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College of Environment and Design

MLA Nonthesis Option

By popular request and in response to national trends, the CED are happy to announce a new non-thesis option for the Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA) program. The new degree is intended to focus on research-based design. Top firms nationwide are increasingly focusing on integrating research into practice, so offering this degree path allows students to be better prepared to meet the current needs of the landscape architecture industry. The non-thesis option will be available starting in Fall 2020.


The non-thesis MLA degree situates the CED to be competitive with peer institutions. Graduate assistant Chris Robey, along with Associate Professor and former MLA Coordinator Georgia Harrison Hall, conducted extensive research to document how peer landscape architecture programs structure their curricula to meet LAAB accreditation research requirements. By offering a non-thesis option, the CED’s MLA program becomes even more attractive when paired with its national rankings among Most Admired and Most Hired From universities. Additionally, the increased emphasis on graphic communication will augment the program’s appeal to ESL international students.


Both of the CED’s MLA programs – thesis and non-thesis – equally prepare students for a career in the land arts but with differing areas of emphasis. The major difference between the thesis and non-thesis option is the emphasis on design research, which may be in the form of an application of existing knowledge to a unique site or new situation, using graphics as the primary means of communication.  The non-thesis option will still require a defense and a positive committee vote to successfully complete the program.


Skills developed in this particular MLA program will be immediately applicable to real-world design challenges. By focusing on design research, the CED aims to better prepare its MLA students for a career with top-tier design firms such as OLIN in Philadelphia, Scape in New York City, NBW in New York and Charlottesville, and West 8 in Rotterdam. These firms are increasingly applying research directly into their design process.


Current and prospective students have a great deal of flexibility with the introduction of this new degree. Current MLA students may elect to transfer to the non-thesis option. Incoming students will be expected to declare which path they wish to pursue upon enrollment, but will have the option to transfer later. Advisement is available to any student wishing to discuss their options.


The CED are confident that this new non-thesis option for its already prestigious MLA program will not only make the CED more competitive among other design schools, but will uniquely prepare students for research-based design trends in the landscape architecture industry. More information on this new degree will be forthcoming.


Contact CED's MLA graduate coordinator here.

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