PA-DE Student Members Take DC: 2019 National ASLA Advocacy Day

Rachel Meier, (Philadelphia University + Thomas Jefferson University), B.L.A. Landscape Architecture ’19, ASLA Student Chapter at Jefferson, President

Victoria A. Hochuli, (Philadelphia University + Thomas Jefferson University), B.L.A Landscape Architecture ’19, ASLA Student Chapter at Jefferson, Vice President

(Victoria Hochuli and Rachel Meier)

A few weeks ago, landscape architects from around the country converged on Capitol Hill to advocate for legislation pertaining to the resurgence of the nation’s failing infrastructure. As soon-to-be graduates of the Landscape Architecture program at Thomas Jefferson University, we were very lucky to be a part of the Advocacy Day events on behalf of the Pennsylvania-Delaware Chapter.

Our names are Rachel Meier (right) and Victoria Hochuli (left), and we were two of the 16 students accepted to attend this year’s event. After spending the majority of the last four years learning about the importance of being an active defender of vulnerable populations, environments, and rights, we were excited to test out those concepts in Washington, DC. We joined PA-DE Advocacy Day veterans Richard Rauso, RLA, ASLA (PA-DE Chapter President) and Adam Supplee, RLA, AICP, LEED AP, ASLA (PA-DE Chapter Trustee) to discuss safe and efficient multimodal transportation, clean water systems and management, and the protection of parks and open space.

This was both of our first experiences participating in an ASLA event of this nature. While it was a bit intimidating at first to sit down with a legislative representative as students, we were excited to share our perspective on these important issues. Our day started by meeting with a representative of Congressman Dwight Evans on our own. It was an interesting experience to not only advocate for the relevant legislation, but to also educate lawmakers on the field of landscape architecture and its role in that legislation. It was a very valuable learning opportunity for both us and the representative to discuss the profession, its impact on the nation’s infrastructure, and the congressional response to those conversations.

For the following two congressional meetings, we joined Richard and Adam to meet with representatives of Pennsylvania Senators Bob Casey and Pat Toomey. This was a very humbling experience to listen to the way Richard and Adam seamlessly discussed existing landscape architecture projects that supported the legislation we were advocating for. All of the offices we spoke to understood the importance of protecting our parks and open space, as well as safe, pedestrian-focused corridors and clean, universally accessible water. While we did have some intriguing conversations about the logistics of how these bills could become laws, it was refreshing to be heard, understood, and appreciated in that process.

(Longworth House Office Building. Photo credit: Rachel Meier and Victoria Hochuli)

As landscape architecture students and ASLA members, we had no idea of the impact this event would have on us in just one day. Just a week before our graduation ceremony, Advocacy Day was poignantly enahanced the passion we have both developed for being strong activists for the field we are emerging into. We were able to learn from brief conversations with professionals from multiple states, as well as defend issues in Pennsylvania we have come to know very well through our studies.

As ASLA members, we very much appreciated the opportunity to be welcomed at such an important event for the organization. Our young voices were not only heard but encouraged as equal in this fight for a more resilient tomorrow. Not only are we thankful to have had this experience, but we are excited to be back at Advocacy Day in the future. However, we will certainly not be waiting until next year to stand strong in support of the field of landscape architecture and its positive role in changing the face of our nation’s infrastructure. We are suited better now as emerging professionals to educate, lead, and make a difference!

Thank you to the PA-DE chapter for letting us be a part of this day and for driving our futures as advocates and ASLA members!

Victoria and Rachel