Alumni Profile Page
A degree in landscape architecture, whether a BLA (Bachelor of Landscape Architecture), MLA (Master of Landscape Architecture), or MSLA (Master of Science in Landscape Architecture), can lead to various careers within the field of cultural landscape preservation.
Christopher Anderson (MLA 2017)
Starr Whitehouse Landscape Architects and Planners
Chris Anderson currently is a landscape designer at Starr Whitehouse, a NYC-based planning and design firm. There, he works on many public projects involving historic sites throughout the New York metropolitan area and across New York State, ranging from work on the Battery in lower Manhattan and the Empire State Trail which follows the historic Erie Canal route for much of its westward route. Chris was drawn to the practice of landscape architecture after working for the National Park Service in Washington D.C., in the not-for-profit sector in New York City, and volunteering at prominent parks such as the High Line, Prospect Park, and Brooklyn Bridge Park. Witnessing firsthand the social and environmental importance of well-designed public open spaces has framed his perspective on the vital roles played by landscapes and those that shape them.
While enrolled in the Masters of Landscape Architecture program at SUNY-ESF, Chris worked with the Gowanus Canal Conservancy in Brooklyn, NY on an open space master plan for the canal, one of the most polluted water bodies in the country and an active Superfund site. This work contributed to his development of his masters thesis, The Turning Point: A Focused Design Study for the Gowanus Canal, which focused on coordinating the remediation of the canal with community-driven, phased habitat restoration in the canal's historic turning basins. He also worked as the Graduate Assistant for the Center for Cultural Landscape Preservation for two years, during which he assisted in developing the Cultural Landscape Report for Gettysburg National Cemetery, among other projects that provided a greater appreciation for the historic and cultural contexts that give each site a unique richness.
Alexandra von Bieberstein (BLA, 2012)
Historical Landscape Architect, Olmsted Center for Landscape Preservation
National Park Service, Northeast Region
Alex is a historical landscape architect at the Olmsted Center for Landscape Preservation in Boston, MA. She produces planning documents for national parks across the northeast that inventory, document, and provide treatment recommendations for historic landscapes including farmland, fortifications and battlefields, formal gardens, and seashores.
Prior to joining the Olmsted Center, Alex documented historic structures, landscapes, and vistas for the History, Architecture, and Landscapes Branch at Yosemite National Park. Her additional project work includes the restoration of late nineteenth and early twentieth century log structures in Alaska and Wyoming with HistoriCorps, and historic garden restoration and maintenance with Historic New England. While working toward her degree at ESF she spent several summers working on trailcrews in national parks and other public lands across the United States. Alex currently serves on the Student Conservation Association (SCA) Alumni Council.
Karen Cowperthwaite (MLA 2008)
Karen is a licensed landscape architect with 20 years experience in public and private horticulture and landscape design. Currently, she works on residential projects, consults on historic landscapes and properties, writes National Register of Historical Places nominations, and volunteers with the board of Springside, a National Historical Landmark. Prior to, she worked for four years with Alice Eckerson of Eckerson Design Associates, a high-end residential landscape architecture firm in CT. After graduating in 2008, she was the in-house designer and landscape and greenhouse manager of an organic estate and farm.
At ESF, Karen was the Graduate Assistant for the 2006 Summer Field School on the Cultural Landscape Inventory of the Appalachian Trail in Shenandoah National Park, VA. Along with her fellow students, she inventoried the cultural resources of the trail using GPS, researched its history, and afterwards worked with an ESF PhD student to create GIS maps of the trail (see Summer Field School). She also provided historical research and existing conditions mapping for the Roger Williams National Memorial Cultural Landscape Report (2010). Her capstone, Two Gardens and A View… developed treatment options for two gardens of the 300-acre Country Place Era estate.
Jeanie Gleisner (BLA, 2007 & MSLA, 2008)
Central New York Regional Planning and Development Board
Jeanie is a Principal Planner in the Community Development and Comprehensive Planning Program at the Central New York Regional Planning and Development Board (CNY RPDB) in Syracuse, New York. Working together with communities in the five county central New York region, she develops the Comprehensive Plans that serve to provide a framework for, and guide future local land use and development decision-making. She also leads community revitalization and development initiatives such as the North Jefferson Street Revitalization Project in the Pulaski Village Historic District in Pulaski NY through targeted grant writing efforts.
During her undergraduate studies Jeanie participated in a Summer Field School in Landscape Inventory and Preservation Planning of Shenandoah National Park, VA. The group developed the first Cultural Landscape Inventory of the 103 miles of the Appalachian Trail in the Park. During her graduate studies, Jeanie’s thesis was titled Redoubt and Prospect; Changing Views of a New York City Headland. The study later became the Cultural Landscape Report for the Battery Weed Headland, Fort Wadsworth, Gateway National Recreation Area.
Sarah K. Cody (BLA, 2006 & MSLA, 2007)
Historic Preservation Planner
Sarah is a Preservation Planner for Miami-Dade County in Miami, FL. In this position, Sarah surveys, evaluates, and prepares designation reports for locally historic resources and identifies properties that are eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. She also works closely with owners of historic sites to guide sensitive rehabilitation and development. She works in concert with other local agencies to identify new approaches to interpret Miami’s unique historic resources. Recently, Sarah worked with the National Trust for Historic Preservation on a nomination that was accepted for inclusion on the the 2014 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.
