Skip to main contentSkip to footer content
Four-panel picture of four different women.

Landscape Architecture welcomed four new faculty members. Pictured clockwise from left, Dr. Nazanin Ghaffari, Deborah Ku, Jean Yang, Dr. Ellen White.

ESF Welcomes New Faculty to Department of Landscape Architecture

SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Aug. 16, 2023 - The SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) — one of the nation’s premier colleges focused exclusively on the study of the environment, developing renewable technologies, and building a sustainable future — is pleased to welcome four new faculty members to its Department of Landscape Architecture.

Dr. Nazanin Ghaffari, Deborah Ku, Dr. Ellen White, and Jean Yang will join as assistant professors starting the fall semester.

Dr. Nazanin Ghaffari will teach courses on place-based, community-based planning and design.

Prior to joining ESF, Ghaffari was awarded the Social Science Research Council (SSRC) Arts Research with Communities of Color Fellowship. She was also an Adjunct Assistant Professor at the University of Texas at Arlington. With a background in architecture, urban design, and urban planning, she applies her interdisciplinary knowledge to research public spaces, community development, and governance regimes. Her work examines how exclusion manifests in design, programming, policing, and management processes.

She earned a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Arlington in Urban Planning and Public Policy; a Master of Arts in Urban Design; and a Bachelor of Architecture from Azad University in Tehran, Iran. 

Deborah Ku specializes in beginning design pedagogy and will teach courses in the foundation sequence, including design studio and graphic representation. 

Ku integrates lessons from architecture, landscape, urban planning, and history into her professional practice as a landscape architect and educator. Her teaching is rooted in drawing from the powerful relationships between buildings and sites, understanding design as an integrated whole rather than isolated acts.

Ku was previously an assistant professor in architecture at Auburn University, where she coordinated and taught the first-year architecture curriculum. She earned her Master of Architecture and Bachelor of Science Architecture from the University of Virginia.

Dr. Ellen White specializes in the environmental impacts of transportation policy and infrastructure. She uses a variety of digital tools as well as qualitative methods to analyze the environmental effects of transportation policy, practice, and infrastructure. In her current research, she is investigating large-scale roadside tree removal as carried out by state highway agencies.

Before coming to ESF, White was at Rutgers University, where she completed her Ph.D. at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy. She previously worked as an urban designer at a street design firm in New Jersey and as a transportation planning consultant in cities and towns around the country. She serves as secretary of the Transportation Research Boards Landscape and Environmental Design Committee and was a 2021-2022 Landscape Architecture Foundation Fellow for Innovation and Leadership.

White holds a Master of Landscape Architecture from Rutgers University and a master’s degree in urban planning from Harvard University Graduate School of Design.

Jean Yang is a landscape designer, urban planner, and educator focused on design-driven, equity-focused, and benefits-based landscapes.

She has analyzed, designed, and fought for public space in historically challenged areas. Her projects include:

  • Destination Crenshaw, a 1.3-mile open-air museum dedicated to preserving the history and culture of African Americans
  • Upper LA River and Tributaries plan, which will provide new and enhanced open spaces to over 1 million people
  • LA County Parks and Recreation Strategic Plan, which aligns one of the largest landowners in Los Angeles with the fight for justice and equity.

Yang worked as a senior associate at Studio-MLA and has taught at UCLA, Cal Poly Pomona, and the University of Oregon as a Spatial Justice Fellow. She received the Azure Award for Urban Design Vision, the Southern California ASLA Merit Award, and the National ASLA Honor Award.

Yang has a Master’s degree in Urban Planning and Landscape Architecture from the University of Southern California and Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics and Government from Cornell University.


The SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) is dedicated to the study of the environment, developing renewable technologies, and building a sustainable and resilient future through design, policy, and management of the environment and natural resources. Members of the College community share a passion for protecting the health of the planet and a deep commitment to the rigorous application of science to improve the way humans interact with the world. The College offers academic programs ranging from the associate of applied science to the Doctor of Philosophy. ESF students live, study and do research on the main campus in Syracuse, N.Y., and on 25,000 acres of field stations in a variety of ecosystems across the state.