ASLA has made the recruitment of young people into the profession of landscape architecture a major priority and encourages its members to be a part of its efforts.  As the demand for landscape architectural services increases, enrollment in landscape architecture programs is not keeping pace. 

An exciting program all landscape architects can become involved in that takes on this challenge is the ACE Mentor Program.  

The ACE Mentor Program of America is a 501(c)3 corporation founded in 1995 as an innovative way of attracting students, particularly minorities, women and the less privileged, into the architecture, construction and engineering professions. The program relies on mentors – professionals from leading design and construction firms – to volunteer their time and energy to introduce students to a broad range of people, projects and career possibilities within the construction industry. The ACE Mentor Program not only offers mentoring opportunities, but also awards scholarships for selected graduates of the program and summer internships. The ACE Program has chapters across the U.S. in 32 states and the District of Columbia.  ASLA is a national supporter with many members participating.

There is an active Indianapolis Chapter (the only chapter currently in Indiana) beginning its 13th year.  Here are its 2017 details:

  • Programs at 6 local high schools (mentors are assigned to school most convenient to them)
    •      Arsenal Tech High School
    •      Ben Davis High School
    •      Decatur Central High School
    •      Lawrence Township McKenzie Career Center
    •      North Central High School
    •      Warren Central High School
  • 09 Participating Students
  • 21 Scholarships awarded totaling $52,500.  Over $550,000 given in 12 years.
  • 68 mentors representing 42 firms or organizations - But only one landscape architect!

Retired Ball State professor Les Smith participated at Warren Central High School and was named that program's mentor of the year.  If you are a Ball State graduate you might have seen a story about the ACE program in a CAP newsletter from earlier in the year.  Les would be happy to share information about ACE and his experience from last year with anyone interested.  He can be reached at

The Indianapolis ACE program runs through the school year and typically involves students working on a designated "real world" project.  Students and mentors meet after school, usually once every two weeks for two hours.  A banquet in May concludes the year's activities.  Project work is presented, participants and mentors are recognized and scholarships awarded.

The program for the 2018-2019 school year will be organizing very soon.  

If you are in the Indianapolis area, will you please consider becoming an ACE mentor?  It is important that these high school students, who have already expressed an interest in design and construction by becoming involved in the ACE program, receive an exposure to landscape architecture.  These students are probably like many landscape architects at that age, not knowing about the profession, thinking that maybe they wanted to be an architect (or something else).  But, upon being introduced to landscape architecture, the light bulb turns on and the realization hits that this is what they've been looking for as a profession.

It does not matter if you are a recent graduate, a seasoned practitioner, or somewhere in between in your career.  Licensure is not required.  You can have an impact on the lives of these students.   What will you receive?  A rewarding and satisfying experience and valuable interaction with colleagues in aligned professions.

As Nancy Somerville, executive vice president and CEO of ASLA, has stated, “Landscape architects are in demand and we want to grow the profession and increase its diversity. The ACE Mentor Program will provide our members with opportunities to reach out as mentors, give back to their communities, and shape the future of the profession.”

How to become an ACE Mentor:

A short training session is required along with a background check.

Please act soon to participate in this important and rewarding activity.  Please keep me posted if you become involved.  I'd love to hear about your experience.

David Gorden, ASLA
Chapter Trustee - Indiana Chapter of ASLA