Alumna helps students discover a career in landscape architecture

“What is landscape architecture?” That’s the first question Nicole Plunkett (BLAE 10), asks students she meets through her non-profit organization, Future Landscape Architects of America or FLAA.

The organization’s main goal is to educate K-12 students about a career in landscape architecture. FLAA has a volunteer committee of 18 landscape architects located throughout Florida.

“The inspiration behind FLAA comes from the idea that a K-12 student can potentially discover a future career path that was previously unknown to them,” says Plunkett, a landscape architect in Jupiter. “The need for graduating and emerging landscape architecture students is strong and the cycle all starts with educating young students.”

In fact, the need is so strong that the University of Florida’s program – which offers the only bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture in the state – typically has 100 percent job placement, says Tina Gurucharri, FLAA committee member and chair of the UF Department of Landscape Architecture in the College of Design, Construction and Planning.

Plunkett’s organization engages students both inside and outside the classroom. Inside, FLAA focuses on teaching students what a landscape architect does.

“We are able to engage the students with activities inside of the classroom, which range from analyzing and brainstorming with pencils and paper to building physical models,” Plunkett says.

Outside the classroom, FLAA immerses students in the landscape architecture environment. Earlier this summer, an FLAA committee member and students from Cape Coral High School planted 70 trees on the school’s campus.

“With FLAA, Nicole has developed an innovative and effective approach to introducing the uniqueness of the landscape architecture profession to a broad range of school-age children,” Gurucharri says.

This past year, more than 300 students learned about landscape architecture through FLAA, which Plunkett says was only accomplished with support from teachers, parents, students and professionals.

Recently, Plunkett received the Landscape Architecture Foundation Fellowship for Innovation and Leadership, which will provide mentorship to replicate the program in other states.