CED Student Among First Recipients of LAF Ignite Scholarship Program
In 2022, the Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF) launched a new comprehensive scholarship-internship-mentorship program, LAF Ignite, with the goal of increasing racial diversity, equity, and inclusion in the field of landscape architecture. LAF Ignite was created as a multi-year program to support Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) studying landscape architecture throughout their education. Each year, 3-5 students will be selected to receive an annual $10,000 scholarship, paid summer internships, and ongoing mentorship until the completion of their degree.
We are excited to share that Ezra Lewis, a second-year BLA student at the College of Environment and Design (CED), is a recipient of this incredible opportunity and is representing the CED in the inaugural cohort of LAF Ignite!
Lewis, who is also minoring in horticulture at UGA, joined the landscape architecture program in January of 2022. Interest in landscape architecture was sparked by early experiences in her own neighborhood of Old Fourth Ward in Atlanta. Growing wealth disparity in this developing area led Lewis to witness what bad design could do to a divided community, sparking her initial interest in housing advocacy. In high school, she became a community representative in the first Atlanta Public Schools’ equity program, speaking with residents and students about their experiences and possible improvements in the local schools and community. Lewis was intrigued by how a space can make you feel or what a space can say about the community as a whole. As the Old Fourth Ward area grew and developed, Lewis got more involved in advocating for equitable space regardless of neighborhood. These early experiences with advocacy inspired Lewis to study landscape architecture with the philosophy of “putting dignity into infrastructure”. She believes that incredible spaces can be built through good design without affecting cost of living, increasing property taxes, or marginalizing whole communities.
Lewis learned about the LAF Ignite program through BLA advisor, Martha DeHart, and is joining this initial cohort of four with students from the Rhode Island School of Design, University of Washington and University of Pennsylvania. The LAF Ignite program will eventually be open to all students of color, however, for the first two years, it will focus on Black/African American students, recognizing the disproportionate oppression and disinvestment Black/African Americans have experienced and continue to experience.
“We are so proud of Ezra and this incredible opportunity,” said Sonia Hirt, dean of the College of Environment and Design. “To be one of the first awardees of the new LAF Ignite Program is a remarkable accomplishment. We look forward to supporting Ezra’s continued success as she finishes her education and can’t wait to see what positive impacts she will make in the future.”
In the future, Lewis wants to promote sustainable and reciprocal relationships between communities and the environment. She also wants to design spaces that could be used for horticulture education and food production for local communities as a strategy to address food deserts, while spurring community investment and emphasizing the importance of historic preservation. She hopes to design spaces that uplift the community and contribute to the health and safety of a population and their environment.
Join us in congratulating Ezra on this remarkable opportunity!
To learn more about the LAF Ignite program, visit https://www.lafoundation.org/what-we-do/scholarships/laf-ignite