I may have mentioned that I’ve gone back to college, taking classes at the University of Maryland campus near me, tuition-free.
I got my feet wet last semester with an art history course recommended by a friend. It was pure fun – learning things I’ll never need to know or will ever write about from a very lively and opinionated teacher.
But this week I began my first class in the building I’m supposed to be in – Plant Sciences and Landscape Architecture – taking a course that might have been designed to appeal just to me – the History of Landscape – and I’m so psyched!
The teacher is Dr. Caren Yglesias, who worked in private practice before turning exclusively to teaching, most recently at Berkeley, and writing. Her books include ones about Steve Martino and Andrew Jackson Downing and a well-used text on materials and construction.
So here’s what I loved about her before I even knew all that – she has a career’s worth of knowledge and experience, assets typical of the growing ranks of adjunct professors. (The treatment of adjuncts is a hot topic, but not for this blog. Moving on.)
Also, I may pick up some fashion ideas from her; I aspire to her level of stylishness. Grandmothers rule!
Our one required textbook is The Course of Landscape Architecture by a European author, and all 13 of the sites it focuses on are from somewhere else. Not the U.S.
Caren (she insists) loves this book so I have high hopes (despite the boring cover, which seems to be mandatory for textbooks).
From our first reading I suspect that there may be more to it than exotic (to me) landscapes and hundreds of great photos – maybe a bit of ranting. I spotted this in the introduction:
“We ought to question the dominant moralistic posture behind the ecological and sustainable, and allow ourselves to demystify this version of nature critically, while acknowledging the reality of new necessities.” I’ll let you know. Who knows? I may be blogging the whole course.
I’m also curious to see how classes that prepare students to practice an actual profession are taught differently than the typical liberal arts classes I took in college. For example, instead of taking exams and writing papers, these students will research and present projects.
Tomorrow’s Landscape Architects
So what I’m looking forward to even more than the text are the students’ 10-minute presentations of their research projects about interesting landscapes, mostly in the DC area, many that I know well and have photographed throughout the season.
Most of all, I look forward to getting to know this diverse bunch of landscape architecture students, hearing about their reasons for entering the field and their various paths to it, like one young woman who, I learned, came to the plant world via military service near San Diego. She’s working 40 hours a week on top of a full courseload. Another classmate already has his own business creating and maintaining organic edible gardens.