MLA Alumni Profiles
BLA, MEPD, MLA
Urban Agriculture Director, City of Atlanta, GA
Mario Cambardella is a three time graduate from the University of Georgia’s College of Environment and Design, with a BLA, an MEPD, and an MLA. His young career has already seen him work for a high profile firm, begin his own edible landscape centered design-build firm, and become Atlanta’s first ever Urban Agriculture Director. Additional achievements include being named to the Food Well Alliance Advisory Committee, 2016, as well as the Winner of Trinity Avenue Farm Competition, City of Atlanta, 2015.
Becoming the first Urban Agriculture Director for the City of Atlanta was heavily influenced by my training and the education I received in the College of Environment and Design. Had my design portfolio not set me apart from the other candidates at the interview, there is a good chance I would not have received the position. The portfolio I presented that day, a year and a half ago, showed more than colorful renderings and glossy photos; it illustrated problems solved through a defined process. The images and drawings explained graphically for all to understand the carefully thought-out solutions. It captured the imagination of not merely what is, but what ought to be.
I have used the CED degree to obtain a job upon graduation with a well-respected multi-national landscape corporation and, several years later, to start my own food-producing landscape design and build firm. Now as a landscape architect for the City of Atlanta I am in the service of others, and the part of my job I enjoy the most is when I can become the tool or instrument for those that wish to re-imagine their built environment and create their own point of access to fresh and healthy food.
I am grateful for my time in Athens, the professors who mentored me, and the sense of University spirit that those experiences instilled in me. The College of Environment and Design bestowed an amazing gift, enabling me to find gainful employment, confidence for an entrepreneurial effort, and the opportunity to work in the service of others. Feeling blessed. Go Dawgs!
TSW, Atlanta, GA
When I entered UGA’s MLA program with a background in finance, I knew that I had a lot to learn in three years. During my time at the College of Environment + Design, I was challenged and supported by faculty with a range of interests and areas of expertise. The close relationships that I formed with the faculty and staff at the CED helped shape my research interests, and ultimately helped me narrow in on the type of professional work that I wanted to pursue post-graduation.
A desire to design public spaces helped me find my way to TSW. Our landscape studio works primarily on public projects and mixed-use or multi-family residential projects. Our projects range in type, scale, and context which keeps work interesting, and has exposed me to a breadth of design challenges and opportunities.
Over the course of a day at the office I could be sketching initial design concepts, building a 3-D model, drawing construction details, compiling a cost estimate, coordinating with clients and other disciplines, working on illustrative renderings, or a myriad of other tasks. It is this required combination of both creative and critical thinking and skill that drew me to landscape architecture, and I will always be grateful to UGA’s CED for teaching me the fundamental skills necessary to approach the multiple and varied aspects of this field.
Michael Vergason Landscape Architects, Ltd., Alexandria, VA
In retrospect, the education I received at the CE+D prepared me for a highly competitive job market. The facilities afforded me the right environment to develop as a designer. The faculty was supportive and offered mentorship in my area of interest. I learned about my personal design process while working on variety of project types – garden, city, and regional scale. I was given opportunities to travel and learn through fieldwork. I learned the importance of conceptual design narrative. I learned from my peers and developed lifelong friendships. Many of the students in my graduating class are working throughout the country in studios that fit their exact design interest, which is a testament to the Program.
When I first visited the CE+D for an interview, one of the first questions was “So, do you like to draw?” Three years later, around the time of graduation, I reflected back on that question. For me, drawing is everything fundamental to landscape architecture and the MLA program is one of the few in the country that still celebrates and teaches hand drawing. The college is focused on producing designers that know how to think critically and drawing is an important part of the process.
The program enabled me to develop as a designer and tailored parts of the curriculum to fit my needs. The CE+D pedagogy is progressive and free-form, while maintaining a curriculum that has withstood the test of time. I recall an entire semester in which I annexed a wall to pin-up notes, sketches, and bits of research. No one questioned what I was doing. For me that kind of freedom is essential in an academic environment.
MLA 2014, MEPD 2015
Jacobs Engineering Group, Atlanta, GA
As a graduate of both the MLA and the MEPD programs, I have felt very prepared in terms of the technical skill and thought leadership required to effectively work across scales and project types. The MLA program and the College of Environment + Design provides students with the opportunity to engage the breadth of complex issues facing landscape architecture and planning professions through coursework, academic research and studio design application. The program leverages the experience of a large faculty to provide a setting where you can specialize or remain a generalist. The support from the faculty, the diverse backgrounds of the cohorts, and the opportunities to participate in public outreach projects make the program truly amazing.
Mark Tessier Landscape Architecture, MTLA, Inc., Santa Monica, CA
I came to UGA’s MLA program with an art and design background and quickly discovered I was one of the few. To me this represents one of my favorite things about the profession of Landscape Architecture – it being a balance of many different aspects of life including art, science and theory. The diversity of the CED faculty as well as my fellow peers provided me with a greater knowledge base to pull from. At UGA I met people that both challenged and encouraged me to work my hardest. I graduated from the program confident in my ability to pursue the profession and proud of the work I achieved while in school.
Perkins+Will, Atlanta, GA
My time at the College of Environment and Design exposed me to the innovative and creative world of landscape architecture and urban design. During my two years immersed in the Master of Landscape Architecture program, I was fortunate to serve as a graduate assistant in the Center for Community Design and Preservation (CCDP). While there, I helped organize and execute a series of outreach programs where I developed relationships with stakeholders, community members, fellow students and landscape and design professionals. The CCDP and CED facilitated an educational environment where I was given real-world experience while maintaining the freedom to pursue my own personal research goals and interests. The communication skills, design education, and research knowledge I gained while at the CED prepared me exceptionally well for my professional career. I immediately was offered a job at a large interdisciplinary design firm in Atlanta, Perkins+Will, where I currently work on design, documentation, and creation of a range of landscape and urban design projects throughout the southeast and around the world. As my career progresses, I will always be grateful for my time at UGA and will continue to support the excellent staff and students of the CCDP and CED.
Dundee Golf Design, Omaha, NE
My job is to help build good golf courses. Clients give us a long leash to design and build most anything, but we’ve got to be able to justify those decisions. The CE+D treated my classmates and me the exact same way. We were encouraged to be bold and weird with our work in the MLA program, but held to the standard that every decision must have sound reasoning in function and form. This standard extends beyond the classroom. The program consistently fosters students’ enthusiasm and rewards their initiative. The CE+D places such high value on that fundamental cornerstone of education, it pervades through the entire college. The Tanyard Creek Chew Crew or the Material Reuse Program are evidence of their commitment to student initiated projects. A driven individual with crazy ideas will have an opportunity to reach their full potential at UGA. Most importantly, classmates always come from different backgrounds, have different aesthetics, and offer different perspectives; the CE+D embraces that. They encourage this funky, holistic environment of collaboration, camaraderie, and inventiveness. Living and working in such an environment was the biggest advantage I had upon entering the real world.