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Caitlin Smith joins Penn State’s Geodesign Program

Caitlin Smith is the newest faculty member to join Penn State’s online Geodesign graduate program. She will teach the program’s well-regarded introductory course: Geodesign History, Theory, Principles. Students in the Geodesign Graduate Certificate, the Master in Professional Studies in Geodesign, and those pursuing the Geodesign option in Penn State’s MGIS program all complete this fundamentals course.

For the past three years Smith has been engaged in geodesign at one of the top planning and design firms in Canada, O2 Planning + Design in Calgary, Alberta. She specializes in the planning and design of regional landscapes, using principles of landscape ecology, the foundations of Ian McHarg’s work, and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to inform design decisions and the development of environmental policy. At O2 she worked on a variety of trail and green space planning projects, most recently serving as project manager in the development of a new management plan for Bowmont Natural Environment Park – one of Calgary’s largest and most popular natural areas. She led a team that was recognized with multiple national and provincial awards for its work on the Parkland County Environmental Conservation Master Plan, including National Awards of Excellence from both the Canadian Society of Landscape Architects (CSLA) and the Canadian Institute of Planners (CIP), and an Award of Planning Merit from the Alberta Professional Planners Institute (APPI). Smith states that she is “interested in a systems-based approach to planning and design, with the ultimate goal of conserving highly-valued places critical to upholding regional ecological integrity, recreation values, and scenic beauty.”

Smith holds a Bachelor’s degree (BA) in Environmental Science from Mount Holyoke College and a Master’s degree in Landscape Architecture (MLA) from Penn State. She discovered geodesign in the final year of her MLA degree when she had the unique opportunity to be a teaching assistant for Dr. Carl Steinitz, who then was the Eleanor R. Stuckeman Chair in Design at Penn State. Steinitz introduced Smith to geodesign as a framework for collaboratively solving complex geographic issues, which nicely knits together the reliability of science with the possibilities of design. Smith says, “the principles and lessons I learned through that geodesign course have shaped my outlook and practice ever since.”

Landscape architecture department head Eliza Pennypacker adds, “We are pleased to have Smith join our growing geodesign team. She brings to our program fresh and dynamic geodesign-based practice experience, and I also know that Smith is enthusiastic, dedicated, and knowledgeable, which will be valuable to our students.”

Photo portrait of Caitlin Smith