Program places a premium on real-world experience
By Cailyn Washburn
Purdue University landscape architecture students gain real-world experiences while still in school. That's because students in the program are required to participate in co-ops during the fourth year of the five-year program. A co-op is where students learn outside the classroom by working in professional settings.
"Within the first three months of working, I have learned more than I have in all of my college classes," said Megan Martin, a senior in landscape architecture from Carmel, Ind., who is co-oping at Wagner McCann Studio in Burlington, Vt. "Of course, school prepped me for this internship, but school can never replace the learning that happens when you're in the real world or out in the field," she said.
Purdue is unique because it is the only school in the country that sends students on co-ops for an entire year. "The co-op program is one of the great strengths of our program," said Bernie Dahl, associate professor of landscape architecture. Co-op employers have offered jobs to their students after they graduate, he added.
Whether a co-op results in a job or not, Dahl said all landscape architecture students come back to campus with more confidence and experience. Sarah Metz, a 2005 landscape architecture graduate, worked at Sasaki Associates Inc., a company that designs landscapes all over the country and world. During 40 weeks there, she worked on many projects, including residential communities in Boston, a resort area in China, and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. She was also an important part of Sasaki's design team for a competition between firms trying to win the rights to design for the 2004 Olympics.
"I was really busy all the time because I was an extra set of hands, and I got to be exposed to a lot of stuff," Metz said. "You really become a part of the firm because you're there a whole year."
Co-ops also help students decide what they want and don't want to do, Metz said. "I found out I didn't like to sit in a cubicle all day," said Metz. "But I used that experience to get a job where I don't have to sit in a cubicle."