Prof. Nassauer received Outstanding Educator Award

Originally published: 
April, 2019

Professor Joan Iverson Nassauer, FASLA, FCELA, was recognized by the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture (CELA) with the organization’s esteemed “Outstanding Educator” award.

In a 40+ year career dedicated to advancing science in design and design in science, Professor Nassauer has earned the respect of students in the four universities where she has served on the faculty and among colleagues in landscape architecture, landscape ecology, and engineering around the world. In her work advocating for research as integral to landscape architecture practice, she has held key leadership roles in several influential organizations.

"Professor Nassauer's career accomplishments epitomize the unique professional capacities and societal potential of the discipline," said Jonathan T. Overpeck, Samuel A. Graham Dean of the School for Environment and Sustainability. "Her research accomplishments clearly lead the field in terms of her scholarship and her international success in bringing the holistic professional perspectives of landscape architecture to science. As a teacher, she is central to the success of the SEAS studio sequence and exemplifies the potential for interdisciplinary teaching across the school."

Since 2014, Nassauer has been Co-Editor-in-Chief of Landscape and Urban Planning. During this time, the journal has become the world’s top-ranked refereed journal in urban studies and planning (Google Scholar) and urban studies (Journal Citation Reports), and number 2 among 124 internationally in nature and landscape conservation (Scopus).

In 2011, Nassauer was a founding member of the NSF National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center in Annapolis, where she served as Director of Social Science Innovation (2011-13).

She was the inaugural Secretary of the National Academy of Environmental Design, 2009-2012. In this role, she advocated for design research to engage with the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, and other federal funders of science.

She was elected inaugural Fellows Chair of CELA (2007-09). In this work, she helped to establish the procedure and goals of the new CELA Council of Fellows.

She was a founding member of the board of the U. S. Section of the International Association for Landscape Ecology (IALE, 1985), and subsequently served as the first landscape architect to be President of IALE (1992), and as International Vice-President (1991-1999). In these capacities, she fundamentally guided the interdisciplinary nature of landscape ecology research.

As a scientist and scholar, Nassauer is the author of more than 80 books and refereed papers, and the recipient of more than $8 million dollars of external grant support for her research. Her work on ecological design and perception of metropolitan and rural landscapes has been widely influential in science and practice. This work includes the most cited paper in the history of Landscape Journal, “Messy ecosystems, orderly frames”, 1997, cited by 714 (Google Scholar), and, with Dutch ecologist Paul Opdam, her development of the “design in science” concept, which advanced the landscape ecology pattern/process concept to include human landscape interventions (“Design in science: Extending the landscape ecology paradigm”, Landscape Ecology, 2008), cited by 347.

Her research has been recognized by the University of Michigan (Distinguished Faculty Achievement Award, 2012), the International Association for Landscape Ecology (Distinguished Scholar, 2007), the Federal Highway Administration (First place: Environmental research, 2003), the University of Minnesota (Roy Jones Award, 1990), and the American Society of Landscape Architects (National merit award for research, 1982, 1982).

As a teacher, Nassauer has constantly innovated to advance ecological design in course and curriculum development. These innovations include a popular interdisciplinary course, "Ecological Approaches to Brownfield Development," which led to her paper with Prof. Meltem Erdem, “Design of Brownfield Landscapes Under Different Contaminant Remediation Policies in Europe and the United States” (2013).

More recently, she worked with aquatic toxicologist, SEAS Professor Allen Burton, to develop “Urban Stormwater: Science, Design, and Management,” a popular interdisciplinary graduate course in which students learn fundamentals of science, governance, and design including green infrastructure – and work together to assess urban sites and design their improvement.

Her teaching has been recognized by the University of Minnesota (Morse Alumni Award for Outstanding Contributions to Undergraduate Education), and by the SEAS Student Government (2008). Since beginning her academic career in 1975, she has participated in educating more than 2000 landscape architects, students at Iowa State university (1985-78), the University of Illinois (1978-82), the University of Minnesota (1982- 1997), and the University of Michigan (1997- present). These include more than 80 research graduate students, current faculty of Arizona State University, ITU Istanbul, Kansas State University, Peking University, Guelph University, and Montana State University, as well as practitioners in leading ecological design practices internationally.

Service in the forms of outreach and community engagement have increasingly characterized Professor Nassauer’s research and teaching. Since her arrival at the University of Michigan in 1997, she has worked with community members in Chicago, IL; and Flint, Saginaw, and Detroit, MI, to address issues of brownfield redevelopment, property vacancy, and stormwater management. This work has been described on PBS’s SciTech Now series (March 2018), and her design experiments in Detroit were recognized by the Architect’s Newspaper as one of “six innovative American projects you should know about" (July 4, 2017) and by the Atlantic CityLab as one of the “10 best ideas of 2016."