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Bio(graphical) Diversity Symposium

On January 24th, 2020, Landscape Architecture at Illinois hosted the Bio(graphical) Diversity Symposium at the Levis Faculty Center.

This important symposium explored how diversity, equity, and inclusion are critical drivers for change in landscape architecture, in education, and in our communities. Interim Head Dede Ruggles, Professor Mary Pat McGuire, Academic Affairs Coordinator Lori Davis, and a group of nine undergraduate and graduate landscape architecture students organized the symposium.

The symposium discussed the diverse life experiences, career paths, and work of landscape architects. Invited speakers talked about how they navigated the field guided by diverse backgrounds and ambitions, how they engaged with diverse communities and public interests, and how diversity, equity, and inclusion should be fostered in work and in the profession.

The symposium was organized around three themed panels:

STORIES: Personal background plays a role in the development of one’s career. This panel focused on personal stories and how we can learn from experiences and challenges in order to create a wider understanding and appreciation of difference within academic settings and the profession.

WORK: Landscape architects engage diverse communities in the process of design and planning. This panel explored the opportunities and challenges of activist design today, and discussed tools that support diversity in design.

ACTIONS: Actionable strategies and initiatives are needed to promote radical diversity, inclusion, and equity in educational and work environments. This panel discussed a vision for and pathways toward a more diverse profession and what that would enable us to do in the world.

Participating speakers and panelists included:

  • C. L. Bohannon, Virginia Tech
  • Rachel Booher, Landscape Architecture Foundation
  • Anita Bueno, Landscape ArchitectCazenovia, NY
  • José Castillo-Pilcol, Studio TLA, Toronto, Canada
  • Maisie Hughes, Design Virtue, Washington, DC
  • Diane Jones Allen, University of Texas at Arlington; DesignJones, New Orleans, LA
  • Laura Lawson, Rutgers University
  • Kelley Lemon, University of California, Berkeley
  • Marc Miller, Penn State
  • Paola Aguirre Serrano, Borderless Studio, Chicago, IL
  • Anne Whiston Spirn, MIT

We thank the speakers and panelists for joining us and look forward to exploring these ideas further through critical dialog. One specific goal of the symposium was to identify key action items and policies that can create a more inclusive, diverse, and equitable field.

For more information and a full program, please visit