Villalobos, The first Latinx to lead a CoA program, brings an ethos of social and environmental justice and a deep commitment to the community.
The College of Architecture (CoA) at Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) has appointed Associate Professor Maria A. Villalobos Hernandez as the director of its Master of Landscape Architecture and Urbanism (MLA+U) program. Villalobos is the first woman of color and the first Latinx person to be a director of a CoA program, and she will bring a deep-rooted sense of equity and justice to the program.
An exemplar of dedication and vision, Villalobos’s inspiring commitment to her work and the community has driven passion and rigor among students, faculty, and peers. “Maria is a leader whose influence goes beyond the classroom walls,” says CoA Professor and former MLA+U Director Ron Henderson.
Villalobos Hernandez comes from Los Puertos de Altagracia, located near Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela, and her personal and professional experiences have given her a unique perspective. She has seen first-hand how the oil industry impacts local communities, and as a result, she has developed an approach to landscape architecture that prioritizes both environmental and social justice. This philosophy is reflected in her work at Botanical City, and she plans to bring the same values to the MLA+U program.
“The weight of this appointment holds resonance beyond personal achievement, as it is a great responsibility to be the inaugural Latin American Director of a program in the College,” says Villalobos. “Representation matters.”
Villalobos is also the first CoA faculty member to receive the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture Excellence in Design Studio Teaching Award (2022), based in part on her dedication to teaching as a collective pedagogy. Villalobos, who joined the CoA in 2019, was promoted to associate professor in 2023.
In addition to her role as director, Villalobos will continue teaching in the MLA+U program.
Photo: Maria A. Villalobos Hernandez