Design Education Reconsidered: Faculty Perceptions of Community Engagement in Landscape Architecture

Cermetrius Bohannon


Colleges and universities have been linked to society since their inception. In recent times this linkage has come under scrutiny as society’s expectations of higher education have become more expansive and diverse.  Over the past decade, there have been various shifts in pedagogy and scholarship in higher education, including the shift towards increased civic responsibility. One such shift is the role of universities and the communities they serve. This shift toward partnership and reciprocity is termed engagement. Community engagement has emerged as an important academic strategy used to enhance and complement traditional learning methods in higher education. This research explores the current state of community engagement within landscape architecture and identifies the benefits and barriers that foster or inhibit faculty from using community engagement as part of their teaching, research, and service.


The following research questions guided this study:


1) What are faculty attitudes towards and perceptions of community engagement in landscape architecture? 


2) How does community engagement affect teaching, learning, and scholarship in landscape architecture education?


3) How do faculty in landscape architecture share their community engagement work?


This study employed a mixed methods research design. Two sequential phases were utilized. The first phase consisted of faculty responses to the Community Engagement in Landscape Architecture Education (CELAE), which consisted of 70 questions. The second phase consisted of in-depth interviews with faculty who self selected to participate in the qualitative phase of the study.
Findings indicate faculty members in landscape architecture believe that community engagement has a positive impact on student’s educational experiences, provides opportunities for research and scholarship. Faculty also reveal how faculty in landscape architecture define community engagement in regards to other terminology that is currently used in higher education to describe working with communities to solve problems. Findings from this study may be used to help landscape architecture faculty members design and develop efforts to help promote community engagement as part of their teaching research and service.



IMG_1211C.L Bohannon is an assistant professor of Landscape Architecture. He holds a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, a Master of Landscape Architecture from Virginia Tech, and a Ph.D. in Architecture & Design Research from Virginia Tech