MORGANTOWN, W.Va. –
West Virginia University
took center stage in Beijing, China, over the weekend, as
Vaike Haas, assistant professor of
landscape architecture, was honored for her exemplary work by the Council of Educators in Landscape
Architecture, the premier international organization for landscape architecture
Haas was recognized with CELA’s 2017 Excellence in Service Learning Award, Junior Level, which honors a faculty member’s excellent ability to direct design studio projects that demonstrate outstanding quality and/or emphasize the critical thinking and creative process. The award was presented during CELA’s international conference, held May 26-29.
“Being nominated for the CELA award by Director Judith Wasserman came as a great surprise and honor,” Haas said. “We knew it was a long shot, but I was willing to put together the nomination package to showcase the range of service projects my students and I have worked on over the past few years. The process of doing that actually helped me see the bigger picture in my work here at WVU.”
Since 2014, the range of projects has impacted many areas, including: the WVU Core Aboretum, where students analyzed storm water runoff and proposed improvements to the surrounding parking areas; sites along the Guyandotte River, where student designs helped initiate community dialogue and strengthen grant applications; Popenoe Run, an area where students mapped sections impacted by erosion and deposition – information that will help the City of Morgantown stabilize the most severely affected areas; and Falling Run Greenspace, a wooded valley for which Haas and her students created and implemented a master plan, developing a network of four miles of trails that link WVU’s Downtown Campus to the WVU Organic Farm.
Earlier this year, WVU held a ribbon-cutting for Falling Run Greenspace. By that point, 943 student volunteers and 143 crew leaders had devoted more than 3,680 volunteer hours to the project.
“The CELA service learning award recognizes service learning, and Vaike consistently chooses class projects that serve local community interests by addressing real issues,” said Dan Robison, dean of the WVU Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design. “I am impressed with the service ethic she helps her students cultivate.
“Furthermore, Vaike is a terrific faculty member, hitting all aspects of her work with great energy as she engages and challenges our students to achieve all they can as they build a solid foundation of creative design scholarship.”
Haas’s exceptional ability to engage community partners is another notable attribute that contributed to her being selected by CELA, evidenced by the resounding support from many of her project collaborators.
Julie Robison, project manager for Falling Run Greenspace and senior advisor to the vice president for administration and finance at WVU, expressed great appreciation for Haas’s commitment to the area, stating, “We owe a debt of gratitude to Vaike Haas for bringing her considerable talents to the benefit of this community and our students, creating a lasting impact.”
Morgantown City Council Member Jenny Selin added, “Vaike Haas and her students provide practical, well-thought data and landscape plans that help communities use their public space in an elegant way.”
“I cannot speak highly enough about the organizational and creative efforts produced through the service learning coursework developed by Assistant Professor Haas,” Selin continued.
The affirming reactions from the community are a source of encouragement for Haas.
“The support from everyone involved in these projects has been tremendous,” she said. “The application process required testimonials from so many parties — and I’m sure their statements were a large part of what made the package compelling to CELA. It feels great to hear that the work my students and I are doing makes a difference, not only to our community, but for the students personally.”
And at the end of the day, it all comes back to being about the students.
“Some of my students have discovered they want to continue to be engaged in field and restoration work that serves the public,” Haas said. “As their instructor, I can’t ask for anything more.”
Above: Vaike Haas (top); Haas and volunteer crew at Falling Run Greenspace (middle; photo credit: Brian Persinger).
CONTACT: Nikky Luna; WVU Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design 304.293.2394; Nikky.Luna@mail.wvu.edu