Where did you earn degrees, and what are your current responsibilities at UGA?
I earned a bachelor of science degree in engineering psychology from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and a master in landscape architecture from the University of Georgia. I am currently an associate professor in the College of Environment & Design and am responsible for many of the ecology-based courses in our landscape architecture program.
When did you come to UGA, and what brought you here?
I was drawn here for graduate school by the landscape architecture program’s emphasis on ecological design and the faculty that were here at the time. I flew down from Chicago in March to see the campus and spend a few days in Athens with my cousin, who was attending the Navy Supply Corps at the time. By the time I had arrived back in Chicago, I had made my decision.
What are your favorite courses, and why?
My favorite course to teach is my Maymester, The Plant Communities of the Cherokee Landscape. It is a three-week field course studying native plants of the Southern Appalachians, Cherokee ethnobotany and Cherokee history and culture. As the course progresses, we move west along the northern route of the Trail of Tears, visiting significant sites, meeting with a variety of scholars and camping along the way. I learn new things every year and enjoy seeing how eye-opening the experience is for students. Some of the more incredible memories are learning about edible plants in Cherokee, N.C.; hiking below the waterfalls at Fall Creek Falls in Tennessee; walking along an intact segment of the Trail of Tears in Pope County, Ill.; and playing stickball with the staff of the Cherokee Heritage Center in Tahlequah, Okla.
What interests you about your field?
Landscape architecture can improve the ecological function of the built environment, create healthier human communities and engage people with nature. I also enjoy the breadth of the field and that we often are in the position of synthesizing information from many different disciplines and formulating it into an appropriate design response.
What are some highlights of your career at UGA?
The highlights of my career at UGA are the collaborations that I have had with other faculty and departments on campus. In particular, I have enjoyed working with the Institute of Native American Studies on a variety of research and teaching projects, the Odum School of Ecology’s River Basin Center on the Etowah Habitat Conservation Plan, the Law School’s Land Use Clinic working with the Newtown community in Gainesville and with the UGA Cost Rica Office on study abroad in Costa Rica.
How does your research or scholarship inspire your teaching?
They are so intertwined that I would say they co-evolve rather than one inspiring the other. Most recently, my research on green infrastructure has influenced the service-learning projects that my graduate design studio has been involved with.
What do you hope students gain from their classroom experience with you?
I hope they gain an appreciation of design as problem-solving and an ability to frame the problem within the big-picture environmental, social and economic issues of the present and future.
Describe your ideal student.
Open-minded, inquisitive and motivated by problems that do not have immediately apparent answers.
Favorite place to be/thing to do on campus is…
...taking classes to the State Botanical Garden of Georgia. The orange trail provides a great cross-section of Piedmont plant communities, and nothing beats an early morning hike, botanizing along the Middle Oconee River.
Beyond the UGA campus, I like to…
...spend time outside with my kids, mountain bike when I get the rare opportunity to do so, build stuff in my workshop and check out live music downtown.
Community/civic involvement includes….
I am currently on the board of the Athens Land Trust, working with their conservation program to protect high-quality natural areas in Georgia. I also am on the leadership group of the Athens branch of the U.S. Green Building Council, which hosts educational and social events for folks interested in green building and sustainable design.
My favorite book is "The Hobbit" by J.R.R. Tolkien. I read it every three years or so. The themes of adventure, self-discovery and growth are timeless. My favorite movie? I’ll just go ahead and admit that it is "Caddyshack." There are plenty of more serious movies that I enjoy as well, but "Caddyshack" provides a good quote for most of life’s goofy moments.
Proudest moment at UGA?
Anytime I hear about the success of one of my former students.