Investing in Students, Investing in Green Infrastructure

Rendering of Mississippi River.

The Department of Landscape Architecture’s research assistants (RAs) in practice program not only eases the financial burden for graduate students but acts as an important resource to move green infrastructure projects forward and better connect the Twin Cities to their natural surroundings.

A generous gift from Paul and Mary Reyelts allows the RAs in practice program to provide four, year-long research assistant positions at nonprofit or government agencies in Minneapolis. In their positions, the students help move projects forward that focus on reconnecting Minneapolis to the Mississippi River and creating a vibrant and sustainable public realm.

Bruce Chamberlain, FASLA (B.L.A. ’89) first got involved with the program while assistant superintendent for planning with the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. Since 2015, he’s worked continuously with the program through his work as parks fellow with the Minneapolis Parks Foundation. “This is a program with tangible impacts in multiple directions,” said Chamberlain. “It provides students with exposure to practicing professionals, to real-world projects, and to strategic project approaches in their formative stages. It offers clients and the broader community the energy and time dedication necessary to move innovative yet time-consuming efforts from average to transformative.”

Current RA in practice Anna Jursik agrees, “Landscape architecture interfaces with so many other fields. The RAs in practice program helped prepare me for interdisciplinary problem-solving, planning, and design.”

As an RA in practice, Jursik worked with the Transportation Planning and Programming team at Minneapolis Public Works to map data, visualize information, and create renderings to better illustrate streetscapes and public infrastructure. “We learn in school how to manage rainwater and pollutants runoff, which plants can thrive along the side of the road, and how to fit bike lanes, sidewalks, and green space into a standard right-of-way. Working for the City of Minneapolis helped me understand how traffic engineers, pavement scientists, planners, and even attorneys contribute to streetscapes; and how landscape architecture fits in,” explained Jursik.

One of the most rewarding parts for Jursik has been using her design skills to further the causes that she supports. “Whether or not I end up working full-time for a nonprofit or a government agency, my experiences as an RA have taught me how design can make a powerful impact,” she concluded.

Learn more about the projects that the research assistants in practice are working on.

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