The Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF) recently announced the two winners (Lys Divine Ndemeye and David Hooper) and six finalists for its 2020 Olmsted Scholars Program, the premier leadership recognition program for landscape architecture students.
Lys Divine Ndemeye, a master’s student at the University of British Columbia, was selected as the graduate 2020 National Olmsted Scholar and recipient of the $25,000 prize. Multi-lingual and a leader and active volunteer in various social change organizations, Divine sees the landscape as a key cultural marker and maker that can play a powerful role in spatial decolonization and empowering marginalized communities towards cultural affirmation and identity. For her graduate project, she investigated communal and ecological landscapes of Bujumbura, the biggest city and primary port in the conflict-torn country of Burundi where she was born. Divine plans to continue daylighting African cultural landscapes to expand landscape architecture beyond the hegemonic Eurocentric way of operating and to promote the field to Indigenous and African-descent youths. In other areas of the arts, Afrofuturism has served as a powerful bridge between an abducted and erased African past and a promising future, and Divine would like to explore ways to use it as a working methodology in landscape architecture practice and discourse.
David Hooper, an undergraduate at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, is the undergraduate 2020 National Olmsted Scholar and recipient of the $15,000 prize. With a 10-year career as a photojournalist in the U.S. Navy, David has seen the power of artistic expression and design to transcend boundaries, boost morale, and bring people together. He is fascinated by the capacity of landscape architecture to enhance human connectivity, both to one another and the natural. He hopes to use the award to explore ecological gardening as practical therapy for veterans who have experienced trauma. He would like to design a curriculum and program uniquely focused on healing the earth as well as providing lifelong tools to deal with the effects of trauma.
Also honored are six National Olmsted Scholar Finalists. The graduate finalists each receive a $5,000 award, and the undergraduates each receive a $3,000 award.
2020 National Olmsted Scholar Finalists
Top row: Graduate finalists; Bottom row: Undergraduate finalists
Two independent juries selected the winners and finalists from a group of 48 graduate and 37 undergraduate students nominated by their faculty for their exceptional leadership potential. These top students earned the designation of 2020 LAF Olmsted Scholar and join the community of 805 LAF Olmsted Scholars named since the program’s inception in 2008.