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Interview with Michael Jischke, ASLA’s 2019 President-elect

Congratulations to Michael Jischke, who was recently elected as the 2019 president-elect of the Minnesota Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ALSA). This organization encompasses the analysis, planning, design, management, and stewardship of the natural and built environments. Focusing on five key values, the organization is committed to excellence, integrity, diversity, leadership, and stewardship. 

Mirroring ASLA’s values, Michael is also passionate about upholding these same values in his professional career. He initially got involved in landscape architecture based on his love for the outdoors and passion to work towards a more sustainable world. Below, Michael shares what guided his career and his involvement with the ASLA organization, what his role as president-elect will entail, and he gives advice for joining a professional organization to further one’s career and make valuable connections.

How did you get involved in landscape architecture?

I loved being outdoors as a kid – in the woods around my neighborhood or on the golf course. While pursuing my undergraduate degree in architecture, I had a professor who queued me into some work by several prominent landscape architects for research and it opened my eyes to a new possible career path that had a broader focus and strong environmental ethic.

What about your profession makes you passionate about the work you do?

I’m passionate about doing work that addresses many of the critical environmental challenges of our time, including climate change, water quality, diversifying mobility, and placemaking. Taking the long view as a father of three, I want my children to inherit a more sustainable world and want to work actively in shaping that future landscape.

Focusing on station design and corridor aesthetics on many of the primary new transit corridors in the Twin Cities, I’m proud to be part of the region’s evolution from a single LRT line to its growing network of LRT and BRT corridors. It’s rewarding to contribute to our local communities and also have opportunities to share my experiences with new clients in other geographic service areas.

How did you get involved in ASLA-MN?

My prior supervisor and mentor here at SRF, Barry Warner, encouraged participation and networking outside the office. In addition to being president-elect, I previously served one term as the director of programs and one as secretary over the course of my professional career.

What will be your role/responsibilities as President-elect?

As president-elect, I’ll be supporting the current president for a year and learning behind the scenes. This spring, we will be joining other presidents from other state chapters in Washington, D.C. to meet with members of Congress to advocate for ASLA’s key issues: Green Infrastructure, Sustainable Sites, Climate Change Resilience, Transportation for All, Water and Stormwater, and Parks and Recreation. Throughout the year, I’ll focus on outreach to ASLA-MN membership and sponsors, as well as making connections with the leadership of other allied professional organizations.

What would you say to someone who wants to get involved in ASLA (or any professional organization)?

Participating in ASLA-MN, and most other professional organizations I assume, requires a time commitment outside the office, but it’s been invaluable in making connections with other professionals, both inside and outside landscape architecture. The experience contrasts the oft-times competitive consulting world with programming and advocacy that benefits the profession as a whole. The best way to start is to find an event or project where help is needed and pitch in.