graduate - mlaMaster of Landscape Architecture

Graduate studies in landscape architecture attract a broad range of people. Those with undergraduate degrees in landscape architecture may seek specialization within the profession, advanced exploration or an academic career. Others, with degrees in related fields such as architecture, city and regional planning, and environmental design, enter the program to broaden or redirect their design and planning skills. Some students with degrees in fields less closely related (such as humanities or arts and sciences) seek new career options or to focus prior interests through a licensed design and planning profession.

The degree is accredited by the Landscape Architectural Accreditation Board (LAAB).

A three-year program for applicants who have no design or planning background leads to the fully accredited professional degree of master of landscape architecture (M.L.A.). This program is for students who intend to complete coursework full time. Applicants with a related design or planning degree may enter the three-year program with advanced standing.

The M.L.A. program, for the student seeking a first professional degree in landscape architecture, is a more tightly structured curriculum because it leads to the prerequisite work experience that qualifies the graduate for the Landscape Architecture Registration Examination (L.A.R.E.).

Participating Faculty

Areas of Study

The landscape architecture graduate degree programs provide a well-balanced curriculum in landscape architectural design and planning, coupled with opportunities to pursue individualized advanced study in a broad range of topics. The diversity of faculty interests and expertise offers M.L.A. students opportunities for in-depth exploration in three areas of study: community design and planning, cultural landscape conservation, and landscape and urban ecology.

Final Integrative Experience

M.L.A. students must complete an integrative experience. Students must participate in the capstone studio and complete a 6-credit independent design project during the final semester of the program. M.L.A. students must disseminate the results of their integrative studies through capstone seminars.

The M.L.A. program requires 66 credit hours. At least 42 of those credit hours must be at the graduate level.

studentsPrerequisites and Admission Requirements

Students seeking admission to the M.L.A. program may apply to enter based on education and experience. Admission requires:

  • An undergraduate degree
  • Graduate Record Examination scores
  • A minimum 3.000 (4.000=A) cumulative grade point average is generally required for admission. However, other circumstances may be considered (e.g., work experience) for those below this standard.
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • A completed course is recommended in each of the following six areas:
    • botany, biology, or ecology
    • geology, geomorphology, or earth science
    • anthropology, psychology, or sociology
    • computer applications
    • drawing, drafting
    • art or architecture history
  • A portfolio of creative work, which may include samples of photography, writing, drawing, digital designs or other related artistic expressions. Portfolios can be returned if accompanied by a self-addressed, pre-posted return envelope.

Students seeking admission to the M.L.A. program with advanced standing must additionally provide:

  • Transcripts from an accredited or recognized design or planning degree with a minimum 3.000 (4.000=A) cumulative grade point average. However, other circumstances may be considered (e.g., work experience) for those whose credentials are below this standard.
  • A portfolio of design work

Applicants may be assessed as deficient in one or more areas deemed important to their admission to graduate study in the program. Courses taken to make up deficiencies (e.g., English for international students) may not count toward the credit hours required for the graduate degree.

Visits to the college are highly recommended.


Graduate Assistantships

Students with associated professional degrees may be considered for a graduate assistantship (stipend and tuition scholarship) upon admission, depending upon qualifications and portfolio. Other students may apply for landscape architecture graduate assistantships after the first year of the first professional degree track. Assistantships may also be available with community service or research projects and are awarded by individual faculty to students with the necessary qualifications.

A limited number of teaching assistantships is awarded each year to highly qualified candidates seeking an academic career. Individuals with prior landscape architectural work experience who intend to pursue a career in teaching at the university level are encouraged to discuss their options with the graduate program coordinator in the Department of Landscape Architecture.

Research and Community Service

Research and community service are important aspects of the graduate experience in landscape architecture. Students may participate in the funded studies directed by individual faculty or in unique studies of their own design. Furthermore, many community service projects are performed in the context of a design studio, thereby bringing real world problems into the studio as a learning experience. In this way, the ongoing efforts of students and faculty help to further develop the body of knowledge of the field, while providing a challenging academic environment for the students.

Some of the vehicles currently available for research and community service include Your Town—The Citizens Institute for Rural Design, an award-winning program that provides rural planning/design workshops and technical assistance to rural communities throughout the United States; the ESF Center for Community Design Research, a research and public service vehicle for in-depth exploration of community and place, and for imparting design literacy through community education; the Olmsted Center for Landscape Preservation, the technical center of the Northeast Region of the National Park Service, that provides assistance in cultural landscape research, planning, stewardship and education; and the SUNY Center for Brownfield Studies, an educational initiative focused on environmental management and the redevelopment of brownfield properties.

