Posted February 2010
While she was still an undergraduate student at ESF, Nicole Formosa decided she wanted to work in the field of sustainable development and green design.
Today, the 2007 landscape architecture alumna is doing just that as an urban planner with KCI Technologies, Inc., in the Urban Planning & Development Division.
"I became a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional (LEED AP) and have been utilizing that credential to the fullest extent by providing sustainable design consulting services for both our public and private clients as well as in-house consulting," she said.
KCI, located in Sparks, Md., recently moved into a new LEED-certified building for which Formoso was on the design-and-LEED-consulting team.
"I want to make architecture and landscape architecture last for years to come in a green way," she said.
While she was a student, Formoso spent a semester in the Netherlands, where she studied landscape architecture that had existed for hundreds of years. The semester abroad is "a major plus" to an ESF education, she said.
"No matter what you expected it's always 100 percent better than you assumed," said Formoso.
The fifth-year off-campus semester is the signature component for ESF's Landscape Architecture program. Students formulate a study topic then chose a country based on the best places in the world to study that topic. They make their own travel and living arrangements. "You have an advisor, but it's mostly self-driven," Formoso explained.
Formoso, who once served as the student representative to ESF's Board of Trustees, said by the time the off-campus semester arrives, students are ready to put what they've learned to the test. "It definitely tests your time management and self motivation."
Formoso chose to study the factors that contribute to the value of a historic district in Amsterdam, Netherlands. "I saw buildings that were built in 1190 and my jaw was just gaping every time. To walk through buildings that have seen feudalism and every form of government and so much history was amazing. Amsterdam keeps their old buildings instead of tearing them down and they're very solid." Because Amsterdam is a small city, she said, the residents know how to make the space they have work efficiently.
Associate Professor Robin Hoffman served as Formoso's advisor for her off-campus semester and noted a distinct change in the student after the semester in Europe. Like many ESF students, Formoso maintained a fast-paced schedule and was task oriented.
"I think she learned how important it is to slow down - stop, look and listen. Nicole learned the value of an afternoon spent in an outdoor cafe sipping coffee while people- watching. She saw not only what was happening in the world around her but also, through careful observation, she learned about another culture's relationship to their places and how this process of discovery will serve to inform design decisions throughout her career," Hoffman said.
"To go and see places for oneself has always been a necessary step in the education of landscape architects. Such experiences become touchstones for future careers," said Richard Hawks, chair of the Department of Landscape Architecture.
The off-campus experience leaves a lasting impression. "When you come back, you feel so much more mature and ready to go out and do something. Having lived on your own and traveled abroad you now know you can take on the world," Formoso said.