Valerie Friedmann, AICP, is an urban designer and planner who specializes in the relationship between public policy and parks. She is currently the Associate Director of Policy and Public Affairs for the 10-Minute Walk program at the Trust for Public Land. Before joining TPL, Valerie served as a Senior Long Range Planner and Greenspace Planner for the City of Lexington, KY. She has also worked as an Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture at Auburn University. Valerie holds a bachelor’s degree in landscape design and construction and a master’s degree in landscape architecture from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
1. Tell us a little about your career trajectory since you graduated from UT.
My degree in landscape architecture from UT has empowered me to approach design from multiple perspectives. I started my career in academia as a visiting and then assistant professor, where I sharpened my research skills and deepened my understanding of urban landscape ecology. Transitioning to the public sector, I served as a senior planner and urban designer, gaining invaluable insights into urban design politics, land use policy, and equity issues in urban spaces. Currently, I serve as the Associate Director of Policy and Public Affairs at the nonprofit Trust for Public Land, where I leverage my expertise in research, teaching, and policy to promote equitable access to parks and green spaces nationwide.

2. What has the school meant to you?
The School of Landscape Architecture has been a springboard, providing me with opportunities and experiences that have shaped a fun and fulfilling career

3. What would you tell someone who is thinking about pursuing a career in landscape architecture?
Absolutely go for it! Landscape architecture is not just a profession but a vibrant community with diverse career pathways. The field offers extensive opportunities to creatively apply your skills in various contexts, and there’s a growing demand for landscape architects to address global challenges. The field is dynamic, with a growing need for professionals who can integrate sustainable and equitable practices into the fabric of our environments.

4. Any fond memories of your time at UTK that you would like to share?
I remember the Art and Architecture building as more than just a structure; it was a hub of creativity and community. I enjoyed the time there, whether it was participating in lively discussions on the stairs, collaborating in the studios, or dismantling and constructing new ideas. A highlight was proudly displaying my thesis in the Ewing Gallery, surrounded by peers and mentors who inspired me daily.

5. How has your degree in landscape architecture helped you to achieve your goals?
The School of Landscape Architecture at UTK equipped me to achieve my goals by fostering a multifaceted thinking approach. It taught me to simultaneously consider the big picture and the little details—be it analyzing the interaction between natural ecosystems and urban spaces or devising policies for equitable public access to green spaces. This holistic education has enabled me to address complex challenges effectively and creatively in my professional life.

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