Regional, National and Global Opportunities

Major areas of recent research activity include cultural landscape preservation, visual analysis, rural town planning, ecotourism, urban forestry and infrastructure, and wetland impact mitigation. Recent public service activities include neighborhood urban design, campus design, arboretum and botanical garden design and environmental management. Research and public service activities have been funded or sponsored by the National Park Service; the National Endowment for the Arts; the National Science Foundation; the Nature Conservancy; the U.S.D.A. Forest Service; the New York State Council on the Arts; the State University of New York Construction Fund; the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation; private corporations; and such communities as the cities of New York, Philadelphia, Syracuse and Utica. Students participate in these projects through funded assistantships, coursework, and independent studies.abroad

Graduate students may take advantage of extensive opportunities to conduct research or do internships abroad. The Department of Landscape Architecture requires all B.L.A. candidates to spend a semester off campus and most of the faculty annually travels abroad to visit and work with those students. As a result, the faculty can also offer graduate students a rich network of contacts and sponsors for graduate exploration in Europe, Latin America, the Far East and elsewhere. These opportunities support the expanding role of landscape architecture in addressing such globally important issues as metropolitan development, environmental conservation and symbiosis among community, ecology and place. Graduate research projects abroad have taken place in Italy (urban design), Mexico (ecotourism), Czechoslovakia (urban plazas), Wales (cultural landscape preservation), Northern Ireland (cultural landscapes), Indonesia (sense of place), Canada (rehabilitation of urban parks), Costa Rica (sustainable futures), Brazil (community design); Chile (urban forestry as urban design) and Spain (historic Moorish landscapes, and sustainable cities).

Graduate students may also participate in an Ibero-American consortium on sustainable communities. The consortium includes the Department of Landscape Architecture at SUNY-ESF, the Department of Forest Sciences at the University of Chile, the Department of Forest Engineering and Nature Conservation at the Polytechnic University of Madrid, Center for Environmental Studies in Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain, and the Department of Geography at the University of the Basque Country. The agenda for this consortium includes international conferences on sustainable community planning and design; design competitions; community design charettes; exchanges of students, faculty and staff; parallel and collaborative research and public service projects; and the founding of landscape architecture/planning programs at the University of Chile and the University of the Basque Country. Graduate students will find opportunities for independent research, classroom/studio studies abroad and for internships, conferences and design charettes. The activities of the consortium are particularly (but not exclusively) geared to the interests of students seeking preparation in landscape and urban ecology.

The sustainable futures studio is an off-campus program offered during the summer in cooperation with the Monteverde Institute in Monteverde, Costa Rica. Students who have completed at least their junior year with a cumulative GPA of 3.000 or better may apply to participate in the program as a means to satisfy the off-campus program requirement. Sustainable futures is a studio internship through which participating students undertake a range of service learning community design and planning projects for existing rural communities and non-governmental organizations (NGO) in the Monteverde region. The internship work focuses on sustainable design and development and includes a multidisciplinary design studio with architects, landscape architects and urban planners; lecture and seminar components in sustainable design, ecotourism, and local culture and ecology; and intensive Spanish language training. The studio is co-sponsored by SUNY-ESF, SUNY Buffalo, the University of Maryland, and the University of Illinois.

Opportunities to participate in the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) sponsored U.S.-Brazil Higher Education Consortia Program are also available. The FIPSE part-nership, with contourUniversidade de Brasilia and Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, adds an international curriculum and cultural dimension to students’ studies through a combination of bilateral curricular innovation and study abroad.

College and Regional Context

Students in the graduate program in landscape architecture have an excellent opportunity to draw upon the extensive college expertise in ecology, natural sciences, resources management, engineering, forestry, and many other environmental disciplines. Add to this the resources available through Syracuse University, such as architecture, geography, and the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, and the breadth of academic choices offered to a student at ESF becomes very significant.

The city of Syracuse has the largest concentration of professional landscape architectural offices in the Central New York region. This centralized location also provides easy access to major metropolitan centers such as Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and Buffalo, and to unique rural and natural landscapes, such as Lake Ontario, the Finger Lakes, the Catskills, and the Adirondacks. Basic geography, therefore, provides the student with a wide diversity of natural and cultural contexts in which to pursue academic and career goals.


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