Career Description: Patrick Miller, Ph.D., FASLA, FCELA
Summary: Patrick is a Past-president of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), a Fellow of ASLA and a Fellow of the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture. He has worked in public, private, and academic practice in both the United States and Canada, and has held faculty appointments at four major universities, including the University of Washington, the University of Michigan and the University of British Columbia. For the past 30 years Patrick has taught at both the graduate and undergraduate level in the Landscape Architecture Program at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University where he was head of the department for 13 years. He is currently Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and Outreach (for the past 10 years) in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies. Patrick’s teaching and research have emphasized how landscape architects can contribute to human well-being through better design and planning, particularly those who are under privileged and underrepresented. Patrick has a B.Sc. in landscape architecture from California State Polytechnic University, an M.L.A. from the University of California at Berkeley and a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. Patrick has lectured nationally and internationally on landscape architecture topics and professional education, most recently in China, Australia, Malaysia, and the Middle East. Through his writing, teaching, and practice Patrick has been a tireless advocate of creating landscapes that are good for people, the environment and the economy.
Career Description: Landscape architecture was not Patrick’s first choice when he started college at Cal Poly Pomona. Like many young people of that era, he felt the excitement of Sputnik and the challenge of the space race. He started college as an aerospace engineering student. While this is a great career choice for many, Patrick found it lacking. He liked to make and build things and had a love for the out of doors. He was fortunate to have 2 friends who were majoring in landscape architecture. He found it to be exactly what he needed, a blend of natural science, social science, engineering and art. One of Patrick’s professors, John Lyle, encouraged Patrick’s interest in helping those who were less fortunate. Patrick’s senior project dealt with the redevelopment of a Chicano Barrio called Hicks Camp, a former migrant farm workers camp that was settled permanently by low income people. It did not have paved streets or other amenities. Patrick worked with the Neighborhood Adult Participation Project and his plan was instrumental in obtaining a grant from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development to redevelop the site into 36 new homes and a park for the residents of Hicks Camp. His work was recognized by an award from Los Angeles County.
After graduating from Cal Poly Patrick worked at a multi-disciplinary office, Wilsey and Ham. This experience left him a bit disenchanted. It seemed that many of the better projects for people were often constrained by limited funding. So, when he went to graduate school at the University of California at Berkeley he took as many courses as he could on economics and project finance. The title of his MLA thesis was, “Causal Factors of Inequity in the Distribution of Recreation Benefits,” and again dealt with his concern for those who have less. Patrick taught his first class, plant materials, as a graduate teaching assistant at UC Berkeley.
To this point Patrick’s career path was focused on private practice and public service. However, after graduating an opportunity arose for him to teach at the University of Washington. The landscape architecture program had a temporary teaching position to fill-in for a faculty members who were on leave. The position was extended for another year. It turned out to be quite a learning experience as he taught 11 different courses (quarter system) in 2 years. He particularly enjoyed involving his student in the construction of self-help school playgrounds, working in conjunction with the Seattle Junior League. During this period Patrick also worked part-time for the US Army Corps of Engineers – some of the projects he worked on included a greenway for Wenatchee, Washington and a Master Plan for the lands surrounding Mud Mountain Dam. By law Corps of Engineer projects must have a benefit/cost ratio greater than 1. Patrick began to change his view on economics and project finance. While these aspect of projects were still important, he began to see that many of the benefits of well-designed projects that were important to people and the environment were often intangible (scenic quality, nature, cultural values and etc.) and difficult to quantify using traditional economic analysis.
After two years of teaching Patrick found that he enjoyed teaching and working with students. He was able to obtain a permanent position at the University of Michigan. Patrick had a joint appointment in the Landscape Architecture Department and the Urban Planning Department. Patrick was on a 9 month appointment and worked as a landscape architect for the Bureau of Land Management in New Mexico during the summers. Patrick also served as the secretary of the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture (CELA) during this time. While at Michigan, Patrick became aware of the work of Rachel and Stephen Kaplan, two environmental psychologists who were also on the faculty at the University of Michigan. Their research was able to show the value of nature to human well-being. Patrick could see that he needed to know more and began working on a Ph.D. under the supervision of Rachel Kaplan. This was another transformative period in his life, not only in terms of learning about human perception and research methods, but also what it meant to be a scholar and the responsibility that one has toward the work and those who will be affected by it.
