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Micheal Holmes (left) mentors OSU senior Charlotte Craft regarding her planned unit development landscape architecture project. (Photo by Kallie Coakley)

A Shifting Landscape

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Media Contact: Kristin Knight | Communications and Marketing Manager | 405-744-1130 |

When it comes to competition, you need to know how you match up with your opponent. Then, adapt to give yourself an edge.

Until Fall 2022, the landscape architecture program in the Oklahoma State University Ferguson College of Agriculture was a 150-credit-hour degree program that took students five years to complete.

Landscape architecture involves the designing and planning of everything outdoors, including gardens, plazas, streetscapes, parks, resorts, trails, golf courses and neighborhoods, said Michael Holmes, director and a professor in landscape architecture.

To remain a competitive program, the faculty followed the recent trend of realigning curriculum to fit within four years, Holmes said.

Today, the tightened curriculum allows students to finish in four years with 126 credit hours.

“When we decided to begin the process of comprehensively realigning the curriculum, it was not a quick decision and took an incredible amount of time to complete,” Holmes said.

The program’s faculty did not want to minimize students’ education although the shift decreases the amount of time spent in the program, said Bo Zhang, an associate professor in landscape architecture.

“We identified efficiencies and adapted course content to respond to current trends in the profession,” Holmes said.

Landscape architecture faculty members — Holmes and Zhang as well as associate professors Cheryl Mihalko and Qing Luo — worked to prepare for the shift.

“We realized it was necessary to eliminate outdated content and consolidate technical courses to amplify the learning experience,” Mihalko said.

The updated curriculum includes general education courses, three core classes relating to hand-drawn and digital landscape architecture, a series of contractor courses in which students learn to design in a hands-on environment, and an internship.

“We are eager to work with students to help them re-plan their schedules for the upcoming semesters following the shift in curriculum,” Holmes said. “The students have been great to work with. They adapted well to the new curriculum sequence.”

The new curriculum is being transitioned in over several semesters, Holmes said. Since the integration, five students have graduated early from the landscape architecture program because of the curriculum shift, he added.

“When I came into college as a freshman, I had my mind set on the landscape architecture program,” said Adrian Alexander, a landscape architecture senior. “I never thought I would have the ability to graduate earlier than planned and begin the career that I have worked so hard for during my time at OSU.”

Alexander has enjoyed his time as a student in the landscape architecture program, he said.

The professors care about the students and do whatever is necessary to better the program and its students, Alexander added.

OSU’s program has approximately 40 students and is the only accredited undergraduate landscape architecture program in Oklahoma. The program, which is housed in the OSU Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, may get overlooked by many students when they explore potential degree programs, Mihalko said.

“Because we are the only accredited, professional program in Oklahoma, we want all students to be aware of the opportunities and the academics our landscape architechure program offers,” Mihalko said. “The industry is rapidly growing. So, the need for professionals is growing, as well.”

Story By: Kallie Coakley | Cowboy Journal

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