Profile Interview by Michelle Thompson for LASN
Having always wanted to work in academia, Fleischacker jumped at the opportunity, a move that would ultimately yield tremendous opportunities for both him and the school.
"Things have worked out great for me," he says.
They've worked out well for the Doylestown, Pennsylvania, university, too. Since joining DelVal, Fleischacker has rewritten its curriculum numerous times, and positioned the school to launch a landscape architecture program. In 2012, under Fleischacker's leadership, the school began offering a Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture.
"I've been working with students, faculty and alumni to position the program to become accredited and recognized by the industry," reports Fleischacker, who is today chair and associate professor of DelVal's Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Science. "That's been really rewarding for me."
Last spring, DelVal received full, initial accreditation from the Landscape Architectural Accreditation Board.
Where the Environment Meets the Arts
Fleischacker's path to becoming a landscape architect began when he was a boy growing up in the Upper Midwest, a region known for its national parks, Great Lakes and diverse wildlife. In such a nature-rich environment, Fleischacker quickly developed a love and respect for the outdoors. Meanwhile, he began gaining an appreciation for the arts through his grandfather, a syndicated newspaper cartoon artist.
Eventually, his fondness for the arts and love of nature collided.
"The two came together when I was taking a career interest exam at one of the local schools in Minnesota," says Fleischacker. "After I took the exam, landscape architecture popped to the top of the list. I'd never heard of it before and when I started looking into it further, I realized my two passions of art and nature actually came together in landscape architecture.
"I never looked back."
In 1995, Fleischacker graduated from North Dakota State University with a bachelor's degree in landscape architecture. He later earned his master's degree in landscape architecture from Ball State University, where he specialized in urban and regional planning.
When Fleischacker was presented with an opportunity to work at DelVal, he was reminded of his university days at North Dakota State. Both universities have smaller class sizes, and are located in small towns.
The sense of nostalgia Fleischacker felt made it a little easier to accept a position with DelVal.
"The campus itself just felt right," he says. "Being able to link it to my undergraduate days and the positive experience I had there really made me feel like Delaware Valley University was going to be a great fit for me."
The Best of Both Worlds
Though there were sacrifices in joining the academic world – the pay is notoriously lower, and hours can be longer – joining DelVal was a decision Fleischacker has never regretted.
Besides, he never fully left the corporate world. He continues to practice landscape architecture as a managing partner of Charlesworth Fleischacker Landscape Architects LLC in New Hope, Pennsylvania.
His work there has included garden and urban design, campus and community planning, ecological restoration and real estate planning. He's an expert in regenerative strategy, and his work focuses on creating sustainable living systems.
Fleischacker thinks of his private practice as a "working hospital," where students can have a chance to gain firsthand experience.
When opportunities present themselves, he'll bring students to the firm to put together CAD drawings, attend site visits and help out with digital graphics. Sometimes, students are offered short-term or summer work at Charlesworth Fleischacker Landscape Architects LLC.
"It gives them first-hand office experience and a little extra money," says Fleischacker. "And it gives us some relief from tasks that we would otherwise have had to found time to do ourselves."
He describes himself as a professor with a true love for teaching and the academic world. He says he strives to engage students while providing them with a meaningful learning experience.
"For me it's always been about engaging people in the ideation process. It's this idea of, 'How do you engage a student in the classroom in a way that they're part of the learning process, rather than standing in front of them and spewing out information to them?'" he explains.
"Whether it's a lecture course or a design studio, I always take that approach in trying to engage the students in a way that they take ownership of and pride in their education."
Michael Fleischacker, RLA, LEED AP, Associate Professor, Delaware Valley University
Undergrad Department Chair: Landscape Architecture and Environmental Science
Grad Dept: Policy Studies (M.A.)
Co-Director: Regenerative Land Institute
BS, Environmental Design, North Dakota State University
BLA, North Dakota State University
MLA, Ball State University
Managing Partner: Charlesworth Fleischacker Landscape Architects, LLC, New Hope, Pa. (March 2010 to present)
VP of Operations: Back to Nature, Oldwick, NJ (Jan. 2002-Aug. 2009)
Milone and MacBroom, Inc. (June 2000-Feb. 2002)
Advisory Committee Member (March 2014 to present)
-Pennsylavnia Horticultural Society
-Bowman's Hill Wildflower Preserve
Delaware Valley University is an independent, nonprofit university located in Doylestown, Pa. (pop. 8,280). Founded in 1896 as an agricultural college, DelVal is a small interdisciplinary college (1,807 students, student/faculty ratio of 15:1) offering 25 undergraduate majors in the natural sciences, business and humanities, along with 6 masters programs. Delaware Valley University was named "Best College in the Northeast" by the Princeton Review (2011–2015).
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