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K-State Today

September 15, 2021

Landscape architecture student earns two Landscape Architecture Foundation scholarships

Submitted by Thom Jackson

Ayana Belk

Ayana Belk, a fifth-year student in landscape architecture and regional & community planning in the College of Architecture, Planning & Design, was recognized with two scholarships from the Landscape Architecture Foundation, or LAF. Belk won the LAF Honor Scholarship for Inclusive Community Design and the first runner-up for the Daniel Zwier/Permaloc Innovation Scholarship.

A Kansas City, Missouri, native, Belk would like to work in the community where she grew up and intends to start a nonprofit organization that will provide space for youth to discover landscape architecture while improving the Troost Corridor, a dividing line of segregation and disinvestment in Kansas City, through participatory design. Her graduate research is focused on exploring the barriers Black landscape architecture students face, with the aim of offering universities and the profession recommendations for improving the Black experience and increasing the number of Black landscape architects.

"I want to use my Master of Landscape Architecture degree and my minor in community planning for the benefit of an underserved neighborhood close to my heart," Belk said. "I was drawn to landscape architecture because my neighborhood sits on the east side of Troost Avenue, which is the racial and economic dividing line in Kansas City, Missouri. The moment I realized the disparities between my neighborhood and neighborhoods west of Troost was intentional, I knew I wanted to do something about it. The neighborhoods west of Troost are safe, aesthetically pleasing, and have a higher level of education and income per household than the neighborhoods east of Troost. My neighborhood has very few trees, many vacant lots, and no parks."

"The design professions have struggled to build a population reflective of our nation's demographics," noted Stephanie Rolley, head of the landscape architecture and regional & community planning department. "As a profession that shapes the public realm and creates neighborhoods and communities, landscape architecture needs the voices, perspectives, and contributions of Black, Indigenous, People of Color. Ayana will play an important role in attracting BIPOC youth to the profession and empowering them to improve underserved neighborhoods. The LAF Scholarships provide well-deserved national recognition of her leadership and passion."

The LAF Honor Scholarship of $10,000 was awarded in support of Belk's vision for starting a nonprofit organization in Kansas City to provide a space for youth to discover landscape architecture and improve the Troost Corridor through participatory design. She hopes to increase minority representation in landscape architecture.

The Landscape Architecture Foundation Honor Scholarship was established in 2018 by Patrick Phillips, a visionary and leader in the responsible use, design and transformation of land to support thriving and inclusive communities worldwide. Originally trained as a landscape architect, Phillips served as the Global CEO of the Urban Land Institute from 2009 to 2018 and as president of its foundation. Phillips' career spans more than 30 years in the economic analysis of real estate and land use. He believes that landscape architects can play an important and distinctive role in the creation of cities and neighborhoods that are safe, healthful, economically productive and beautiful.

The Urban Studio and Daniel Zwier/Permaloc Innovation Scholarship awarded Belk a $2,000 scholarship as first runner-up. The scholarship helps students who would like to take the skills and knowledge obtained through a degree in landscape architecture and apply them to careers in areas such as product development, entrepreneurship, politics, nonprofit service and any other possibility an applicant can imagine. Daniel Zwier, CEO and founder of Permaloc Corporation, started down a nontraditional career path when in 1983 he recognized a need in the industry and designed and patented his first landscape edging product. Zwier started this scholarship to help the next generation of landscape architecture advocates, designers, makers, and thinkers succeed in whatever they choose to do.

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