Reflections: A Year as CLARB President

Date: December 15, 2023

September of this year brought my term as President of CLARB (Council of Landscape Architecture Registration Board) to an end.  I have now had a few months to reflect on my time in this role and have only grateful thoughts.  For those who may not be aware, CLARB is a high-functioning organization responsible for establishing standards in landscape architecture to protect the public’s health, safety and welfare in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and the Northern Mariana Islands. Our 12-member board of directors is comprised of practitioners and board executives from around the world. 

My focus this year was the promotion and continued implementation of the organization’s new strategic framework.  This framework, CLARB 2.0, is the strategy the Board of Directors (and I as the president-elect) introduced to our membership in the fall of 2022.  While this work began prior to my service on the board, I had the opportunity to be an effective questioner through the completion of the plan as the board validated the final touches.  CLARB 2.0 offers a framework to address issues the board believes are relevant today and are assumed to become more relevant as we look into the future.  The framework addresses the PRACTICE of landscape architecture, including standards that ensure competency, the REGULATION of the practice eliminating unnecessary friction, and the recognition of our GLOBAL reach with the opportunity to foster partnerships.  CLARB has a lot to offer and a lot to gain from international practitioners, regulators and organizations.  We listened and we shared our knowledge as we worked with partners to develop and complete a Global Survey of Practice.  We can say, in many respects, landscape architecture - our projects, challenges, approaches and passions, is similar in many ways across the globe.  How the profession is recognized, however, is very different.   

The Board discussed in detail our “preferred future” of practice – one that is agile enough to respond to outside influences, strong through established defensible standards and regulations, and has strength in numbers as we are able to expand access to future practitioners who may have a journey that looks a little different from our own.  Each of these domains keep the organization’s vision at the forefront.  We see a future where the world’s people, places, and environment are protected by landscape architects.   

There are four things I am very proud to have been a part of this last year: 

  • CLARB shared the results of the CLARB-IFLA Global Survey of Practice with our membership, our international partners, and council record holders. 
  • CLARB became the first corporate member of IFLA, the International Federation of Landscape Architects. 
  • CLARB is supporting the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México in a pilot candidacy for LAAB (Landscape Architecture Accreditation Board) accreditation.  
  • CLARB signed an MOU with IFLA Americas, committing to work together to elevate and unite the practice of landscape architecture across the Americas.   

All this work adds meaning and resiliency to our profession and to those who work to protect the public in the realm of landscape architecture.    

My responsibilities afforded me the opportunity to travel around the world, discuss the profession and the value of licensure, and a generous amount of listening - all while sharing CLARB’s goals.  I met wonderful professionals in landscape architecture, as well as our collateral partners in engineering, architecture, and interior design.  I now consider many of these people my friends.  

This opportunity pushed me in many ways, and I am a better person for it.   

What I expected:   

I expected to be challenged balancing deadlines, responsibilities, and expectations.  That never scares me.  I am thankful for the CLARB staff who actively work so diligently to prepare and inform the leaders and board.  I am also grateful to my staff who beautifully carried on the work of our business in my absences.   

What I didn’t expect: 

Leading a group of high performing leaders carries a responsibility that, while an incredible privilege, challenged me to a level I have not yet experienced in my career.  I found myself excelling in some ways and discovered some areas where I can continue to improve.  Who doesn’t want that, right? 

I have always been an advocate for the licensure of landscape architects, but up until my service with CLARB, it has been for myself and those in my immediate world.  In my capacity with CLARB, I am struck by the impact our efforts are having worldwide.  We continue to defend licensure where we live and work, but as we also assist emerging countries achieve recognition of our profession, I am literally able to participate in changing the world for the better.   

I would encourage anyone in the position of leading a non-profit organization, either professionally or personally, to do it.  I now have connections to people from many different cultures, my eyes have been opened to various ways to look at issues and achieve the best solutions, and I developed deeper friendships with those who served alongside me.   

I heard wherever I went that landscape architects are the nicest people.  While this is something I have tended to agree with as I am one, after this year, I feel like I have the credibility to state this as fact.  Passionate, genuine, generous, thoughtful, smart and funny.  I was blessed to spend the year among this cohort!     

My attention now, as Past President, turns to chairing CLARB’s Leadership Advisory Council looking for the next leaders in this organization.  I have this one last year to continue to serve on the board in this capacity, one more year to advance the recognition of the practice for landscape architects around the world, and one year to work alongside my colleagues and friends.  

When I accepted the nomination for the President’s position, it was the Fall of 2020.  As a smaller studio, forecasting opportunities and workload is always a challenge, yet I knew the quality staff members on our team were capable of filling in for me and I asked their permission before I accepted.  Little did any of us know that we would be in growth mode for the next couple of years.  This past year was the busiest year in the history of the company with a record number of projects, clients and revenue.  Perhaps there is a correlation?  

My time devoted to CLARB allowed our clients to experience just how talented, capable and dedicated the team at Landworks Studio is. While I already knew this, in my absence it became obvious that our staff is not driven day-to-day by me as the leader - their work excels because of their own professional goals and desires.  This is something that I could not be prouder of. 

As I work to integrate back into the daily tasks as principal of Landworks Studio, recognizing all that was accomplished this year and having gained additional leadership skills with so many mentors and role models, I am even more committed to the studio so staff can flourish not only professionally, but personally, as well.   

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