In May 2019, two graduating MLA students Taylor Fehmel and Mai Nguyen, associate dean and landscape architecture professor Lake Douglas, and LSU landscape architecture alumni Haley and Shannon Blakeman, Chris Ferris, and Justin Lemoine represented Louisiana’s landscape architects on Capitol Hill at the annual Advocacy Day sponsored by the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA). For almost two decades, the ASLA has brought professionals and students from every ASLA state chapter to lobby Congressional delegations on issues of professional relevance, and this year’s focus was on legislation supporting water-quality protection, transportation alternatives, and restoration of National Parks.
Fehmel participated as a National Executive Committee Student member and Nguyen represented LSU’s Student ASLA Chapter. The advocacy delegation also included Haley Blakeman, ASLA’s vice president for communication and professor Douglas, vice president for education. Other members of the delegation were Shannon Blakeman, the Louisiana chapter’s trustee, current chapter president Chris Ferris, and Justin Lemoine, past chapter president.
“Advocacy Day was an amazing and eye-opening experience,” Fehmel said. “As a graduating MLA student, I am proud to represent my school and to participate in protecting and shaping the future of both the profession and the country’s built and natural environment.”
“Advocacy requires a considerable amount of work and collaboration,” Nguyen said. “After multiple on-line trainings, we met with the ASLA government affairs team and mobilized to make the most of appointments with representatives of the Louisiana Congressional delegation, including Senators Kennedy and Cassidy and Representatives Graves and Richmond,” she noted. “I learned a lot about the legislative process and how important advocacy is in shaping policy decisions. I felt very fortunate to have the mentorship of faculty and state chapter professionals who have been representing Louisiana for years.”
Both Fehmel and Nguyen graduated this month. Reflecting on her time at LSU, Nguyen said, “It has been so valuable learning how to translate my values to design in the studio environment; but it is a whole other story to fight for those values, as designers, in the larger world.”
“Having the opportunity to walk the halls of the US Capital and have meaningful, face-to-face discussions will stay with me for the rest of my career,” Fehmel said.
Both agreed that they enjoyed meeting other academics, professionals, and students from around the country. “We feel more strongly connected to the profession and its national agenda,” Nguyen said of the experience.
In addition, all who went realize advocacy doesn’t end upon returning from Washington. As Fehmel noted, “there is follow up with the Congressional staff to continue our discussions, plan site visits, and figure out how to create the best solutions for Louisiana’s infrastructure, natural resources, and communities.”
Nguyen said, “We are also inspired to better integrate this important aspect of the landscape architecture profession with the program at LSU and encourage RRSLA’s student body to follow in our footsteps.”