Honoring a 25-year career advancing the art and science of ecological design and planning as a nationally known scholar, educator, academic practitioner and administrator, Forster Ndubisi, head of Texas A&M’s Department of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning, has been elevated to fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects.
“Ndubisi has forged a full and dedicated career that includes an unselfish excitement, each day, for the opportunity to impart the knowledge necessary in shaping the next generation of successful landscape architects,” said Margaret Robinson, president of the Texas ASLA chapter, in a nomination letter.
He stands for excellence in combining administrative accomplishments with an impressive level of scholarship productivity, said Jorge Vanegas, dean of Texas A&M’s College of Architecture.
“Under his leadership, the department has benefited from a renaissance of collegiality, respect and trust in pursuit of learning and teaching, research, creative work and engagement excellence,” said Vanegas.
During his tenure as LAUP head, which began in 2004, its’ graduate and undergraduate landscape architecture programs have consistently been ranked among the top programs in the U.S. in annual rankings published by the Design Futures Council.
In the most recent rankings, announced in December 2011, the Bachelor of Landscape Architecture degree program tied with two other universities as third-best in the nation, while the Master of Landscape Architecture program tied in eighth place, fifth among public universities.
Among his numerous honors include the Outstanding Administrator Award from the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture in 2011.
Ndubisi is an example of excellence for administrators everywhere, said the CELA awards committee, through his curricular planning and implementation, faculty and student recruitment, research, development and outreach/engagement activities.
“He is an outstanding, effective and efficient administrator who never forgets the human dimension and personal care in what he does and how he does it,” said the committee.
Ndubisi was also honored by the Design Futures Council in 2009 and 2010 as one of the 25 Most Admired Educators in America’s Architecture and Design Schools for excellence in design leadership.
In addition to his administrative achievements, he has also been lauded for his academic contributions to landscape architecture.
“He has significantly advanced ecological design and planning through his scholarship,” said Fritz Stiener, dean of the School of Architecture at the University of Texas at Austin. “His work helps to situate landscape architecture as the leading discipline in advancing how we can better plan and design with nature; his publications helped develop ideas about sustainability and landscape urbanism.”
Ndubisi’s 2002 book, “Ecological Planning: A Historical and Comparative Account,” examines ecological thinking during the past 150 years, a paradigm shift in planning that occurred due to growing global ecological awareness, a comparative synthesis of alternative approaches to ecological planning that reveals theoretical and methodological assumptions when planners choose one approach over the other, and guidance as to which approach is best suited for which type of project.
“No other book sets the ideas of landscape planning into a set of developing concepts within a historical context,” said Sally Schauman, professor emeritus of landscape architecture at the University of Washington. “There are few books on landscape planning in general and none to my knowledge that attempt both a complete overview and a comparative analysis. Ndubisi's approach is sound in every way.”
His contributions to the development and assessment of approaches to ecological planning have been published in prominent, peer-reviewed publications including Landscape and Urban Planning, Landscape Journal, and Landscape Architecture.
“Like many engaged in advancing ecological planning, Forster Ndubisi is both a theorist and practitioner,” said Robinson in her nomination letter. “He is what you might term an ‘academic practitioner’, who selects ‘real world’ planning projects for his classes, providing the best experiences for advancement of the field.”
He is relentless, she added, in his seamless weaving of scholarship, teaching, outreach, engagement, and leadership.
Ndubisi earned a Ph.D. in Regional Planning and Resource Development at the University of Waterloo in 1987, a Master of Landscape Architecture at the University of Guelph in 1982 and a Bachelor of Science in Zoology degree from the University of Ibadan in 1977.
Prior to his 2004 arrival at Texas A&M, Ndubisi served seven years as professor and director of the Interdisciplinary Design Institute at Washington State University – Spokane. From 1987-1997 he was a faculty member in the School of Environmental Design at the University of Georgia.
A native of Nigeria, Ndubisi is the son of schoolteachers who instilled in him a zeal for learning that paid off when he finished high school at age 16. His father, who earned a doctorate in education from Columbia University, also served as chairman of the education commission for the state of Anambra, in Nigeria.
Though his high school graduation exam indicated he was best suited for a career in religion, the built and natural environment captured Ndubisi’s imagination.
“I had several opportunities to travel abroad, and during those trips it occurred to me that there was a substantial difference in the quality of the built environment between Nigeria and England,” he recalled. “In Lagos, there was environmental degradation, disorganization and inadequate infrastructure and land use policies — basically, the carrying capacity of the environment was exceeded.”
Though his parents wanted him to pursue a degree in medicine, he began his college studies in engineering. He conceded to his parents’ wishes, applied for and was accepted into medical school after his first semester, only to discover that he simply wasn’t suited for the medical profession.
“Theoretically, I could do it,” he said, “but when I went to the hospital, I felt sad.”
To retain his credits in the biological sciences at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria, he switched his undergraduate major to zoology and added a minor in ecology. It wasn’t until his senior year, while perusing a Guelph University course catalogue, that he discovered landscape architecture. He made copies of the pages and “every now and then” he’d take them out and read them again.
“It mentioned the ability to creatively weave knowledge from the arts and sciences in addressing design and planning issues, and an intense desire to enhance the quality of people’s lives in the built and natural environments,” Ndubisi recalled. “The field seemed to cement all of the things that I wanted to do.”