“This is a real-world project,” said Eric Schuchardt, an Associate Lecturer in UW-Madison’s Landscape Architecture Department.
Schuchardt teaches Landscape Architecture 610, a capstone requirement of the undergraduate professional degree. The real-world project he’s talking about is the culmination of his students’ work throughout the two-semester community-based learning course. And it is, indeed, a real-world experience.
The LA 610 capstone seminar is intended to test the skills, knowledge, and abilities of undergraduates during their final year of the Landscape Architecture Professional Degree program. The class tests students by assigning them to solve real-world design problems.
While all community-based learning courses are built on the foundation of real-world experiences, this capstone seminar pushes the boundaries of traditional service learning. From its community partner selection process to geographic location, the Landscape Architecture Seminar is unique in its scope and application.
Community-based learning courses are like any other class on campus, but they also integrate a volunteer component along with the typical coursework. The unique nature of each service learning course is what makes the practice so effective at addressing different community issues.
The Landscape Architecture Seminar uses its unique approach to reach different communities across the state, ultimately resulting in meaningful student experience and lasting community change.
Real Community Partners
“Students aren’t designing for the community, they’re designing with the community,” said Schuchardt.
A testament to the value of the course, community partner demand outpaces the number of students every year. Communities are required to apply for the possibility to form a collaborative partnership with one of the undergraduate students. As many as 40 community partners have applied to work with the class in a given semester, but the average enrollment of 16 students makes the process distinctively competitive.
A client can be anyone in need of design help, but often involves a city group or nonprofit organization. The student then addresses a need identified by the community. “Projects can be anything from a pocket park to master plans for communities,” explained Schuchardt.
Because each student takes on their own project, the collective impact of the class is quite impressive. While similar classes exist at other universities, those students often work on one project together. The UW-Madison seminar has that same community impact 16 times over. Not only do the students impact the organizations they work with, but they also impact the greater communities in which these organizations exist.
The number of individual projects is not the only way the course extends its reach. With clients across the state, the scope of impact is no longer confined to Madison and includes communities in Appleton, Milwaukee, La Crosse—to name a few. Some students even choose to work with clients outside of the state.
Real Community Impact
“Our class impacts 16 communities,” said Schuchardt of his current cohort of students. This semester, specifically, involves student projects in every corner of Wisconsin along with two projects in Minnesota and Illinois.
In the process of creating real community change, students work on a wide variety of projects ranging from food systems development, to lakeshore bike paths, to therapeutic landscapes.