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Raising Diversity in the
Landscape Architecture Profession

Celebrating Seven Leaders of Landscape Architecture
during African American History Month


Kona Gray, ASLA, is an EDSA principal.

The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) is celebrating African American History Month (February) by putting a spotlight on the African American landscape architects who are designing outdoor spaces and related green infrastructure--including parks, plazas, campuses, playgrounds, streetscapes and residential properties.

Chad Danos, FASLA, president of ASLA, says the society is fully committed to raising the diversity profile of the landscape architecture profession through general public awareness, early exposure to the profession and mentorship. According to ASLA's 2015 graduating student survey (, just one percent of survey respondents identified themselves as African American. Note: The U.S. Census reports 13.2% of the U.S. population (318,857,056) is African American.

"We need to foster more landscape architects who reflect their communities and understand their needs," said Danos. "ASLA's goal is to help K-12 students and their parents learn what landscape architects do and show them that landscape architecture is a great career choice."

To help develop and increase diversity in the landscape architecture profession, ASLA began a multi-year commitment in July 2013 to sponsor a series of annual multicultural focus summits with landscape architects representing a variety of practice types. The African American landscape architects who participated in the July 2015 summit included:

Kona Gray, ASLA (EDSA principal). Kona Gray has experience in many aspects of planning and landscape architecture, ranging from large scale planning to detailed site design with emphasis on community planning, urban design, hospitality and campus-related projects. Gray will serve as chair of the 2016 ASLA Professional Awards. He previously served as chair of the 2015 ASLA Student Awards. He received a bachelor's degree in landscape architecture from the University of Georgia.


Courtney Hinson Cason, ASLA, is a planner with the Langvardt Design Group.

Courtney Hinson Cason, ASLA (planner, Langvardt Design Group). Courtney Hinson Cason has more than eight years of experience in the land development industry. Her previous experience includes working as a planner and landscape architect for other civil engineering, surveying and land-planning firms. She received her MLA from North Carolina State University in 2007.


Angelica Rockquemore, ASLA, is a planner and landscape designer with HHF Planners.

Angelica Rockquemore, ASLA (planner and landscape designer, HHF Planners). Angelica Rockquemore's training and skill in ethnographic research and writing have contributed toward historic preservation projects for the state of Hawaii and in Auckland, New Zealand. She draws from her life experiences in Hawaii, education in cultural anthropology and training in landscape architecture to creatively inform her design work on culturally based projects. She received an MLA from the University of Washington, and a bachelor's degree in cultural anthropology, international studies and Japanese from Pacific University Oregon.


Aaron Ruffin, ASLA, is a senior urban planner with Jacobs.

Aaron Ruffin, ASLA (senior urban planner, Jacobs). Aaron Ruffin has a background in land planning, design and landscape architecture. He has demonstrated the ability to incorporate planning concepts into real-life applications that can be readily applied by local jurisdictions. He received a bachelor's degree in landscape architecture and a master's degree in public policy and administration from Mississippi State University.


Christopher Sanders, Associate ASLA, is a designer with SWT Design.

Christopher Sanders, Associate ASLA (designer, SWT Design). Christopher Sanders' career focus is environmental stewardship and innovation. He previously was a conservation specialist with the Big Bend Groundwater Management District in Stafford, Kansas. He earned his MLA from Kansas State University in 2012.


Lindsey Smith, ASLA, is a designer, landscape management supervisor with Favrot & Shane Companies AIA.

Lindsey Smith, ASLA (designer, landscape management supervisor, Favrot & Shane Companies AIA). Lindsey Smith's career has emphasized design, multifamily development, community engagement, project management and communications skills. He earned his bachelor's degree in landscape architecture from Mississippi State University in 2004, and is currently studying for a master's degree in urban and regional planning at the University of New Orleans.


Mercedes Ward, ASLA, is an assistant landscape architect with the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation.

Mercedes Ward, ASLA (assistant landscape architect, NYC Department of Parks and Recreation). Mercedes Ward's focus is updating and redesigning neighborhood parks and playgrounds in Brooklyn, as well as contract and construction management for these sites. Ward had previously worked on residential, environmental and economic sustainability initiatives for New York City. She received a bachelor's degree in landscape architecture from Penn State University.

The ASLA has made available resources for parents and educators regarding careers in landscape architecture, including "personal paths" video interviews with minority landscape architects, and an education hub for teachers with classroom activities, animations and case studies.

The American Society of Landscape Architects reports a membership of 15,000, with 49 state chapters and 72 student chapters.

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October 21, 2019, 1:35 pm PDT

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