Editor’s note: With Virginia Tech Giving Day 2022 Starting at noon on February 23, a series of stories highlighting the impact of donations are featured on VTx this month.
Annual conferences are an essential part of academic engagement where practitioners offer ideas, vendors showcase new products, and attendees connect with each other and explore the host city.
For Sara Lamb, a graduate student in Virginia Tech’s landscape architecture program, the conference experience offered more than she expected. In Nashville, Tennessee, for the annual conference of the American Society of Landscape Architects, Lamb found that “visiting a new city is an immersive experience of a place. For a landscape architect, navigating the cityscape, visiting parks and monuments, discovering local restaurants, and listening to music, farmers markets, and street art is electric and exciting.
Multiply that immersive experience by the 68 landscape architecture students who attended the Fall 2021 conference and you’ve got a storm of excitement.
These students would not have had the opportunity without the generosity of donors and friends of the Landscape Architecture Advisory Council. In a new approach to supporting the next generation of landscape architects, Virginia Tech program alumni and friends have developed a big idea – sending the entire cohort of undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students. students at the conference. Caren Yglesias (Architecture ’76 and Advisory Board Member) said, “We were concerned that the COVID-19 pandemic could cause students to delay or forgo their college education. We wanted to do something exceptional to respond to these circumstances and retain, if not promote, the program and its students.
Council planning and fundraising began in earnest just in time for Giving Day 2021, an annual college fundraising effort. Donations from alumni were matched dollar for dollar by donations from board members. In addition, 21 corporate sponsorships from across the country and across Canada completed the funds needed to send the students to Nashville.
“Our impact was even bigger than our dream,” Yglesias said. “Through our efforts, ASLA has reduced conference registration fees not only for our students, but for 600 students from schools across the country.”
Prior to attending the conference, Chris Escobar, a second-year landscape architecture student, had only met two other landscape architects in person. “I was inspired to find myself in a room with hundreds of people who have similar interests to mine,” he said.
In addition to learning about innovative products, Escobar noted that “going to a professional conference will affect my career trajectory by introducing me to companies where I might want to work and meeting the people in charge of hiring.”
Escobar and other members of the Virginia Tech cohort visited corporate sponsors who provided support for their participation and traveled to the conference.