Landscape Architecture College of Design

Master of Landscape Architecture I


The Research Assistants is a unique program that embodies our mission of advancing landscape architecture through community engagement. Research Assistants in Practice receive the same benefits as a traditional RA—salary, tuition benefits, and health benefits—as well as the opportunity to apply knowledge while acquiring real world experience. The ability to work directly with a non-profit organizations, government agencies, or firms sets the RAs in Practice apart from conventional research assistantships.

Our agency partners value our students contribution to contemporary research and trends in the field. Our partners contribute to this program by providing the opportunity for students to do applied research and sharing in supporting the costs of the RA. While the RAs are housed and supervised on a day-to-day basis in one of the agencies, the faculty in the Department also provide an advisory role on research issues and methods.

Although the details of each assistantship will differ in the type of work depending upon the agency, RAs in practice can expect to:

  1. Research on administrative framework, emerging policy, societal needs, and process trends
  2. Participate in interdisciplinary professional collaboration on multifunctional landscape efforts.
  3. Perform basic day-to-day project work in the support of the firm/agency.

Our 2013–2014 RAs in Practice

Colleen O’Dell

Colleen O’Dell is working this fall as a Research Assistant in Practice for MetroBlooms in Minneapolis. She is researching the establishment of endowments to fund perpetual maintenance of raingardens and other green infrastructure in the metro region. Colleen and MetroBlooms anticipate this fund will reduce the cost of maintenance, encouraging cities, schools, and other public agencies to install additional green infrastructure as part of new developments. They expect this endowment will assist public agencies struggling with already tight budgets, limited staff, time, or expertise. Colleen has assembled and been meeting with a group of stormwater and native plant professionals in several metro cities to collect data and generate ideas. She is working collaboratively with staff to craft a financial program proposal and to develop a strategy of maintenance protocols, performance standards, and evaluation methods to present to the organization’s board of directors.

Metro Blooms is a private, nonprofit, volunteer-based educational organization that partners with businesses, professional associations, local governments and watershed districts to promote environmentally sound gardening and landscaping practices to improve the health of metro area land and water resources. Over 4,000 Twin City residents have attended Metro Blooms’ raingarden workshops to learn about stormwater management techniques. Metro Blooms recently worked with the Powderhorn Park neighborhood of Minneapolis to install over 100 strategically placed raingardens on private properties to positively impact water quality in Powderhorn Lake. This work was featured in a 3-part series on Twin Cities Public Television by filmmaker Mark Pedelty.

Tom Campbell

Tom Campbell is working with The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national, nonprofit land conservation organization. TPL is leading efforts create The Gateway—a linear park that would transform underutilized properties and public spaces surrounding the Minneapolis Central Library and increase connectivity from downtown Minneapolis to the Mississippi River. Tom is helping TPL to understand the design work of the project by evaluating options for the design process. He is also developing project-related case studies with performance metrics and mapping project-related open space projects and stakeholder locations in the Twin Cities.

Tom is helping TPL explore The Gateway’s multi-functional connectivity, between organizations and across disciplines and issues. “I'm thrilled to be working with TPL on The Gateway project,” he says. “My work researching options for the design process gives me a glimpse into how design happens in the real world and within the context of a downtown with its diverse stakeholders and very complex dynamics.”

Tiffani Navratil

As an RA-in-practice, Tiffani Navratil is collaborating with Doug Snyder and the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization to develop a series of Vegetative Management Plans (VMPs) for the Minneapolis Parks System. Inspired by the successful implementation of VMPs in other major cities, Ms. Navratil is compiling and analyzing research that will guide the development of customized VMPs for each part of Minneapolis’s greenspace network. These VMPs will ensure the consistent maintenance at each park, making it easier to stay true to the original design intent and program priorities, as well as to respond resiliently to future change. Serving as tools for prioritizing financial and labor resources, the new VMPs will expand upon the traditional objectives of a vegetative management plan to include the treatment of stormwater.

Furthermore it will deal with issues of exotic vegetation management as integral components of a comprehensive, long-term management plan for each park. The final goal is to develop an easy-to-follow management guide for future planners, designers, and related decision-makers, helping them protect and celebrate Minneapolis’s greenspace resources.

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