Previously, Sarah worked in private practice, contributing to the on-going preservation and stewardship of nationally significant historic sites. These projects ranged from research and planning through implementation at sites like the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Graycliff near Buffalo, the former Buffalo State Insane Asylum, the Boston Common, Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania, the US Capitol Grounds, the National Mall, and the Jefferson Memorial. During her graduate studies, Sarah worked in partnership with the Olmsted Center for Landscape Preservation and interned at the New York State Historic Preservation Office. Sarah is passionate about preserving our nation’s cultural landscapes and strives to protect and enhance significant public spaces.
Michael Commisso (MLA 2004)
Cultural Resource Program Manager
National Mall and Memorial Parks, National Park Service
For the past nine years, Michael has worked as a Cultural Resources Program Manager for the National Mall and Memorial Parks and Historical Landscape Architect for the National Capital and Northeast Regional Offices of the National Park Service (NPS). In these positions, he has provided technical assistance and direction to parks and programs with the inventory, documentation, and treatment of historic parks and properties, which include scenic parkways, battlefields, memorials, formal gardens, and cemeteries. Prior to working with the NPS, Michael worked as a Historic Preservation Planner and Landscape Designer in South Georgia. Aside from his professional work, Michael is active in the Alexandria preservation community and currently serves on the city’s Historic Restoration and Preservation Commission. He has a BA in Environmental Design and Environmental Studies from the University at Buffalo and a MLA from ESF.
Paul Fritz, AICP, CEP, (MLA, 1997)
Oak Valley Land Planning + Design
Paul currently manages the mapping and graphics materials at the Chester County Planning Commission, located in West Chester, PA. He also maintains his own firm, Oak Valley Land Planning + Design, LLC located in Wallingford, PA. The firm provides historic preservation planning services, as well as a full range of planning and design project types. Prior to this position, Paul was a project manager at Environmental Design and Research (EDR) in Syracuse. He has over 20 years of management experience with cultural landscape reports, comprehensive plans, district and corridor plans, zoning updates, and design guidelines. Paul's Master degree had a concentration in cultural landscape preservation. His thesis, a Cultural Landscape Report for Lorenzo State Historic Site, received the 1998 New York State Historic Preservation Award.
David Uschold (BLA, 1991 & MLA, 1994)
LIC Compliance Manager and Regional Section 106 Coordinator
National Park Service, Northeast Region
David is a member of the National Park Service’s Northeast Regional Office in Boston, MA. He has been working in cultural resource management and planning for over fifteen years. He currently serves in two roles with the NPS Northeast Region as the Regional Coordinator for the Section 106 Program (National Historic Preservation Act) and also as the Advance Planning and Compliance Manger for the NPS construction program. In his current position, he assists parks with natural and cultural resource management and environmental compliance for major construction projects. He also serves to oversee the region’s adherence to the National Historic Preservation Act developing regional policy and providing guidance and training for regional and park staff. He earned a BLA and MLA concentrating on cultural landscape preservation. After graduating ESF, he worked for the NPS Olmsted Center for Landscape Preservation until 2003.
Charles A. Birnbaum (BLA 1983) FASLA, FAAR
Founder & President
The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF)
Prior to founding TCLF, Charles spent fifteen years as the coordinator of the National Park Service Historic Landscape Initiative (HLI) and a decade in private practice in New York City with a focus on landscape preservation and urban design. Charles’ recent projects include two web-based initiatives: What’s Out There? (a searchable database of the nation’s designed landscape heritage) and Cultural Landscapes as Classrooms. He has authored and edited numerous publications including Shaping the American Landscape (UVA Press, 2009), Design with Culture: Claiming America’s Landscape Heritage (UVA Press 2005), Preserving Modern Landscape Architecture (1999) and its follow-up publication, Making Post-War Landscapes Visible (2004, both for Spacemaker Press), Pioneers of American Landscape Design (McGraw Hill 2000) and The Guidelines for the Treatment of Cultural Landscapes (National Park Service, 1996). In 1995, the ASLA awarded the HLI the President's Award of Excellence and in 1996 inducted Charles as a Fellow of the Society. Charles served as a Loeb Fellow at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design during which time he founded TCLF. In 2004, Charles was awarded the Rome Prize in Historic Preservation and Conservation and spent spring/summer of that year at the American Academy in Rome. In 2008, he was the visiting Glimcher Distinguished Professor at Ohio State’s Austin E. Knowlton School of Architecture and was also awarded the Alfred B. LaGasse Medal from the ASLA. In September 2009 the Society’s President, Angela Dye, awarded Charles the ASLA President’s Medal.
Robert Z. Melnick (MLA, 1975) FASLA
Professor of Landscape Architecture &
Director of the John Yeon Center
University of Oregon
Robert specializes in cultural landscape evaluation and historic landscape preservation planning. A Fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects, and former Dean of the University of Oregon School of Architecture and Allied Arts (1995-2005), he served as the first Historical Landscape Architect in the National Park Service. Among his many publications, he co-authored National Register Bulletin 30 on rural landscapes, and co-edited Preserving Cultural Landscapes in America. He organized the first national conference on campus heritage issues, and between 2005 and 2007 served as a Visiting Senior Program Officer at the Getty Foundation in Los Angeles, with primary responsibility for the Getty’s Campus Heritage Initiative. He has published widely on theoretical and practical issues relating to cultural and historic landscapes, and has consulted on cultural landscape projects across the country. His written works and professional projects have received numerous national awards from the American Society of Landscape Architects and the Society of Architectural Historians. In 2008 he was honored with the James Marston Fitch Preservation Education Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Council on Preservation Education.