Apr 8th 2021

College of Architecture Student Elected to International Board on Landscape Architecture Education

College of Architecture student Erik Schiller (M.ARCH.+M.L.A+U Candidate) has been elected student director for the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture (CELA).

He will work closely with the organization’s international board of directors to provide a student perspective to the organization, while aiding in the council’s goal to continually improve the “content and quality of professional education in landscape architecture.”

Schiller says, “I ran because I want to help people in authority understand that they have a lot of willing participants in their student bodies who can help change the nature of education. It's really important for me to find ways to participate in that transition.”

Schiller's decision to run was, in part, influenced by an experience in his Landscape History, Theory, and Criticism course. He and his fellow students felt that the history being taught did not feel truly holistic or inclusive, placing more emphasis on European gardens than those in Asia, Africa, and South America. Working with the course instructor and his fellow students, Schiller pieced together a new curriculum that would better represent landscape architecture from people and places that were previously underrepresented.

“That’s the history we've been taught for hundreds of years, but it struck several of us that it wasn't telling a complete story and was biased to suggest a certain outcome or inevitability,” says Schiller. “Our instructor was amazing and said we were right, so the whole class workshopped over the course of a single day a new curriculum for the semester. It was amazing to see that all it took was speaking up and saying to the right people that this wasn't working.”

Schiller’s two-year term at CELA begins this year as the student director elect, then will transition to student director next year. Following his graduation from the College of Architecture and his term at CELA, Schiller hopes to continue advocating for a more diverse profession, as well as for more sustainable architecture and landscape architecture, by way of education.

“I am interested in how we can make education work better for students, especially students from more diverse backgrounds, and how we can match the interests of architecture education and landscape education, which is necessary to tackle the challenges posed by climate change,” Schiller explains.