College of Architecture, Art and Construction

Landscape Architecture designated a new STEM degree program


The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently announced an amendment to the DHS STEM Designated Degree Program List to include the field of landscape architecture. This designation will directly impact Clemson University’s graduate and undergraduate landscape architecture programs.

This decision from the DHS comes after significant advocacy from the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), who announced that this designation could transform landscape architecture education and practice. According to the ASLA, “the field of landscape architecture is pioneering innovative research and developing new technologies – from using artificial intelligence for urban agriculture to urban planning for autonomous vehicles; to hydraulic modeling, robotic fabrication and augmented reality for water bodies.”

Hala Nassar, director of landscape architecture and graduate programs in Clemson’s School of Architecture, explained that the new designation is a national recognition of the scientific nature of landscape architecture as a field.

“The STEM designation will open new opportunities and make resources available for our students,” shared Nassar. “With this designation, our students will be able to expand their professional training, scholarly research, interdisciplinary collaboration, project-based education, as well as employment possibilities and career paths.”

While this designation from the DHS will directly impact an international student’s academic studies and career, at this time, students are encouraged to talk directly with their advisor about how the designation may benefit them personally.

According to the DHS, the STEM list is used to determine whether a degree obtained by an international student pursuing academic studies (F-1 student) qualifies as a STEM degree, as required for the F-1 student to be eligible to apply for a STEM Optional Practical Training (OPT) extension. According to the Federal Register, an OPT is a type of work permission available to F-1 students and allows them to obtain real-world experience directly related to their study area.

The STEM OPT extension will allow “a 24-month extension of OPT to F-1 students who have completed 12 months of OPT and received a degree in an approved STEM field of study,” meaning the student will get to continue to obtain real-world experience after graduation.  

“The new STEM designation by the Federal Government rightfully positions Clemson’s Bachelor of Landscape Architecture (BLA) and Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA) as STEM degrees,” Jim Stevens, director of Clemson’s School of Architecture, expounded. “We are excited to join other STEM programs in preparing landscape architects for practice.”

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