or education.

Areas of Faculty Expertise

The Master of Landscape Architecture program provides opportunities for each student to study and conduct research in areas which take advantage of the strengths of Utah State University and the landscape context of the Intermountain West centered around the expertise of the LAEP Department faculty, including: Community Planning—Bell, Lavoie, Licon, Timmons, Yang; Cultural and Historic Landscapes and Preservation—Timmons; Design/Theory and Representation—Lavoie; Human-Environment Relations—Michael, Waite; Open Space Conservation— Bell, Licon; Public Lands/Recreation—Christensen, Michael, Timmons; Site Planning—Bell, Christensen, Lavoie, Timmons; Socially Equitable Design—Christensen; Sustainable Landscapes—Bell, Li, Licon; Urban Regional Landscape Planning—Li, Licon; Watershed Sustainability— Yang.

These areas of faculty expertise include an assessment of the relevant environmental, design, social, economic, and public policy issues utilizing a wide range of computer-based techniques and models.

Admission Requirements

The application deadline for consideration in the first round of reviews is March 15. Applications received later than March 15 will be considered as space availability allows. February 1 is the application deadline for consideration for some scholarships, fellowships, and other financial aid. For general admissions requirements, see the appropriate sections of this catalog.

Computer Requirement

Computer competency is essential in the contemporary professional environment. Appropriate computer skills are required for most entry-level opportunities in landscape architecture and environmental planning. Therefore, course content increasingly relies on computer skills and personal access to computers with the appropriate software.

All students entering the MLA program must purchase, lease, or otherwise obtain continuing and uninterrupted access to a personal computer, preferably a laptop, which meets the configuration requirements specified by the LAEP Department. Consult the departmental website for current specifications.

Course of Study

The graduate program director oversees academic advising of all incoming students until they have selected a thesis topic. A major professor whose interests are closely aligned to those of the student (see Areas of Faculty Expertise  and Areas of Concentration) then supervises thesis work. A minimum of 30 graduate-level credits, including thesis work, is required. Students supplement requirements with courses negotiated with the major professor and supervisory committee. An area of concentration may be pursued by selecting a relevant course of study, as outlined below.

First Year (33 credits)

During the first year, coursework concentrates on basic professional competency.

Second Year (32 credits)

During the second year, students can begin to specialize in one or more areas of concentration.

Third Year (21 credits)

Fall Semester (14 credits)

Spring Semester (10 credits)


Recommended electives are listed on area of concentration sheets, which are available from the department. Selection of electives should be related to thesis or terminal project content and should be selected in consultation with the student’s mentor and/or thesis/project committee. Specific elective coursework may be required by the thesis/project committee in order to properly prepare the student for thesis or project work (Plan A or B).

Areas of Concentration

The program possesses an enviable reputation for graduating students with strong core professional skills. In addition to these skills, the department has the following four areas of concentration which reflect the strengths of the faculty, along with elective course offerings in other units of the University: (1) Open Space Conservation Planning and Green Space Design, (2) Cultural and Historic Landscapes, (3) Community Planning and Urban Design, and (4) Sustainable Landscapes. These four areas of concentration have recommended courses of study as outlined below, reflecting a depth of study in a particular area of landscape architectural theory and practice. Students may choose one of these areas, or they may create their own course of study to reflect their particular interests. Note that all students must complete the core MLA curriculum, in addition to courses noted in the various areas of concentration. For current requirements, contact the LAEP graduate program director. Since these areas of concentration are not approved as graduate specializations, they will not appear on student transcripts or diplomas.

Open Space Conservation Planning and Green Space Design

This area of concentration focuses on the conservation, planning, and design of open space. This focus will appeal to individuals who are interested in working for land trusts or for state and local governments in planning or land conservation roles, as well as to landscape architects in public or private practice who are interested in the design and planning of open space. With a strong basis in the Landscape Architecture program in the design and planning of open space (along with the theory, policy, and legal issues), supporting courses can be found in other units in the University. Elective courses can be found in Sociology, focusing on conflict management and the social implications of resource policy; Economics, focusing on valuation and impact analysis; and Natural Resources, focusing on ecology, spatial systems, collaborative problem-solving, and conservation biology.

Cultural and Historic Landscapes

The graduate concentration in Cultural and Historic Landscapes prepares students for work in the research, documentation, analysis, understanding, planning, and management of human-influenced landscapes. Cultural landscapes have been defined by the World Heritage Convention of UNESCO as representing the “combined works of nature and of man. They are illustrative of the evolution of human society and settlement over time, under the influence of the physical constraints and/or opportunities presented by their natural environment and of successive social, economic, and cultural forces, both external and internal.” They are grouped into three broad categories, which include: (1) the historic designed landscape or site, (2) the organically evolved or vernacular landscape, and (3) the associative cultural (ethnographic) landscape. (UNESCO. World Heritage Convention. Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention. Paris: UNESCO, 1996.) The National Park Service notes that, “Historic landscapes vary in size from small gardens to several thousand-acre national parks. In character they range from designed to vernacular, rural to urban, and agricultural to industrial spaces. Vegetable patches, estate gardens, cemeteries, farms, quarries, nuclear test sites, suburbs, and abandoned settlements all may be considered historic landscapes.” (Historic American Landscapes Survey website:

Ever-expanding populations are exerting increased development pressure on historic resources, leading to a growing domestic and international demand for landscape architects trained in this area of concentration. Career application of skills can range from topics as wide-ranging as preservation planning and heritage tourism to regional land-use planning and urban design, in both the public and private sectors.

Community Planning and Urban Design

This area of concentration focuses on both large and small communities, with particular application to the Western United States. This curriculum path will appeal to students who want to apply their landscape architecture skills to community focused projects, which could range in scale from an ethnic neighborhood in a city of two million to a downtown redevelopment project for a small town in the rural West. Opportunities upon graduation would include private firms offering planning and design services, as well as public agencies at the local, state or federal level.

Sustainable Landscapes

Sustainability is a broad concept. It can be integrated into virtually every aspect of landscape architecture and environmental planning. The sustainable landscapes area of concentration in the LAEP department is focused on sustainability issues associated with the built landscape and the interface between built landscapes and open space. Coursework includes such subjects as low water use landscaping, planting design, planning for urban wildlife, storm water management, community economic development, and green business. In addition to coursework and thesis writing, students in the sustainable landscapes area of concentration organize and implement the department’s annual Sustainability Conference, which is now in its eighth year.

Graduate Travel Requirement

The graduate curriculum includes a requirement for a minimum of 1 credit of travel and study outside of the bioregion. This travel requirement can be satisfied by:

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