06-25-20 | Education

Virginia Tech Faculty Spotlight

C.L. Bohannon

C.L. Bohannon sees community outreach as a critical step in including citizens in the design process as primary users of the landscape. That belief forms a foundation for his teaching and research in the landscape architecture program.

Adapted from an article in the Virginia Tech Daily written by Colie Touzel.

What makes design successful? Conversation, collaboration, and community engagement. That belief and practice highlights C.L. Bohannon's research and teaching as an associate professor in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies'A landscape architecture programA and also as director of the Community Engagement Lab.

Bohannon encourages students to inspire innovation for the good of everyone and to embrace the unknown to manufacture change in society. Now, in the midst of COVID-19, students need this motivation more than ever.

While the onset of COVID-19 might present new opportunities for aspiring designers to consider equitable design within new contexts, the pandemic has certainly presented challenges for faculty and students. Due to Virginia Tech's pivot to online learning in the middle of the spring 2020 semester, Bohannon had to make alterations to his fourth-year landscape architecture studio.

At the beginning of the semester, the Hokies in his class had partnered withA Virginia Beach Parks and RecreationA to develop a splash pad park forA Mount Trashmore, a play on the name Mount Rushmore due to the park's conversion from a landfill. Rather than cancel the scheduled presentation to civic leaders, students instead displayed their work through the Zoom video conferencing platform.

The resulting presentation blended innovative methods for community engagement with technology while students maintained their plans to meet their community partner's needs, all while completing the goals and objectives of the studio.

That creative leadership tends to leave a lasting impression with Bohannon's students. Program alumna Airiel Barrientos '19, a landscape designer atA MSA, P.CA in Virginia Beach, still relies on Bohannon's mentorship.

"He helped me realize not only how incredible landscape architecture is and how much I can do with it, but also that I can empower others to do the same," said Barrientos. "I can inspire other women and minorities. He sees your power and helps you be a better leader, person, designer, and educator."

As a faculty principal in theA Leadership and Social Change Residential CollegeA (LSCRC) for the past two years, Bohannon is a strong advocate for representation and dialogue.A This unique college is a part of the university'sA Living-Learning programs, where students live in a residential college and learn through interdisciplinary connections with other students and a live-in faculty member.

The focus of the LSCRC is to lead in a complex global environment with enriched backgrounds of diversity and inclusivity. Residents in the LSCRC are applying community engagement practices in their workforce development projects in and around the New River Valley.

Although COVID-19 has halted physical research for residents in the LSCRC, they're still collecting data and developing online resources. In the fall, incoming LSCRC residents will have a legacy project to pick up and carry forward.

"We're teaching our residents to get out into the community with a focus on impact, fitting in with the spirit of Ut Prosim," said Bohannon, referring to Virginia Tech's motto which means "That I May Serve."

Bohannon marvels at the potential of the LSCRC and is excited to continue collaborating with Hokies.

"The fact that we have such strong student leaders in the LSCRC from the College of Architecture and Urban Studies and from theA School of Architecture + DesignA is amazing," said Bohannon. "We teach design education in the college that our students are able to utilize in a unique way, and then they influence other students' design thinking and critical thinking."

While circumstances change, and pandemics hopefully fade, Bohannon noted that there will always be a need for designers who are willing to serve as leaders in their communities. "And our students are doing that," he said. "They're making moves in society for the good of people."

For more on Virginia Tech's Leadership and Social Change Residential College and Living-Learning programs:


Sign up for
LAWeekly newsletter. Get exclusive content today.