After 5 years at the University of Michigan another opportunity arose, which was to help start a new landscape architecture program at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Vancouver, BC, Canada. While he had not yet completed his Ph.D., Patrick decided to take the position. He again had a joint appointment. This time in the Landscape Architecture Program in the Department of Plant Science Department and in the Forest Resources Management Department. This was a challenging time, starting a new LA program and completing his dissertation. But again, it was a tremendous learning experience, working in a different country and with new colleagues. Patrick’s approach to design was particularly influenced by Prof. Douglas Paterson, chair of the program at UBC. It was at this time during the International Year of the Disabled that Patrick obtained a grant to work on a traveling exhibit, depicting accessibility issues of disabled people in the landscape. As part of this project Patrick and his students accompanied and observed disabled children and adults when they went to various recreation sites in the Vancouver area, a very moving experience to see the joy that being outdoors could bring to people who are not able to easily access these sites. Also, during this period Patrick helped organize the conference for the XIXth IFLA World Congress of the International Federation of Landscape Architects in Vancouver and worked with a colleague to edit and publish the proceedings. Patrick completed his dissertation and obtained his Ph.D. degree. His dissertation was titled, “Visual Preference and Implications for Coastal Management: A Perceptual Study of the British Columbia Shoreline.” Patrick received tenure in both the plant science and forestry departments at UBC.
A short time later an opportunity arose to be head the Landscape Architecture Department at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech). Patrick accepted this position and was department head for a 13 year period. Patrick worked with his faculty and guided the department through significant growth in both enrollment and facilities, from 4 full-time faculty to 9, from 34 students to 140 and establishing the program at 2 campuses, in Blacksburg and in Northern Virginia. Patrick guided the graduate and undergraduate programs through 6 accreditation visits, including initial accreditation for the graduate program. During this period Patrick wrote a grant proposal to the US Department of Education that provide 2 years of funding for and worked with his faculty to establish the Community Design Assistance Center (CDAC), now in its 28th year. CDAC provides design services to many small communities throughout Appalachia. Students working at CDAC are paid, providing valuable economic support and experience for students in this rural area of Virginia. Many of the communities served by CDAC do not have the financial resources to move community projects forward without CDAC assistance. CDAC projects have been leveraged to provide funding to support professional design services and implementation of many community projects. While serving as head, Patrick was also active in his professional society, serving as president and trustee of the Virginia Chapter of the ASLA. Patrick was made a Fellow of the ASLA in 1997.
After 13 years as head Patrick stepped down and turned his attention to the profession at a national and international level. He served as ASLA vice president for education and as ASLA president elect, president and past-president. As president Patrick worked on bringing the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment to the attention of American landscape architects. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment documents the important role that the ecosystem plays in providing basic services (clean water, air and food) to people around the world and the potential for losing these services. Patrick also served as the American delegate (ASLA delegate) to the International Federation of Landscape Architects. Patrick has served on several visiting team, accreditation reviews for Landscape Architecture Accreditation Board and has been invited to be an external reviewer of landscape architecture programs at several international universities. Patrick was appointed as the Honorary Head of the Landscape Architecture Department at Tongji University in Shanghai China. Patrick has lectured nationally and internationally on landscape architecture topics and professional education, in China, Australia, Korea, Malaysia, and the Middle East. Patrick was made a Fellow of CELA in 2007.
Patrick teaches at both the graduate and undergraduate level. He has supervised countless senior projects and has supervised many Master’s students at several universities. Graduate studies and graduate students have always been an important part of Patrick’s teaching. Patrick has served as Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and Outreach in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies for the past 10 years. Patrick has mentored 24 Ph.D. students while at Virginia Tech and was the major professor for 17 of them, many of whom are now teaching in universities around the world. He has served as an external reviewer for masters and Ph.D. students in Australia, China, South Africa and the United Arab Emirates.
Patrick’s research interests lie in the area of human attitudes and perceptions toward the environment and how the profession of landscape architecture contributes to human well-being through better design and planning. His research examines the ways in which humans can use the landscape to support their needs without harming without critical social, cultural and environmental systems. His design work looks for deeper understanding and experience of the world we live in.
For 42 years Patrick has worked, through his teaching, research and service, to create more supportive places for humans and to advance the profession of landscape architecture. It has been an interesting, challenging and rewarding career.
The University of Michigan
Ph.D. in Urban, Environmental and Technological Planning
Ann Arbor, Michigan · – 1984
Visual Preference and Implications for Coastal Management: A Perceptual Study of the British Columbia Shoreline
Advisor: Dr. Rachel Kaplan
University of California at Berkeley
Master of Landscape Architecture (Environmental Planning track)
Berkeley, California · – 1973
Causal Factors of Inequity in the
Distribution of Recreation Benefits
Adviser: Dr. Robert Twiss
University of Southern California
Graduate Courses in Urban and Regional Planning
California State Polytechnic University
Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture
Pomona, California · – 1970
Hicks Camp Community Redevelopment
Adviser: Prof. John Lyle