Phillip Zawarus is an Associate Professor, Undergraduate Landscape Architecture Program Coordinator, and Associate Director at UNLV’s School of Architecture. His advanced computational modeling and dynamic visualizations have aided in a divergent design approach for landscape performance, supported with multiple publications, grant funded research, and award-winning projects. He uses this process to evaluate arid ecosystem services for responsive design strategies addressing climate change, social equity, and environmental stewardship. His integration of research, design, and visual communication of complex ecological systems within the built environment provides nature-based solutions with stakeholder groups throughout the Mojave Desert and southwest region.
1. Tell us a little about your career trajectory since you graduated from UT.
I’ve always taken pride in the fact that my graduate thesis on dynamic landscape performance has directed me over the last ten years in my career path where it still sits at the foundation of what I do today. It started after graduating from UT in 2012 by serving as the graphic specialist on the Low Impact Development: Opportunities for the PlanET Region document with many of my graduating classmates. From there, I served as the project manager/research fellow for four years at the Downtown Design Center (DDC) in Las Vegas. With the Center’s mission to serve the community through sustainable design, community engagement, and environmental stewardship, we were able to complete multiple projects leading to thirteen state and regional awards. After my time at the DDC, I shifted my interest towards academia where my success in teaching has led to new leadership positions as the Bachelor of Landscape Architecture Program coordinator and the Associate Director for the School of Architecture at UNLV.

2. What has the school meant to you?
I have always found myself so fortunate to be set on a path of success and unique opportunities from what the school prepared me with. The professors were always filled with passion in their teaching and I truly believe that is where my unforeseen trajectory into academia emulated from.
3. What would you tell someone who is thinking about pursuing a career in landscape architecture?
Keep an open mind. There is often the misconception and initial interest in pursuing a career in landscape architecture for residential and garden design but there is so much more you can do with your degree! It is also important for them to know that with this degree they can be at the heart of decision-making that positively impacts and addresses climate change, social justice, and environmental advocacy. As I tell many of my students, this can be achieved in either the private or public sector so I encourage all those who do pursue this degree to venture out and tell others that they need a landscape architect involved rather than ask if it is needed. They should always understand their value and contribution to the built environment.

Any fond memories of your time at UTK that you would like to share?
The Art and Architecture building really cultivated community. Not being from the area or knowing anyone I was immediately embraced by my classmates where they really showed me the unique qualities of getting my degree in East Tennessee. I still keep in touch with some through various engagements as it is always excited to see and hear where they are today. So although the classes and content of the degree were valuable, the experiences of understanding what it meant to live there were invaluable.

How has your degree in landscape architecture helped you to achieve your goals?
Everyone always wants to make a difference in the world, regardless of what their career is. With my degree from UTK, I was able to foster incredible networks and connections with different organizations and individuals to approach design divergently. To this day as I collaborate with different professionals outside of landscape architecture, I always walk away with a new perspective of the world and how collectively we can fulfill meaningful outcomes.
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