Since 1975, Colorado State University’s landscape architecture program has been preparing students to understand the relationship between nature, culture, form and space to improve the natural and built environment through design and sustainability. Now, one of the programs’ founding faculty, Professor Emeritus Merlyn James Paulson, has endowed an annual lecture series which will feature alumni to share their expertise in landscape architecture and environmental planning.
The inaugural speaker will be Jessica Canfield, a 2004 graduate of CSU’s landscape architecture program and one of Paulson’s former students.
“Because of Merlyn’s encouragement and support, today I am a professor in landscape architecture,” said Canfield, who is an associate professor in the Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional & Community Planning at Kansas State University.
A legacy of excellence
A driving factor behind Paulson’s donation was his desire to ensure there is a continued source of great landscape architects entering the profession. He’s passionate about the positive impact landscape architects can have with an understanding of natural and cultural systems of the environment.
“Our alums from this program have such a wide reach in the profession and they have a close connection with the people who are here at CSU. They can inform the audience based on the possibilities that they see,” said Paulson.
The annual lecture will take place in early fall, giving first-year students exposure to the profession in their first few weeks on campus, and it aims to encourage college-bound high school seniors to come to CSU for their education.
“Hearing from fellow Rams who are now out working and succeeding in their field of study will inspire our students,” said Mengmeng Gu, head of the Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, where the program is housed. “These incoming students may not have had the opportunity to interact with Merlyn personally, however, the Merlyn J. Paulson Lectures will leave a long-lasting legacy.”
Creating a legacy was important to Paulson’s family too. Now Paulson’s daughters, grandkids and family yet to come will see his lasting impact through the excellence of the alumni lecturers each year.
History of landscape architecture at CSU
The program, which started as the Concentration in Landscape Planning, spent its early years housed in what is now the Warner College of Natural Resources and has both humble and colorful beginnings, according to Paulson. He recalls a time early on when students helped haul 75 drawing desks from Boulder to Fort Collins using a CSU motorpool truck. When the program moved into the old Glover Veterinary Hospital building in 1978, the surgery room, meat locker, classrooms and storage rooms became studios.
For over 40 years, Paulson mentored students in drawing, painting, digital methods, garden design, geographic information systems, and environmental planning. His research explored design planning and analysis for landscapes of all scales and decision making in diverse, high-value ecosystems throughout the U.S.
Motivated by the need for graduates to become skills-based professionals, Paulson continuously evolved his teaching methods, helping to shape the Landscape Architecture program.
In 1992, the program, by then a baccalaureate major, moved to be housed in the College of Agricultural Sciences. Now a part of the Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, the major graduates on average 30 students each year and is home to five faculty.
“I hope this lecture series helps connect our alumni back to our current students and faculty,” said Paulson, “And helps show aspiring landscape architects how they can make a difference in the world.”
Merlyn Paulson conducted 111 pro bono service projects in Colorado and held consultancies with 19 firms and agencies, internationally, contributing to hundreds of projects ranging from garden design and recreation area design and planning to flood recovery, ecological restoration, renewable energy storage, solar, and offshore-onshore wind. He received the first CSU Alumni Association Honor Faculty Award in the Warner College of Natural Resources and was named among 75 influential alumni/ae on the 100th Anniversary of the Department of Landscape Architecture, Harvard University Graduate School of Design.